Restoring area forests one flight at a time

Published: Apr. 22, 2021 at 5:55 PM PDT
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NEAR BORDERTOWN, Nev. (KOLO) - The sound of hope.

“We use (the drone) for fire science projects, to archaeology, biology, to atmospheric science,” said Desert Research Institute’s, Jesse Juchtzer. “(Thursday) we’re using (the drone) to plant seeds.”

Four organizations, including members of Desert Research Institute, trekked out with a drone - also known as an unmanned aircraft system - to an area west of Cold Springs that was devastated by last year’s Loyalton Fire.

“With a U.A.S. we can run multiple missions off a small tank of gas,” said Juchtzer. “(On Thursday) we are using a generator to charge our batteries so five gallons of gas gets us through the day.”

Efficiency is the name of the game for Juchtzer and his crew of pilots. Dr. Lauren Fletcher with Flying Forests was also instrumental. He’s responsible for creating tree-planting drone technology which is far more efficient, and cost effective, than if someone wanted to plant trees, or seeds, by hand.

“In comparison this technology allows us to plant 25 acres in a day by itself,” Dr. Fletcher said.

Matt Zumstein with the U.S. Forest Service added his thoughts about the drone study.

“It presents an opportunity to re-seed some areas that we wouldn’t be putting planting crews in given topography and the steepness of the slopes.”

Technology. check. Manpower. check.

But trees don’t grow out of nowhere.

The ability to restore the area comes down to a little gray seed ball. The Sugar Pine Foundation supplied 25,000 of these balls in hopes of bringing back the forest’s natural beauty.

Jeffrey Pines are the native tree that the Loyalton Fire blazed through. Maria Mircheva with the Sugar Pine Foundation says each seed ball contains three Jeffrey pine seeds encased by compost and clay.

With a little rain the seeds will sprout.

“If this results in 150 trees I would be very happy,” Mircheva said.

There is no telling how many trees were lost to the Loyalton Fire. If this study is successful people could see drones restoring the environment more often.

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