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Planting effort restores over 1,000 acres of forest ecosystem on the Hiawatha NF [VIDEO]


MICHIGAN – This summer, working with our partners, including One Tree Planted and the National Forest Foundation, a total of 711,500 trees were planted on over 1,000 acres across the East Zone of the Hiawatha National Forest. Species installed include white pine, red pine, jack pine, hemlock and white spruce. Contracts from both 2020 and 2021 were performed this year due to delays from the pandemic.

Area after a prescribed burn
There is a thin duff layer that was scalped by planters to expose bare mineral soil for an advantageous condition for the seedling to be planted. USDA Forest Service photo.

The locations selected for replanting included areas of a 2009 spruce budworm outbreak that decimated white spruce plantations and had to be harvested through a salvage sale. Other stands were originally planted with a monoculture of jack pine or red pine during the Civilian Conservation Corps era. They are now of an age where they can be regenerated again with a range of species and structural diversity.

Site preparation is an essential part of a successful planting effort. Preparation varied by location, some had mechanical site prep done by dragging long chains over the remaining slash and breaking that down to help expose bare mineral soil. Prescribed burning was performed at other sites to prepare the soil for planting. And other areas that could not be accessed with mechanical equipment were hand scalped by the planters using a tool called a hoedad, which scrapes away the organic horizon of the soil profile to expose bare mineral soil and plant the seedling.

Over the course of five weeks, contractor Express Forestry had three foremen and 30 planters working at various planting sites. The foreman oversees the work of the planters and relays any instructions from the Forest Service based on how the planting is going. Elements of a successful planting include correct spacing, good quality seedlings, proper planting depth and correct root placement.

Staked plots are set up after the planting is completed to monitor survival of the seedlings. The forest will revisit the plots at six weeks, one year and then at three-year intervals. When the desired conditions of the silvicultural prescription are met, the area is considered reforested in accordance with National Forest Management Act of 1976.

Reforestation after disturbances improves forest health. By planting the right species, reforestation will help make the Forest more resilient to future challenges like climate change and wildfire.

Forest workers perparing to plant trees
There is a thin duff layer that was scalped by planters to expose bare mineral soil for an advantageous condition for the seedling to be planted. USDA Forest Service photo.
 

A hoedad beig used to plant a treeling
Once the tree is planted to the right depth, the hoedad is used to set soil firmly in place. USDA Forest Service photo by Joseph M. de Leon.
 
Treeling planted in the soil
White pine seedling planted in hand scalp area. USDA Forest Service photo.
 

Sustain Our Nation's Forests and Grasslands
https://www.fs.usda.gov/inside-fs/delivering-mission/sustain/planting-effort-restore-over-1000-acres-forest-ecosystem