Forest Service planting more than 153,000 trees old Jasper Fire area
CUSTER, S.D. — Black Hills National Forest Service crews will be out for two-and-a-half weeks to plant more than 153,000 ponderosa pine seedlings over 400 acres in the old Jasper Fire area of the Hell Canyon Ranger District.
In 2000, the Jasper Fire burned more than 83,500 acres in the Southern Hills, leaving thousands of acres without a seed source for mature trees – meaning without aid, regrowth was impossible.
Working with the Bessey Nursery in Nebraska, forest crews began growing a pine stock to be replanted in the fire scar, and have been successful in the replanting process since in began in 2002.
Hell Canyon Ranger District Silviculturist Nancy Bayne says that each contract employee plants roughly 1,000 trees a day. As a whole, the crews try to plant at least 10,000 trees a day, but Bayne says they’ve planted as many as 15,000 a day in good weather.
Replanting begins with crews loading up shoulder bags full of seedlings, spreading out, and working their way across the hillside planting. Other crew members then follow and place a protective mesh tube on every other tree, which decomposes in three to five years.
“We found out that deer and the elk are hard on the seedlings and we started tubing them for added protection,” Bayne said.
She says that springtime is the ideal time to plant, as there usually a lot of moisture available.