JTree is looking for volunteers to contribute to regrowing our ponderosa pine forest in the High Park fire scar in Colorado!
Forest fires are a natural part of Colorado’s environment and can help keep our forests healthy. However, since the 1970s, wildfires on Colorado’s Front Range have burned more frequently and at greater severity, leaving large patches of decimated forested landscape with no surviving cone-bearing trees. Without the pine cones—and the seeds they contain—these severe burn scars are unable to regenerate as forests and will instead likely stay as grass or shrubland, resulting in loss of carbon storage as well as the water, wildlife and recreation benefits that forests provide.
Last year, The Nature Conservancy collected thousands of pine cones near the High Park fire scar, west of Fort Collins. In 2012, the High Park Fire killed one resident, burned over 87,000 acres and destroyed about 260 homes. The forest that was burned severely in 2012 has not regrown because of a lack of pine cone seeds in the burned area.
Reforestation is one of Colorado’s best options. We estimate that approximately 2% of severely burned areas on the Front Range have been replanted with seedlings. At this pace, it would require 1,490 years to effectively restore these areas to forests and reclaim their carbon storage potential.
We don’t have that kind of time. Thank you Boulder JTree for joining The Nature Conservancy’s effort to replant Ponderosa Pine faster and easier using seed pellets!
Your job is to create seed pellets (also called seed balls) using the locally-collected ponderosa pine seeds. In the spring, the seeds will germinate and trees will start to grow!
Hands-On Activity: Total Time 3 Hours including Clean up
- Watch the instructional video. It is brief and shows you how to make and dry your seed pellet balls.
- Pick up the Seed Kit Pick Up Date TBD in late Oct. from the Boulder JCC
- Unpack the seed kit. Work together to mix and manufacture 150 seed pellets at home.
- Allow dry time of 5 days
- Return dry seed pellet balls to JCC – Date TBD
- Allergy note: Please know that the seed pellets contain hot cayenne pepper. If you have a hot cayenne pepper allergy, you should not participate in this project.
Why seed pellets?
- Innovative technology with seedpods – may make reforestation easier, faster, and cheaper.
- Usually, reforestation is a 2-3 year process. Seeding using pellets could reduce project time, as it eliminates the need for growth in a nursery
- Seeding may reduce costs and staffing needs of over-taxed land managers.
- Seed pellets can increase the scale of reforestation and close the gap on the widening tree deficit caused by wildfires.
- Drones can safely seed areas that are inaccessible to field crews, areas which are far from roads.
- Our seed pellets are designed to protect seeds from animals, but also to easily break down come spring, once there is a hard rain. Then, they dissolve, and the seeds are exposed. These are the precise conditions for germination.
- Once free from the seed pellet, ponderosa pine seeds need mineral soil – very rocky soil — that is continuously warm and moist in order to grow.
Learn more about reforestation:
- Hessburg, Paul. (May 2017). “Why wildfires have gotten worse – and what we can do about it”. TEDxBend. Watch the 14 minute talk. https://www.ted.com/talks/paul_hessburg_why_wildfires_have_gotten_worse_and_what_we_can_do_about_it
- Sakas, Michael Elizabeth. (September 1, 2020). “Wildfires have burned Colorado’s Iconic Forests. Because of Climate Change, Some Won’t Grow Back The Same”. Colorado Public News. Listen 4 minutes, 36 seconds. https://www.cpr.org/2020/09/01/colorado-wildfires-forests-regrow-climate-change/