Angeles National Forest to Be Restored

The National Forest Foundation will spend the next five years planting trees in an area of Angeles National Forest that was scorched to the dirt.

The Station Fire, alleged to be arson, started in August 2009 and was contained in October 2009, burning 161,000 acres of the national forest near the city of Los Angeles. About 14,000 of those acres were deforested.

I liked this paragraph from the article:

Workers have been collecting seeds from other parts of the forest in elevations that correspond to the destroyed areas. The seeds have been sent to a nursery that has been growing the saplings being planted in the forest. Officials hope to plant a variety of fir and pine trees on an estimated 4,200 acres this year and already have planted about 500,000 trees.

In the last few years restoration has definitely gone local, with open space officials doing their best to plant seeds gathered locally in an effort to preserve biodiversity. For example, Boulder County holds numerous seed collection events. Those seeds are given to local farmers, who grow them and harvest the new bounty of seeds. Boulder County then uses those locally grown varieties of seed in its restoration efforts, making sure that varieties adapted to local microclimates are preserved.

But restoration is a complicated business, and we’re still learning how to do it well.

“What I’ve been told is that they’re planting Coulter pines in areas that used to have big cone Douglas fir and they’re doing it because that’s what they have available,” said Jon Keeley, research scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey Western Ecological Research Center. “They have a lot of them, they’re cheap and they grow fast.”

Keeley says that is not good ecosystem management. Who knows? Maybe he’s right. Then again, maybe the big cone Douglas fir is one of those trees that needs fire to help its seeds sprout.

It’s very important to restore quickly after a fire, especially in a forest like this one so near a city. Erosion and mudslides have already caused damage in the area, so the most vulnerable areas should be reseeded and replanted with trees as soon as possible. Kudos to the National Forest Foundation for taking on this responsibility.

Source: “Parts of Fire-Ravaged Calif. Forest to Be Restored,” Noaki Schwartz, Associated Press, April 15, 2011