Douglas-fir seedling. Credit: Joint Base Lewis McChord

About the St. Joe ReLeaf Project:

American Forests and the U.S. Forest Service are reforesting 50 acres of Idaho National Forest with western larch, western white pine, Engelmann spruce, and Douglas-fir to maintain the Idaho Forest watershed following tree loss in the area from disease.

Global ReLeaf provides forests like this — and the communities that depend on them — with the restoration they need to thrive. Since 1990, American Forests has brought ReLeaf to forests in all 50 states and 45 countries, planting more than 45 million trees in the process.

ReLeaf Location:

Idaho National Forest in Idaho

Key ReLeaf Activities:

  • Planting 15,000 trees across 50 acres
  • Restoring an important watershed/riparian area
  • Restoring habitat for western white pine

Why This ReLeaf Project?

This project will enhance tree species diversity in previously harvested stands, improving resilience in the face of potential future disturbances. The disease, white pine blister rust, has removed most of the potential seed source for the dominant western white pine, but blister rust-resistant specimens can be planted to restore the species. Larch is the most fire-resistant tree species in this ecosystem, but its seed source has been reduced by past management practices, while available Engelmann spruce seed source has been reduced by past bark beetle activity. Blister rust-resistant white pine, larch and some spruce and Douglas-fir will be planted to produce a more diverse forest species mix. Improved species diversity leads to more resilient forests that support healthier watersheds, and are potentially more resilient in the face of climate change.

Why Blister Rust Resistance?

Current stands of western white pine are highly vulnerable to the newly arrived epidemic of blister rust, a disease that causes rust-colored sap to leak through the trees’ bark. By introducing western white pine saplings resistant to the disease, as well as several other tree species that have been lost because of harvesting, it will be possible to preserve the Idaho Forest watershed from erosion. Such erosion usually occurs when a large amount of native trees has been lost for one reason or another, and can no longer keep soil in place on hillsides or areas hit heavily by rainfall.

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