Cape Breton

We are proud to be working with Parks Canada in Cape Breton Highlands National Park. We are going to “bring back the boreal” by planting and raising awareness of the causes of deforestation.

The support provided by tentree, in partnership with Parks Canada, enables the planting of balsam fir for forest restoration. In a project called Bring Back the Boreal, we helped Parks Canada engage visitors and raise awareness about the importance of reforestation. Bring Back the Boreal was a five-year Parks Canada project at Cape Breton Highlands National Park to restore boreal forest through moose management and tree planting initiatives. Objectives of the project included encouraging 8000 visitors in tree planting, planting 57,000 trees, introducing new partners, and reaching 10,000 people through social media.

Total Trees Planted

Why Cape Breton Highlands National Park?

Located on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Canada – Cape Breton Highlands National Park is known for its spectacular highlands and ocean scenery.  The Park is home to three distinct forest regions. In the valleys and coastal areas you’ll find the ancient hardwoods and lush softwoods of the Acadian forest.  Way up on the highland plateau are the boggy wetlands and rocky barrens of the taiga. Between the two, lies the boreal forest, which covers one third of the park and is normally dominated by balsam fir. 

The boreal forest of Cape Breton Highlands National Park is changing. What was once a thriving forest ecosystem is now being replaced by large areas of grass. 

The boreal forest is often naturally disturbed by insect outbreaks and fire. When the older mature trees die, they open up the canopy for younger trees to sprout and grow. This continuous cycle of destruction and re-growth is how a healthy boreal forest maintains a natural balance. 

In the 1970-80s, a natural outbreak of spruce budworm consumed vast areas of balsam fir and white spruce. Young balsam fir and white birch grew quickly to form the future forest. With this abundance of new growth to eat and no significant natural predator or disease, the moose population exploded and stalled the natural regeneration of this forest.  Instead of a new forest taking hold, grass is growing in its place. Once grass starts to take over an area, it is difficult for anything else to grow. Grassland has replaced a third of the park’s boreal forest and is growing. Species that are characteristic of the forest are struggling, including several provincial and federal species at risk.

Parks Canada’s five-year Bring Back the Boreal project worked to restore the forest health of Cape Breton Highlands National Park. 

Monitoring has shown that fewer fir and spruce seedlings are present and that the thick layer of grass along the park’s popular Skyline trail is preventing any new trees from becoming established. In 2015, a 5-hectare moose exclosure was built (the size of 9 football fields) to keep moose out and to protect the 50,000 tiny balsam fir seedlings that will be planted inside.

By planting trees such as native balsam fir inside the protection of an exclosure, we hope to begin to restore the boreal forest in this damaged area and allow a rich diversity of forest species to flourish once again. For more information visit

The Impact

Land Preservation

Protecting and restoring the land in and around the trail.


Educating Canadians on the importance of planting trees in our own backyard.

Habitat Restoration

Ensuring the long term success of the Boreal Forest in Cape Breton.

Engage Community

We believe it’s very important to work with the local community on planting initiatives.

The Trees

Our primary focus is to plant non-invasive, endemic trees. We want everything to be as it was hundreds of years ago. We also source all seedlings locally to ensure that the seedling was sourced from local native species.

Highland Balsam Fir

The balsam fir is well known as a popular Christmas tree species. It is the main coniferous species browsed (eaten) by moose. When overbrowsed, balsam fir saplings will produce an excess of buds, distorting their usual conical shape into a thick sphere shape. Balsam fir are also the most susceptible species of tree to infestations of spruce budworm, despite the name of the insect.

The seedlings we are planting come from seeds collected in the highlands of Cape Breton. They were collected in the 1980s, from large mature trees that managed to survive the devastating spruce budworm outbreak. These seedlings are suited to Cape Breton’s rugged environment and harsh growing conditions.

Planting Process


Gather Seedlings from Greenhouse

First we must gather seedlings from the greenhouse, truck them over to the site, and then we often use quads to help bring large loads closer to the planters.


Put Trees in Planting Bags

Planters put the trees into planting bags and make the trek down the skyline trail to our planting site.


Plant Using a Tree Planting Dibble Bulb Planter

Using a Dibble Bulb Planter instead of a shovel allows for ease of use on tougher ground and larger seedlings. The long bar allows you to easily put all your weight onto the shovel.

Other Types of Trees Planted

Balsam fir

The balsam fir is best known as a Christmas tree species. The Balsam fir are the most susceptible species of tree to infestations of spruce budworm, despite the name of the insect suggesting otherwise.

White birch

The white birch is a deciduous tree species that is often identified by its thin, white bark that peels off into large sheets. White birch trees are often the first tree species to regenerate in an area after a forest disturbance such as wildfire.

White spruce

The white spruce is a large coniferous tree that gets its name from the white powdery coating that is often found on its needles.

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