Saving the Sugar Pine 100 feet in the air

Published: Sep. 14, 2022 at 4:53 PM PDT
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - Arborist Ben Cavalier uses a sling shot to establish lines on this Sugar Pine which stands more than one-hundred feet tall. He then gears up for a job he says is very rewarding if somewhat dangerous.

Asked if he looks down?

“Of course, I look down,” says Cavalier.

Then as if by magic, he scales the rope hanging from the tree and heads to the very top of this Sugar Pine.

A panoramic view of Lake Tahoe near Emerald Bay and the Sierra Nevada to the north greets him once he reaches his destination. As much as he’d like to stay and take in the view, there is work to be done--that is to save the Sugar Pine.

While Ben stays on top of the tree snipping pine cones, there are Sugar Pine Foundation volunteers at the bottom waiting for the “all clear”. They then collect the pine cones, bag, and mark them.

“With the cold snap on Sunday, all the cones will flair open, the seeds will fall out so we are racing against the clock right now,” says Maria Micheva, with the Sugar Pine Foundation.

Micheva says this is the only way her foundation can control the seeds in a controlled and methodical way.

A small tag at the base of the tree identifies why the specific Sugar Pine was selected. The foundation tested it, and it is immune to the fungus which is killing Sugar Pines in the Tahoe Basin. It’s hoped the seedlings will carry on that immunity.

In the nursery she says they will be stored, and the seedlings will be replanted either a year from now, or in the early spring of 2024.

Marty Meeden, a Washoe Mono Lake Paiute, says he’s worked with the Sugar Pine Foundation on just about every stage of Sugar Pine restoration.

But this literally tops it.

“It is a great activity,” says Meeden. “For what the end result will be. And most of us won’t be here to see it,” he says.

Within an hour Cavalier is safely down from the tree.

It’s time for the hunter gatherers to call it a day.