Stanislaus NF, local high school students share their community spirit

  • By Diana Fredlund, Stanislaus National Forest Public Affairs Officer
A newly planted seedling stands alone on forest floor recently burned by wildfire. A high school girl pats down the dirt around a recently planted seedling. In a barren forest a girl hands a boy seeds to plant. A high school student clears a patch of dirt with a hoe.

Students from Tioga High School spent four hours at the site of the July 2015 Big Creek fire on Stanislaus National Forest in Groveland, Calif., March 3, 2017. Seven teachers and 40 students dug holes, placed a seedling in each hole and carefully refilled them.

“We live in Groveland – some of these students live just a short distance from where the fire burned and were evacuated when it happened,” said Cindy Green, the Tioga High School principal’s secretary. “We’ve lived with fire all our lives. This was our opportunity to give back to our forest.”

This is the second year Tioga students have helped with reforestation on Stanislaus National Forest. Last year students planted about 2,200 seedlings and Green hopes they will at least match that number this year. Tioga High School principal Ryan Dutton was pleased with the students’ progress.

“The students look forward to their community projects throughout the year. Each month Tioga has a theme we tie in to activities and classroom work and March’s theme is ‘generosity.’ This opportunity was a perfect fit. I’m very proud of all they’re giving back to their community,” Dutton said.

The planting event was possible thanks to a partnership between the USFS and Yosemite Stanislaus Solutions. YSS is a diverse collaborative group that helps the Stanislaus National Forest, Bureau of Land Management, Yosemite National Park and private land managers achieve healthy forests and watersheds within Tuolumne County, Calif. They also work closely with the Forest to help develop restoration plans for other areas in need of rehabilitation, including the 2013 Rim Fire, which covered more than 250,000 acres.

This was the first volunteer tree planting event of 2017, according to Seth Connolly with Tuolumne River Trust, part of the YSS. “With all the snow and rain this season, we got very lucky for our first volunteer event. We usually try to begin in February so the seedlings have a chance to take hold while the water content is high in the soil, but this year that just wasn’t possible because we’ve had so much moisture. Waiting until March allowed the ground to dry out enough to have optimal growing conditions.”

Thanks to the students, teachers and administrators from Tioga High School, the Big Creek fire area has a chance to begin growing a new conifer forest. It will take many years, but now it’s up to the weather and some newly planted seedlings to begin the transformation.