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Feds hope to grow the Plant-a-Tree program

Forest Service aims to help restore Missionary Ridge, Narraguinnep

Ten dollars will buy five seedlings to restore vegetation in burned areas in the San Juan National Forest, with the donor or a designated alternate receiving a certificate of recognition.

The pitch comes from the U.S. Forest Service through its national Plant-a-Tree Program started in 1983 to give natural regeneration a boost.

San Juan National Forest officials plan to focus on the restoration of ponderosa pine and spruce forests burned in major wildfires – Missionary Ridge around Vallecito and Narraguinnep near Dolores.

Seeds are being planted now at the Charles E. Bessey Tree Nursery in Northwest Nebraska, to have seedlings next year and in 2014, project director Gretchen Fitzgerald, a forester, said Friday.

“They get an extra year of growth because they’re allowed to grow for three or four months, then made dormant by reducing the amount of water they get. When growth is stimulated again, the trees think they’re a year older,” she said.

Spruce seedlings will be planted at 10,000 to 11,000 feet elevation on Missionary Ridge next fall, Fitzgerald said. Ponderosa seedlings will be planted in 2014 at about 8,000 feet elevation around Narraguinnep, she sad.

It costs about $2 per tree to grow seedlings in a nursery and plant them.

“Some burned areas reforest naturally through aspen or natural conifer regeneration,” Fitzgerald said. “But on southeast to southwest slopes and harsher environments, regeneration can take centuries.

“We focus tree planting in areas where large-scale fires have occurred outside wilderness areas,” Fitzgerald said. “There is virtually no probability that these areas will reforest on their own in 50 to 100 years.”

In about two years, Fitzgerald plans to collect limber pine seeds around Vallecito to create a seed bank to guard against a potential demise of the species.

Climate change and the possible arrival of white pine blister rust here could affect the species, Fitzgerald said. The blister rust, which circles the trunk with blister-like growths that kill the tree, has been found in Colorado.

Donations to Plant-a-Tree are considered charitable donations by the Internal Revenue Service. Donations can be made by cash, check or credit card at San Juan National Forest offices.

Credit card donations can be made by telephone. Checks, made payable to USDA Forest Service, with Plant-a-Tree in the memo line, can be mailed to Plant-a-Tree, 15 Burnett Court, Durango 81301.

The donor receives a personalized certificate suitable for framing to document the gift.

Further information is available from Fitzgerald at 884-1435 or gfitzgerald@fs.fed.us or www.fs.usda.gov/sanjuan.

daler@duangoherald.com

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