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Seed Champions | Issue No. 7

Meet MacKendrick Hallworth of Cariboo Carbon Solutions, a dedicated professional in ecological restoration. MacKendrick shares his journey, experiences, and insights into the critical role of seeds in restoration projects.

Meet MacKendrick

MacKendrick Hallworth is a forest consultant and ecological restoration project coordinator at Cariboo Carbon Solutions. In his role, MacKendrick focuses on project development, collaborating with diverse stakeholders to design ecological restoration projects and promote biodiversity by planting native species. His early affinity for the great outdoors blossomed into a profound commitment to environmental stewardship during his forest management studies, driven by astonishing experiences in India and Scotland. MacKendrick's passion for ecological restoration and native seeds is matched only by his enthusiasm for exploration and adventure. When he's not actively engaged in developing eco-conscious projects, he can be found traversing Vancouver Island, indulging in pursuits like surfing, running, hiking, skiing, mountain biking, and practicing martial arts, including jiu-jitsu and karate. 

Seeds of Restoration: MacKendrick Hallworth's Journey

Wilder Climate Solutions (WCS): Your role at Cariboo Carbon Solutions demonstrates your deep commitment to ecological restoration and the significance of seeds in this process. Could you share what ignited your passion for this field and the role of seeds in restoration?

MacKendrick Hallworth (MH): My early affinity for the great outdoors evolved into a deep commitment to environmental stewardship as I pursued a postsecondary education in forest management. During my studies I had the chance to visit India and Scotland where I witnessed the detrimental consequences of overharvesting without due consideration for ecological restoration. These eye-opening experiences significantly influenced my career trajectory, leading me to Cariboo Carbon Solutions (CCS). I was drawn to CCS because it is a company with a strong commitment to building a sustainable future — they focus on planting a wide variety of trees and shrubs to support biodiversity. 

Presently, my focus at CCS lies in project development where I collaborate with First Nation communities, municipalities, and private landowners to design ecological restoration projects. These projects require the planting of seedlings from many different species on land burned by wildfires, infested by invasive plants, or degraded over time by industry. 

In order to plant a seedling, we first need to secure seeds. In a landscape dominated by even-aged closed-canopy monocultures of conifers, the opportunity to plant a greater variety of native species is extremely meaningful work to me, as these lands will one day support a unique forest with a diverse habitat structure. My goal is to contribute to the ecological restoration effort, helping ensure that healthy forests will be available for future generations to enjoy.

WCS: Take us through one of your most memorable restoration projects at Cariboo Carbon Solutions. What were some of the unique ecological obstacles you encountered and the innovative solutions your team applied? Feel free to share any photos or anecdotes from the expedition.

MH: One of the most remarkable restoration projects was the Hanceville wildfire reforestation project, which stands out for its scale and the unique ecological challenges it presented. Over six years, the CCS team and their First Nation partners undertook the ambitious task of planting 15 million trees across a 240,000 hectare burn area. This project occurred in the Chilcotin region, which posed significant obstacles due to harsh environmental conditions including frigid temperatures and drought, making seedling establishment very challenging.

To address these challenges, we implemented an innovative site preparation program. This approach involved the creation of deep rips in soils where a root-restricting layer of clay was present. These rips allowed us to plant seedlings at greater depths in the soil, where the roots gained improved access to moisture. This strategic microsite placement in the rips was particularly essential during drought periods where seedlings faced lower levels of competition for moisture from grasses and shrubs, which helped ensure the survival and successful growth of the newly planted trees.

WCS: Cariboo Carbon Solutions emphasizes the importance of sustainable practices in ecological restoration. Could you share an example of how you've integrated sustainability principles into the planning and execution of a restoration project, especially concerning resource procurement and management?

MH: CCS is committed to integrating sustainability principles into each stage of our planning process as a means of contributing to the long-term health and vitality of the ecosystems we are dedicated to restoring. 

