Sugar pine plantings: Community collaborative in Tahoe National Forest on Alder Creek |

Sugar pine plantings: Community collaborative in Tahoe National Forest on Alder Creek

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TAHOE/TRUCKEE, Calif. and#8212; The USDA Forest Service, Tahoe National Forest, Truckee Ranger District is working with two local nonprofits, the Sugar Pine Foundation (SPF) and the Sierra Watershed Education Partnership (SWEP), to host community sugar pine plantings along Alder Creek.

Volunteers will help plant hundreds of new blister rust resistant sugar pine seedlings on Tahoe National Forest (TNF) lands by Alder Creek Thursday, June 9 and Saturday, June 11.

Sugar pines are the worldand#8217;s largest species of pine and are noted for their uniquely beautiful shape and enormous cones. Although sugar pines once accounted for more than 25 percent of local forest composition, they now make up less than five percent of our forests. During the late 1800s, sugar pines were heavily logged from the region and, more recently, a non-native, invasive fungus called white pine blister rust has been devastating sugar pines and other species of white pine.

The tri-partite collaboration that spawned this Juneand#8217;s plantings is beneficial to all parties involved: The Forest Service has land along Alder Creek that it has been thinning and working to restore, the SPF specializes in propagating fungus-resistant sugar pine stock and SWEP does an annual environmental stewardship program for local sixth grade students. Together, the three groups will host a student planting with 240 sixth grade students from Alder Creek Middle School Thursday, June 9. Students will spend the day learning about forest ecology and stewardship by planting seedlings and participating in a nature walk and various hands-on activities with Forest Service personnel.

Two days later, on Saturday, June 11, the Forest Service and the SPF will hold a Community Planting so local volunteers can get involved in on-the-ground forest stewardship by planting healthy, fungus-resistant sugar pine seedlings. Community members are invited to help plant trees that will be the healthy forests of the future. Seedlings, planting instructions and light refreshments will be provided.

The plantings in Alder Creek came about because the SPF has been working with the TNF since 2006 to identify blister rust sugar pines on its lands. Restoration of TNF lands using sugar pine seedlings that will survive the fungus is the exciting next step. Scott Conway, vegetation management officer at the Truckee Ranger District, identified the land along Alder Creek for planting. Maria Mircheva, executive director of the SPF, then contacted Christine McMorrow at SWEP to help organize a student planting with local schoolchildren. The SPF strives to engage community members of all ages in stewarding their forests, hence the Community Planting as well. The plantings are sponsored by Truckee Tahoe Community Foundation Nature Fund grants to the SPF and SWEP.

The SPF is a South Lake Tahoe-based no-profit that has worked to save Tahoeand#8217;s sugar pines and other white pines from the threat of blister rust since 2004. The SPF finds sugar pines that are resistant to the blister rust fungus, collects their cones, and organizes community-based planting events to propagate the fungus-resistant progeny.

SWEP is a local nonprofit that works throughout the Tahoe Truckee region to promote environmental stewardship by connecting K-12 students to their community and local environment through comprehensive watershed and forest health education and service-learning opportunities.

The Truckee Ranger District has had an ongoing thinning and restoration project in the Alder Creek area, which historically harbored a higher density of sugar pines. Rebalancing the forest composition by planting blister rust resistant sugar pines in Alder Creek is part of the Forest Serviceand#8217;s long-term management plan for the site. Involving local school children and volunteers in this effort is advantageous for all parties, and will benefit the community for generations to come.

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