Can Drones Rebuild the Canadian Woods?

Image: Wiki CC

By Ashira Morris, ODP Staff Writer

In Canada’s British Columbia, a new project plans to replant resilient forests with the combination of Indigenous knowledge and new technology. According to reporting by Grist in partnership with The Tyee, Seed the North will “collect seeds, combine them in biodiverse seedpods, and drop them using drone technology over thousands of acres.” The area is sparsely populated and has traditionally been used for logging, mining, and fossil fuel extraction. Seed the North wants to regenerate a more diverse, resilient forest by seeding tens of thousands of acres across the region. 

Why This Matters: Over the past decades, British Columbia’s forests have been through climate change-fueled droughts, wildfires, and pest infestations. Seed the North’s plan to reforest hard-to-reach areas of the western province has the potential to store carbon and prioritize ecological diversity — markedly different from the planting that the area’s forest industry does every year. It also centers Indigenous knowledge as one of its core principles, letting the people who know the land best guide the process. But Kuperman emphasizes that “there are no foolproof solutions,” as she told Grist. “This is harm reduction. This is mitigation. And that is the best thing that we can do with our lives.”

From Monoculture to Forest Diversity

Seed the North plans to target its seed packet drops in areas that have been harmed by natural disasters and places harmed more directly by industrial activity. The forest industry plants thousands of seeds every year, replacing about 80% of the 500,000 acres logged. But what gets replanted is focused on the next year’s logging: pine, spruce, and cedar trees are common because they grow quickly. Other trees that get in their way are taken out, leaving a monoculture that’s ripe for fires. 

Seed the North’s project will plant trees like birch, alder, and Rocky Mountain maple, species that aren’t good for timber but are part of the local environment. These trees are part of the broader ecosystem of other plants and animals, unlike the previously planted monoculture.  

“I put ecological diversity first,” Kuperman says. “Industry objectives are not ecology first. They’re economy first.”

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