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GR25: Reforesting America’s Last Frontier

March 31st, 2015|Tags: , , |


Welcome back, time travelers!

In honor of the ever-anticipated spring season before us, we’re heading on a journey to a place that reminds us that, in reality, it could always be colder — like Chiniak, Alaska, for example!

While the United States was reeling economically from The Great Recession in 2009, forestry work and environmental needs continued to assume the forefront of American Forests’ mind. We continued our reforestation work by venturing to Kodiak Island with our third installation of the Cape Chiniak Reforestation initiative. Located on more than 2,600 acres that had been deforested for timber during the 90s, this project worked to restore hundreds of previously harvested acres with native Sitka spruce seedlings. Named for the town Sitka, Alaska, the Sitka spruce is the largest spruce species in the world, and the fifth-largest conifer globally — a fact that would certainly be appealing for those of you who are wrapped up in American Forests’ Big Tree Madness bracket!.

Sitka spruce have a few other talents as well. They can grow to live more than 700 years, and their high strength-to-weight ratio and knot-free rings make them an excellent conductor of sound. As a result, the Sitka spruce was widely harvested for use in harp, piano, violin and guitar manufacturing.

Originally, it was anticipated that regeneration of Sitka spruce would occur through natural seeding, as occurs in most other Sitka spruce forests in Alaska. Unfortunately, several biological events occurred that resulted in nearly no (zero) natural regeneration from occurring.

As a result, American Forests planted more than 55,000 native seedlings to enhance regeneration in this critical area. But our work in this area was far from over — in fact, we continued reforesting Cape Chiniak in 2010 with the project’s fourth installment. In total, more than 200,000 native Sitka spruce seedlings were planted in this massive, multi-year undertaking, providing habitat for rare, native wildlife species such as the Kodiak brown bear, Sitka black-tailed deer and Roosevelt elk.

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