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Children's book by local artist, author aims to spark interest in reclamation in young minds

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A local artist has teamed up with an author to create a children's book on land reclamation.

The book is called Adventures in Land Reclamation: Exploring Jobs for a Greener Future.

It was written by Tanya Richens and illustrated by Shannon Carla King.

Richens, an energy industry agrologist (reclamation planner), first explored the idea of a children's book focused on her field of work in October 2023.

"When I went to university, I honestly had no idea what reclamation was," Richens said.

"It's soil, it's vegetation, it's wildlife, it's wetlands, it's all these things together that make reclamation and that's why the book is so important because it lays out all those different aspects and how people work together to make a comprehensive self-sustaining biodiverse landscape."

The book highlights 15 different jobs in reclamation and how they all fit together.

"It starts with me as a reclamation planner and all these characters in the book are based on people that I've worked with over the years," she said.

"So they're all real people, regulators, policy writers, mapping specialists, wildlife biologists, wetland specialists and engineers."

Richens first met King a handful of years ago when the two worked at the same company.

They collaborated on the book and King was able to animate Richens' ideas on paper.

"That's why working with Shannon has been so great. She takes her art and her understanding of reclamation and helps me explain something technical in a way that gets across a lot easier," Richens said.

"Shannon took that and really just sketched things out and we kind of made some edits to it and then she turned it into a full-colour, watercolour illustration."

King is a Canadian artist who was nominated in 2024 for the Alberta Order of Excellence for representing Alberta reclamation projects.

She's made it her primary practice to paint the raw, natural beauty of reclamation, preservation and conservation success stories since 2020.

"To paint real people was a challenge," she said.

"And to be able to meet some of those people now and have them say thank you so much for the rendition in the book is fulfilling in a way that I know artists experience."

King says a lot of research goes into her reclamation artwork.

All her paintings are of documented reclaimed spaces and in most cases, the public doesn't know an energy company spent millions of dollars to bring the area back to its natural state.

"Reclamation is, when it's done with a high level of excellence, it's invisible because it looks like the regular landscape," she said.

"Part of (my) criteria is that there must be a publicly published article on the site, or additional photos that I can link to so people are able to scan a code (to learn more) and sometimes, I have VR experiences that all of a sudden, you're transported out in the woods to a reclamation site."

Richens and King say their book is geared to children from nine to 12 years old, giving them career options when they're still in grade school.

"I have heard through the grapevine that there is less of an interest to go into the energy industry because it has a bad rap but I think in part that's because people truly don't understand the green aspect of it," Richens said.

"I personally believe natural resource development is going to have to continue, but we have to do it responsibly and one of the ways to do responsible development is to make sure we do reclamation very well."

The two are also champions of STEAM; science, technology, engineering, arts and math, and are hopeful their work will spark an interest in reclamation in young minds.

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