HELP International

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Phytoremediation: the use of trees and other plants to solve a negative environmental condition.
Phytoremediation refers to processes that use plants to remove, transfer, stabilize, or break down contaminants in soil and sediment. The mechanisms of phytoremediation include enhanced rhyzosphere biodegradation, phyto-extraction (also called phyto-accumulation), phyto-degradation, and phyto-stabilization.
Background: The Souris River and Farm Protection Program
This project's design began in 1998 and pilot implementation in year 2000. It focused on river margin protection. The Souris River and Farm Protection Project, whose principal funder was Eco-Action met with astounding success in its two-year pilot placing 80 kilometres of previously cultivated stream margins under tree and/or permanent grass protection with the planting of almost 90,000 indigenous trees and 2550 acres of grass working with 51 landowners. The project continues with strong support from a diversity of environmental agencies, private foundations, corporations, school and community volunteers and, most importantly, core support from landowners themselves.

The above mentioned project shares the following principal objective with the phytoremediation project: To address the sources of watershed contamination through non-political, user-friendly and environmentally-friendly approaches. Other objectives shared by the two programs include:
  • River protection.
  • Creation of bio-diversity.
  • Providing youth with a conceptual model for environmental stewardship.

HELP's current initiatives include intensive planting of trees and grasses at the crown and base of landfills and along streams and flood plains which, upon detailed assessment, are determined to receive harmful leachates from the landfill. A second priority is the decontamination and protection of soils surrounding oxidation ponds.

Purpose of the program

To absorb nutrients from agro-chemical flows and urban effluent; bio-remediate landfill leachates including but not limited to heavy metals, hydrocarbons, chemical compounds and organic waste; reduce erosion and contain silt flows on stream margins; enhance biodiversity through the creation of wildlife habitat and wildlife corridors; carbon sequestration and oxygen production; landscape beautification; farmyard forestation strategies to lessen multiple contamination risks. The project also applies phytoremediation technology to industrial waste sites which indicate contamination of a type with a high potential for phytoremediation such as crude oil and refined fuel.

How this is achieved on the farm
  • Planting multi-variety trees and grass along river and stream margins, marshes, dugouts, dams and lakes.
  • Farmyard shelterbelts and run off filters.
  • Forestry for hydraulic control to reverse soil salinity. 
How this is achieved with urban municipalities
HELP International's partnership with urban municipality programming in the watershed includes:
  • River and stream margin forestation.
  • Salinity control forestation around municipal lagoons.
  • Living landfill forest caps and forest filters.
  • Effluent irrigation woodlots.
  • Biodiversity forest blocks.
  • Tree seedlings planted and mulched with grass seeded in the inter-row space .
  • Water protection, reduced erosion, increased bio-diversity and beautification.
  • Future industries for the farmer (native tree species can be harvested for health food and/or fruits. These include rose, saskatoon, buffaloberry, chokecherry, and many others). Other trees are being planted with wood harvesting in mind.
Why the program is popular and successful
  • HELP's rural program was designed by farmers for farmers.
  • The program offers more varieties of trees than have ever been available: 30 species of native trees including deciduous shrubs (Rose, Caragana, Dogwood, Hawthorne, Lilac, Red elder, Seabuckthorn, Shrub Willow, Wolf Willow), berry trees (Buffaloberry, Chokecherry, Saskatoon, etc.), large deciduous (Green ash, Aspen, Cottonwood, Poplar-Walker-Manitou-Assinaboia-Okanese-Northwest, Oak, Maple, Acute Willow, Red Cedar, Paper Birch, Russian Olive, Siberian Crabapple, etc.), and evergreens (Blue and White Spruce, Pine, and Larch).
  • HELP employs the PFRA-promoted four foot plastic mulch which is applied on top of trees at the time of planting to reduce ground surface evaporation and weed competition.
  • HELP has innovated several techniques and products to achieve near zero-maintenance forestation.    
    HELP innovations include:
    • Living Mulch between tree rows:  HELP establishes creeping red fescue grass between tree rows as a living mulch to keep out higher water use and invasive weeds. The high grass application rate (20lbs per acre) serves to create dense cover that will stop weed encroachment. The grass does not, however, compete with trees, as it becomes quickly root bound and goes dormant for most of the year.
  • HELP International provides:
    • Assistance with land assessment and planting plans.
    • Land preparation advice.
    • Machinery (tree planter, mulch machine, grass broadcaster, harrows, quad).
    • Delivery of trees, grass seed, and plastic mulch on the day of planting.
    • Free technical advice.
    • Experienced laborers.
    • Assistance with accessing free trees.
    • Supervision of the tree, mulching and grassing installations.
HELP International achievements so far
Stream Margin Forestation
  • Three row forest buffers have been planted along 220km of cultivated stream margins in seventeen municipalities on 195 farm properties.  This is the largest program of its kind in Canada.
Effluent Irrigation Woodlots
  • HELP has installed the first four woodlots in Saskatchewan for community-wide effluent irrigation at Stoughton, Halbrite, Gull Lake and Carrievale. 

Salinity Reversal Forestation
  • HELP has installed forest buffers around municipal lagoons to reverse spreading salinity at Radville, Craik, Halbrite, Stoughton, and other towns in the southeast.  
    In 2008 HELP carried out a 14,000 tree planting on a major saline creep below Poplar River Dam.
Living Landfill Caps
  • HELP has installed the first forestation landfill caps and landfill forest filters in Canada at the City of Weyburn, and towns of Halbrite, Stoughton, and others.

This program has received generous technical, material, and start up financial support from Environment Canada, CARDS/AESI, Saskatchewan Environment, Pheasants Forever, Shand Greenhouse, Saskatchewan Watershed Authority, SaskEnergy, TD Friends of the Environment and other private donors.
Permanent tree donors include: Sask Power Shand Greenhouse and PFRA Shelterbelt Center.
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 © HELP International 2014