Soil primed to plant seedlings in Wallow Fire burned area near Greer & Milligan

Drive to Greer Protectors on seedlings Mountain Side Tree growing cone Yearling trees



The Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests (ASNFs) began planting 150 acres of ponderosa pine seedlings in the Wallow Fire burned area near Montlure Church Camp, south of Greer, and 250 acres in the Milligan Valley this month.   

Patrick Murphy, silviculturist for the Springerville Ranger District explains, "The soil is now ready for planting new seedlings in the Wallow burned area. Following a wildland fire the soil, depending on the soil burn severity rating, is most often unable to take tree seedlings immediately after being burned.  In some areas the soil is basically void of any organic matter. Planting during the monsoons will help with the growing process."

"Since the Wallow Fire we have been collecting pinecones from specific seed zones to get the seeds that are harvested from the same elevation where the planting will occur. The 538,000 acres burned during the Wallow Fire in 2011 has made it quite challenging to find trees with viable cones.  We then transferred the pinecones to the Lucky Peak nursery in Idaho and we wait until the pinecone seeds become seedlings," Murphy said. 

The planting process is more than just plopping seedlings into the ground.  It takes contract workers, who are trained to maneuver with a tool that looks like a pick, called a ‘hoedad’ and the workers will crisscross across the landscape scooping out 8-inch holes and delicately inserting the seedlings.  After that is completed, they will put tree-protectors (which usually allow an 80% survival rate) around each planting to protect from weather and wildlife habitat. It will take nearly three years for the tree root to take hold.

The seedlings were purchased with designated monies given to the National Forest Foundation and the Springerville Rotary Club to purchase trees following the Wallow Fire.  Unfortunately, there isn't enough money to replant the 538,000 acres burned.  Nature has begun its own form of regeneration in many areas with other vegetation cropping up; it will take hundreds of years to see a landscape similar to where it was prior to the Wallow Fire. 

“These forests belong to all of us,” said ASNFs’ Forest Supervisor Jim Zornes, “And we appreciate the efforts of the public, National Forest Foundation and SRP for the monetary support given for reforestation following the Wallow fire.”