|On a relaxed Saturday, Jason Brey, silviculturist with the U.S. Forest Service, enjoys a walk over
the Sweetwater Bridge in Shoshone National Forest with his sons. Photo by Charish Badzinski.
In our travels, many of us take trees for granted. Yet behind the seemingly effortless regrowth of trees is an army of dedicated workers who strive to ensure that such natural beauty is always there for us to enjoy, in our national forests. Today those workers—on behalf of the U.S. Forest Service—begin a massive initiative of planting tens of thousands of trees in Wyoming in the Wapiti Ranger District of the Shoshone National Forest, what locals call the North Fork.
|A shipment of tens of thousands of trees, including douglas fir, lodgepole pine and englemann spruce,
awaits planting, which starts today. Photo by Charish Badzinski.
All told, a shipment of 133,000 trees—including douglas fir, lodgepole pine and englemann spruce—are being planted on national forest land in the area, a job which will take contractors there about 10-12 days. Recently, those trees have been stored at 33-35 degrees in a truck trailer parked just of U.S. highway 14/16/20, the North Fork Highway. The cool temperature prevents the trees from growing and respiring, which can lead to molding. Of this massive shipment, 60,000 Douglas Fir trees will be planted in the beautiful Sweetwater Creek area alone.
|Trees are stored in a temperature-controlled environment until they are ready to be planted by
the U.S. Forest Service. Photo by Charish Badzinski.
|This handful of douglas fir seedlings will soon call the Shoshone National Forest home.
Photo by Charish Badzinski.
Why the reforestation effort? Jason Brey, silviculturist with the U.S. Forest Service (a silviculturist specializes in the art and science of forest management), says it’s typically an annual effort to ensure the adequate regeneration of our forests, one that amounts to 30-50,000 trees per year in the 2.4 million acres of the Shoshone National Forest alone.
“What we’re doing by planting trees, helping trees grow better, is fulfilling part of the Forest Service mission by sustaining the health of our nation’s forests,” says Brey.
|A mature douglas fir grows in the Shoshone National Forest. We often take for granted that they
will be there for us to enjoy. But the U.S. Forest Service plays an essential role in their survival.
Photo by Charish Badzinski.
The Gunbarrel Fire
This year’s reforestation effort, which is bigger than most, is largely aimed at regenerating forest lost in the Gunbarrel Fire of 2008. The Gunbarrel Fire, which was started by lightening, raged across nearly 68,000 acres over several months. Today you can still see evidence of the burned timber and the winding path of the flames throughout the area’s rugged terrain.
|Singed trees still stand where they were burned during the Gunbarrel Fire of 2008 in the
Shoshone National Forest. This area is riparian, and will not be replanted because it provides essential wildlife habitat. Photo by Charish Badzinski.
|Evidence of the Gunbarrel Fire is still clearly visible today. Photo by Charish Badzinski.|
You can watch an interesting photo slideshow of the fire in this YouTube video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OrqsFl4ZrFk
Planting the trees is anything but easy. Some areas of the forest are remote and impossible to navigate in a vehicle. Workers will instead use the Forest Service’s mules to pack in the trees.
|Bighorn sheep gather along the side of the highway in the Shoshone National Forest.
Photo by Charish Badzinski.
Vital Wildlife Habitat
Not all areas affected by the wildfire will be replanted, says Brey. That’s because the Forest Service focuses not only on reforestation, but conservation of important wildlife habitat, as well. He points to a riparian zone—a moist area on the banks of the North Fork of the Shoshone River, where grass growth is lush, and aspen, willow and cottonwood trees are starting to grow among the singed trees still standing after the fire.
|Buffalo depend upon the region for winter habitat, then migrate back to Yellowstone National Park
in the summer. Photo by Charish Badzinski.
The area, as it is, is essential to wildlife. Brey explains, “This is important winter range habitat for bighorn sheep and elk.” The area is also a draw for other wildlife. “Buffalo winter down on the North Fork, then migrate back into Yellowstone National Park.”
According to Brey, grizzlies are also partial to the area; the Shoshone National Forest has more grizzly bears than Yellowstone, and one of the highest population densities in the United States outside of Alaska. Preserving their habitat is an essential component of the important, and often invisible work of the U.S. Forest Service.
The U.S. Forest Service is planning a series of events to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of another devastating forest fire in the Shoshone National Forest, the Blackwater Fire of 1937. That fire claimed the lives of 15 firemen and burned 1700 acres of national forest.
|A monument stands in honor of the 15 firefighters who perished in the Blackwater Fire
in the Shoshone National Forest 75 years ago. Events are being planned to commemorate
the anniversary of their sacrifice. Photo by Charish Badzinski.
Events are being planned for August 17-21st, culminating with a ceremony and wreath laying August 21st to honor the lives of the fallen.
Charish Badzinski is an explorer, foodie and award-winning travel and food writer. When she isn’t working to build her blog: Rollerbag Goddess Rolls the World, she applies her worldview to her small business, providing strategic communications, media relations and writing support to individuals and organizations.
Find Charish on Twitter: @charishb
Rollerbag Goddess Rolls the World by Charish Badzinski is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at rollerbaggoddess.blogspot.com.