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Restoring Life to the Forest

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Posted: Thursday, April 25, 2013 12:00 am

For the past nine years, volunteers have banded together to help replant the areas of the mountain that were devastated in the 2003 and 2007 wildfires.

On a recent Saturday, a group of about 30 folks listened attentively as Cal Fire forester Glenn Barley explained the proper way to plant the Jeffrey pine seedlings.

The young trees were grown by Southern California Edison from seeds collected in the San Bernardino Mountains. A large group of Edison volunteers was joined by several mountain families and some very special guests.

Matthew Boyer, the vice president of member engagement for American Forests—the funding agency for Mountain Communities Wildfire ReLeaf—was visiting from Washington, D.C. He was joined by Daniele Guidi of WeWood, which has donated enough money to American Forests to plant 56,000 trees to date.

American Forests, Boyer said, is the oldest conservation organization in the U.S., having been founded in 1875. Since the 1990s, it has helped plant more than 40 million trees in areas across the country that have been devastated by naturals disasters, such as fire and hurricanes.

WeWood, Guidi said, manufactures and sells wooden watches. For every watch they sell, he said,they plant a tree. “I am in love with trees,” Guidi said.

He brought with him videographer Andrea La Mendola, who was documenting the planting efforts, which took place at the Boy Scout camp off Hook Creek Road in Cedar Glen.

With Guidi were two WeWood employees—Katie Obymako and Ryan Alexander—and their friends, Derick Fortin and Jeremy Lewin.



Barley asked the volunteers to get into groups of three. One person, he explained, would use the McLeod—a special rake used by firefighters—to scrape down to the mineral soil. The second person would then use the planting bar to dig a hole for the seedling.

“If the ground is too hard,” Barley said, “just move over.” The third person then quickly takes a seedling out of the planting bag and places it into the hole, burying it up to its root collar.

“Just put in dirt, no organic material,” Barley said. Then the person with the planting bar was to close up the hole by levering the dirt toward the tree. “Stomp and pack it in,” Barley said. “We don’t want air pockets around the root system.”

The final steps were to place mulch—organic material and sticks—around the tree to help keep moisture in and then place a shade card on the south side to help protect the seedling.

“Leave the trees in the planting bag until you’re ready to put them in the ground,” Barley warned. The seedlings, he said, have microscopic roots. “We need to limit their exposure to air.”

After planting a seedling, the volunteers were told to take four steps away from it—about 10 feet—and plant the next one.

Boyer, Guidi and the WeWood volunteers got to work, as did the Edison volunteers. They were joined by Julie Burnette and her sons, Aidan and Brandon; Crystal Donika and her daughter, Cassy; and Larry and Cindi Blair, who have volunteered the past four or five years.

After about an hour, Barley headed to the building at the Boy Scout camp where he stores the seedlings to get more. Just beyond that building, said Cheryl Nagy, the ReLeaf project coordinator, is a grove of trees planted four years ago.

Those 100 trees started out just like the seedlings the volunteers were planting this year. “They are now six feet tall,” Nagy said, adding she gets a thrill walking into the grove.

Mountain Communities Wildfire ReLeaf is administered by the Mojave Desert Resource Conservation District.

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