At CCS I’ve fulfilled diverse roles pertaining to resource procurement and management, including overseeing contracts where millions of trees were planted, wandering alone through the fire-impacted wilderness to find areas where trees weren’t regenerating naturally, developing tree planting prescriptions, establishing fire guards in actively burning forests, and coordinating cone collection projects that acquired enough seed to grow tens of millions of seedlings. These work experiences helped me gain a deep understanding of the intensive planning required to implement a successful reforestation program. 

In the reforestation planning process, we follow Climate-Based Seed Transfer (CBST) guidelines to ensure that the genetics of our seedlings will be compatible with the climate of the project site. 

CBST is a fundamental climate change adaptation strategy at the heart of reforestation efforts in BC. Its primary goal is to promote the health, resilience, and overall productivity of forests and ecosystems. We achieve this by consulting the Seed Planning and Registry Application (SPAR), which provides details on each seedlot and specifies where they can be planted in the province. This method ensures that the genetic makeup of the stock we plant is well-suited to the future climates that these forests will face. 

By implementing CBST guidelines, we can optimize the genetic fitness of the trees we introduce, enhancing their capacity to flourish in the face of evolving environmental conditions.

WCS: Cariboo Carbon Solutions focuses on reforestation efforts. Can you walk us through the process of propagating seedlings from seeds and how these seedlings are strategically planted in your restoration projects to maximize their growth and contribution to carbon sequestration?

MH: Our approach varies depending on seed availability in the market. We may purchase seeds from a reputable collector or we might organize a seed collection operation. After obtaining authorization to collect, we register a seedlot in SPAR, and monitor the target crop for many weeks before setting a harvest date that lines up with optimum seed ripeness. 

When planting, we adhere to detailed prescriptions developed by forestry professionals that allocate specific tree species to designated areas within the restoration site where they have the best chance of surviving. This allocation is guided by Biogeoclimatic Ecosystem Classification (BEC) which accounts for climate, elevation, soil characteristics, and the specific needs of each tree species to optimize their long-term growth and survival. 

In many instances, these seed collections are collaborative efforts with our First Nations partners, fostering a sense of community participation and camaraderie during this essential activity. Once the seeds are harvested, they are sent to a cleaning facility for testing to ensure their purity and quality. These seeds are then dispatched to nurseries, where they undergo a meticulous cultivation process. The nurturing phase involves the growth of the seedlings under carefully controlled conditions.

When planting, we adhere to detailed prescriptions developed by forestry professionals that allocate specific tree species to designated areas within the restoration site where they have the best chance of surviving. This allocation is guided by Biogeoclimatic Ecosystem Classification (BEC) which accounts for climate, elevation, soil characteristics, and the specific needs of each tree species to optimize their long-term growth and survival.  

Sometimes our prescribed activities utilize fertilizer tea-bags, browse repellent, or mesh protectors to shield the young trees from being eaten by ungulates. Our adaptive management decision matrix ensures that our reforestation efforts are successful and contribute significantly to carbon sequestration and the long-term health of the ecosystems we aim to restore.

WCS: Finally, as you begin to explore Squiirrel’s Beta version, what features are you most excited to use in your work?

MH: I'm really looking forward to incorporating Squiirrel into my toolkit because a specialized tool to connect with other seed collectors will make my work much easier and more efficient! One of the biggest challenges in my current job is sourcing seeds for species that aren’t grown for timber, such as bigleaf maple and arbutus - I’m constantly calling nurseries and seed-collecting companies to find out if they have the species that I need for a particular project. 

What excites me the most is that Squiirrel is like a one-stop shop — I can quickly get in touch with other seed collectors, whether I'm selling extra seeds or looking to acquire specific types. This will streamline my workflow processes, so I won't have to make tons of phone calls or send lots of emails to find what I need. In a business where important projects sometimes land on my desk late in the season, Squiirrel is likely to be a key resource that will optimize the amount of trees and shrubs that we can plant each year.