Pearl Lorentzen
Lakeside Leader

On July 6, Vanderwell Contractors celebrated a significant milestone in reforestation.

Vanderwell was founded in 1971. From 1992 to 2022, it planted 100 million trees. It runs a lumber mill in Mitsue. It turns spruce trees into dimensional lumber, wood shavings, and pellets.

On the morning of July 6, Slave Lake Helicopters flew dignitaries out to a cutblock near Fawcett Lake. They included Shannon Marchand, Alberta Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Economic Development, and Jason Krips, president and CAO of Alberta Forest Products Association.

During the ceremony, Kris Zimmer, from Next Generation, taught the deputy minister and other dignitaries how to plant a tree. Tree planters are paid by the tree, and it is physically demanding work.

There was some active tree planting going on around the ceremony, with many small trees planted in the area around the people and helicopters.

The exact date that the 100 millionth tree was planted isn’t known, says Mike Haire, Vanderwell Woodlands Manager. It was likely around July 6, because by the end of July the team will have planted 102 million trees for Vanderwell.

A tree planter can plant up to 5,000 trees in one day, said Zimmer.

This crew plants between 80,000 and 100,000 trees a day, says Haire.

Tree planting is a collaborative affair, including mills, tree planting companies, helicopters, reefers (refrigerated semi trailers), etc.

At the ceremony, Vanderwell was joined by some of their collaborators – Slave Lake Helicopters and Next Generation Reforestation.

Mills such as Vanderwell hire tree planting companies, including Next Generation.

Next Generation Reforestation owner, Gord Sheepwash, said a few words at the tree planting ceremony.

He got into tree planting in 1980 when he moved to Alberta. He quit a few times, then started his own company Next Generation in 1984.

Helicopters fly the trees and sometimes the tree planters to the cutblocks.

One of the people talking about tree planting added that helicopters are very important to the process, because they put down the trees in strategic locations, so tree planters don’t have to walk too far to refill their bags.

George Kelham Slave Lake Helicopters owner says since 1998, when Slave Lake Helicopters was founded, it has been involved in Vanderwell tree planting.

Two Slave Lake Helicopters choppers (Hard to see, but definitely there!) circle cutblocks in various stages of regrowth depending on when they were harvested and replanted. Also, some uncut forest.
Kris Zimmer (left), from Next Generation Reforestation, teaches Ken Vanderwell, president of Vanderwell Contractors, how to tree-plant. A Slave Lake Helicopter is in the background.
A quad, tree planter, and tree stash in a cutblock in the midst of being planted. The tarp protects the young plants until they can be planted.
Tree planters, dignitaries, Vanderwell employees, and others at the ceremonial 100 millionth tree plant.
Dignitaries and tree planters during a few speeches at Vanderwell Contractors’ 100 millionth ceremonial tree plant. Some look distracted because a tree planter is hard at work planting trees around the group.
Shannon Marchand, Alberta Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Economic Development, is on the far left. Jason Krips, president and CAO of Alberta Forest Products Association, is fourth from right.