Posted: Apr 12, 2012 5:31 PM by Andy Koen
Updated: Apr 12, 2012 9:29 PM
One by one, across a thousand burned acres, new life takes root in the Pike National Forest. In the decade since the Hayman fire, the US Forest Service has planted nearly a million trees.
Forester Chris Kuennen says it's slow work because there are only two to three weeks each year when planting can occur.
"We're looking at the best ground to produce the highest survivability so these seedlings can maybe produce seed a little earlier and potentially help this forest reveg(etate) sooner," he said.
Great care is given to ensure the success of the program. The seedlings are actually grown from pine cones collected in other areas of the forest. They are raised at a nursery in Nebraska and shipped in a temperature controlled truck back to Colorado for planting.
The work crew specifically look for spots shaded from the sun and protected from the wind.
Kuennen says around 70 percent of the trees they've planted in the last decade have caught on and are growing. The survival rate increases to 85 percent when look at just the trees planted since 2009.
That said, reforestation is a slow process. A Ponderosa pine or Douglas fir can take 50 to 75 years to fully mature.
"It takes about 15 years for them to get to 4 and half feet," Kuennen said. "It's a slow growing process this is tough ground."
Meaning it could take another two generations before this section of the forest is green again.