By Coreen Francis, Nevada BLM forester

In April, a crew of eight youth volunteers with the Nevada Conservation Corps (NCC) found themselves swinging hoedads and planting a massive amount of trees on a fire rehabilitation project near Markleeville, Calif. The majority of their work involved using chainsaws to remove trees for hazardous fuels reduction and wildlife enhancement projects.

Nevada Conservation Corps crew members

Nevada Conservation Corps crew members (from left) Will Thaheld, Parker Severson, Garrett Steed, Miguel Gonzales, Kate Saling, Colleen Lafferty and Megan Marchellino with Shay Nolan in front. Credit: Coreen Francis/BLM

For many of them, this was their first experience with tree planting. Crew member, Meagan Marchellino, remarks that “we just planted more trees than we have ever cut down.” The remarkable part is that it took them only six field days to plant 25,000 one-year-old Jeffrey pines.

The project was a joint endeavor that the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Sierra Front Field Office (SFFO) orchestrated with partners such as the NCC (run by the Great Basin Institute), the local county and American Forests, who supplied a grant to fund the Alpine County portion of the reforestation effort. The fire area was 30 acres of BLM administered land and 51 acres of Alpine County land near a local airstrip. The popular Indian Creek Reservoir and BLM-managed campground is only a mile from the burned area, making it an important restoration area. The SFFO entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Alpine County, which used the Wyden Amendment to authorize work on county land for this seamless restoration effort.

Nevada Conservation Corps crew members

Nevada Conservation Corps crew members Kate Saling (front) and Garrett Steed. Credit: Coreen Francis/BLM

After the MOU was signed, it was a matter of finding the funding for the county portion of the project. American Forests, a national nonprofit dedicated to the stewardship of forestland, granted the SFFO approximately $16,000 through its Global ReLeaf program. An interpretative sign will be constructed on the site detailing the partners that made this project possible.

The tree planting plan was developed to include fertilizer packets and clearing around planted trees to reduce competing vegetation. The clearing around trees targeted only areas where non-native vegetation was dominating. Stocking surveys will be done in the fall to determine survival rates.

When the crew began planting on March 26, 2013, there were 116 boxes of trees stacked in the refrigeration trailer. The first day of planting was slow and crew lead Colleen Lafferty felt “overwhelmed and a little worried.” Production quickly increased to 20 boxes of trees planted daily, as the NCC crew became familiar with the tools and techniques used for planting the trees. Each box contained 220 trees, which amounts to this small, inexperienced crew averaging more than 500 trees per person per day! The crew is excited to have a project that they can return to in 20 years and see a thriving forest.

Special note: a small crew of interns from the Chicago Botanical Gardens also planted approximately 1,000 trees in the project area.

Visit the Global ReLeaf area of our website to discover our other 2013 planting projects.