By Sophie Sharp
Fresh thinking for the New Year: can cutting down trees help the environment?
For most of us, January is a time of reflection. At the start of a new year, we check in with ourselves and think about what we want to do, and who we want to be in the year ahead. In a busy world, we all have to choose which parts of our lives to invest our time and energy in and which things to let go.
So it is in nature. To maintain a thriving forest, we have to clear some dead wood. In the wilderness, wildfire does this job, but to protect areas where people live we need to give nature a helping hand. That’s particularly important here in Banff National Park. When the time comes to thin the trees around the Juniper Hotel, our Native Plant Specialist, Chris Braisby, carefully chooses which ones to cut to maximize the health of the forest. We are lucky enough to have Aspen trees on our property. Their bark is very nutritious for mosses, insects and small animals. If the coniferous trees around them are not thinned, Aspen struggle to survive. Removing some of the taller trees lets the light reach the forest floor and the smaller saplings thrive.
Our hospitality isn’t just for humans
As we make our resolutions, we think about how to improve our own lives, but also how to give something back. Cutting down trees helps protect our town from wildfire. With a little thought, it can also be an opportunity to give back to nature.
Chris leaves some dead trees behind for the woodpeckers, and installs boxes to encourage them to nest. Our guests love hearing their distinctive tapping on the tree trunks behind the hotel. After thinning trees, most people would burn the stumps, but we think there’s a better use for them – a safe habitat for our native bee species. Bee populations all over the world are struggling, which is a disaster for our planet. We’re used to thinking about honeybees living in their large hives, but in fact there are many different types of native bees – Alberta has over 300 wild species. Many of these bees don’t build hives, but lay eggs in cracks and crevices in wood and rocks. After thinning trees, Chris drills holes into the remaining stumps. Female bees can burrow inside and lay their eggs, then seal the hole with a wall of mud to keep them safe. As well as the stumps, you’ll see purpose-built bee houses dotted around the grounds of the Juniper.
Small steps, big impacts
Small things can make a big change. It doesn’t take long to drill holes in our tree stumps, but supporting the bees pays dividends. Native bee species evolved alongside local plants, so they’re better at pollinating them; a global study showed that native bee species have twice the impact of honeybees on fruit harvests.[i] Choosing which trees to thin, rather than chopping indiscriminately, allows important species to thrive. At the Juniper, we’re always looking for new ways to love our planet while helping our guests experience the beauty of Banff National Park. With your support, our goal is to make the Juniper a place where people, plants and wildlife all feel welcome.
[i] Wild Pollinators Enhance Fruit Set of Crops Regardless of Honey Bee Abundance, Lucas A. Garibaldi et al.,Science 29 Mar 2013:Vol. 339, Issue 6127, pp. 1608-1611, DOI: 10.1126/science.1230200