Nova Scotia

1,000 red spruce saplings planted in an abandoned quarry in rural Cape Breton

A national carbon-capture program will see 10,000 trees put in the ground across the country. Today 1,000 of them were planted in Irish Cove, Cape Breton, by a group of enthusiastic volunteers.

It's part of a national carbon capture project to plant 10,000 trees across Canada

Katy Barnes and Dylan Yates volunteered to plant red spruce as part of a carbon-capture project in Cape Breton. (Norma Jean MacPhee/ CBC)

An enthusiastic and large group of volunteers gathered at a former limestone quarry in Irish Cove, N.S., Wednesday to plant 1,000 red spruce seedlings. 

It's part of a national carbon capture initiative, embraced locally by the Bras d'Or Lake Biosphere Reserve Association, to prevent carbon dioxide from building up in the atmosphere. 

NSCC instructor Waddie Long notes the red spruce is both suitable for carbon capture and Nova Scotia's provincial tree. (Norma Jean MacPhee/ CBC)

"Trees are a great source of carbon capture," said Waddie Long, a natural resources and environmental technology instructor at the NSCC Strait Area Campus. 

Red spruce was chosen for the project for two reasons,  he said. One, "because of its longevity it will capture an abundance of carbon."  And two, "the species, though fairly common elsewhere in the province, is rare in Cape Breton." 

From 9 weeks to 90 years

Long said he's delighted the project will contribute to the rehabilitation of the abandoned quarry, which once supplied limestone to Sydney Steel. 

"It's an actual beautiful location," said Long.

The 1,000 trees planted in Cape Breton are part of a project to plant 10,000 trees across Canada. (Norma Jean MacPhee/CBC)

As organizer of the effort, Long was thrilled by the response. Between 50 and 60 people showed up with their shovels, ranging in age from a nine-week-old baby to a man in his nineties.

Volunteer Jaylynn Denny will graduate from the high school in Eskasoni First Nation this year. "I'm really, really, really interested in the environment and stuff," she said. "I'm planning on getting a major on ecology and biology so it's just a really big part of my life. I'm not gonna lie."

Nationwide project

Her friend Sarah Prosper is also in Grade 12. "It's really important to preserve our natural habitats and keep our environment clean," she said, "and by planting trees we will help that all around the world."

Long said the seedlings were grown at a provincial nursery in Strathlorne, Inverness County — and paid for by Port Hawkesbury Paper. 

The age of the tree-planting volunteers ranged from nine weeks to more than 90 years. (Norma Jean MacPhee/ CBC)

Nationally the project involves all 18 UNESCO biospheres in Canada, which will put 100,000 new trees in the ground as a gesture to offset the carbon footprint created by the G7 Summit, gathering this June, in Charlevoix, Que.

Mark MacPhail, a regional forester with the Department of Natural Resources, said: "If we could use this as a pilot project for other reclamation projects then that's fantastic.

"There's other spaces in this parcel of land that we might use for planting projects in the future. So maybe in 50 or 60 years it will be back looking like a forest."

With files from Information Morning Cape Breton