Sugar Pine Foundation credits wet winter for successful replanting projects

Published: Oct. 2, 2023 at 5:51 PM PDT
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - A look at the landscape on Echo Summit, and it seems hopeless.

Two years ago, the Caldor Fire ripped through here as it headed to South Lake Tahoe--taking every tree, scrub, cabin, and anything else in its path with it. But the Sugar Pine Foundation’s Maria Merchiva is the optimist. I follow her as she finds two-year old trees fighting to survive at 7,000 feet.

Her discoveries didn’t just happen by chance.

“We planted here last October with about 30 volunteers,” says Merchiva. “Some were from the Cottonwood Homeschool. Some from Liberty Utilities, and some just community members who wanted to help out.”

They planted a total of 600 seedlings in an area that had been cleared of burned trees.

300 Jeffrey Pine, and 300 Western White Pine. Maria instructed the group to place frames around the seedling with pieces of wood which made locating them easy today. It was tough to find a seedling that had not survived. Which is tough to imagine.

That’s because at a previous tree planting Maria told us this.

“About one-fourth will survive,” she said back in May of 2022.

That’s for Sugar Pines.

Still at best Maria says for the Jeffrey and Western White Pine the numbers are only slightly better.

But in 2023 she says the survival rate well exceeds that.

“We didn’t come here until the end of July to water,” says Merchiva. “And we were like ‘oh we don’t need to water they are doing just fine.’ It is over 80% survival.”

Merchiva credits the wet winter.

But there were other factors that helped out. Crews who cleared the area left wood chips which helped keep brush at bay and insulate the trees.

In areas where no trees were planted and no wood chips left behind, the brush has taken over. This is what Merchiva and others are trying to avoid. While fir and pine trees will eventually grow, with the brush it could take a half century to do so.

And if another fire comes through here, the brush will burn more readily. Beginning the process all over again.

“So, we sped up the process of natural succession,” says Merchiva. “So we can have a forest sooner.”

The Sugar Pine Foundation has set up events this month to replant in burn scar areas left by the Caldor and the Tamarack Fires. If you would like more information, or volunteer, go to this website: