TAHOE/TRUCKEE, Calif. — As spring showers and snow melt moisten the earth, the Sugar Pine Foundation (SPF) is preparing to plant thousands of fungus-resistant sugar pines and native tree seedlings throughout the Tahoe region.
The SPF South Lake Tahoe-based nonprofit working to save Tahoe’s sugar pines and other white pines from the threat of a non-native, incurable fungus called white pine blister rust. The SPF finds sugar pines resistant to the fungus, collects their cones, and organizes educational planting events where local school children and community volunteers can help propagate the fungus-resistant progeny.
The SPF also hosts and attends outreach events to raise awareness of their work to “Save the Sugar Pines!” The SPF will be in full springtime spirit as it conducts plantings and celebrates Earth Day at a series of events.
The SPF’s spring planting blitz began with a Northstar Fire District project near the Indian Hills Condominiums on April 2. The SPF received a grant from the Tahoe Mountain Resorts Foundation and worked with Northstar Fire District Forester Joe Barron to design a restoration planting in a recently thinned 36-acre area. Crews funded by the Northstar Fire District planted more than 2,000 fungus-resistant sugar pine seedlings among the predominantly Jeffrey pine and white fir forest.
Mistletoe infections are heavy among the Jeffrey pine population but does not affect other tree species. The sugar pines will contribute to forest diversity, health and resilience, provide food and habitat for native wildlife, and improve resistance to wildfire as they develop.
On Wednesday, April 17, 10 a.m. to noon, the SPF is conducting a planting with employees of the Reno Patagonia Outlet Store in the open space just behind the building. Patagonia has been a longtime supporter and sponsor of the SPF’s work. In the spring of 2011, Patagonia Employees planted over 200 Jeffrey pines on the barren, but once forested, hillsides behind the outlet store. This project will see another 300 native Jeffrey pines planted in the same area. Volunteers are welcome to attend the planting, which is open to the public.
Catch the SPF Saturday, April 20, at the Tahoe Earth Day celebration, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. SPF staff will be on hand to sell their seedlings – $10 each – and talk about the organization’s good work. SPF’s Executive Director Maria Mircheva said, “Now’s the best time to come get your seedlings! The soil is moist and planting conditions are ideal. Plus, if you get a membership with our organization, we’ll give you a free seedling to plant in your yard.”
A Community Planting will take place in Tahoe Donner Sunday, April 21, starting at 9 a.m. Volunteers are needed and welcome to join this neighborhood planting party. At least 240 sugar pine seedlings will be planted off Oberwald Way. Volunteers should bring snacks, water, sunscreen and a shovel and gather at the fire hydrant at the midway curve in the road at 9 a.m.
On Saturday, May 4, 10 a.m.-noon, community volunteers will plant to commemorate Robert “Bobby” J Koechlin Jr. Koechlin, 44, died in a bicycle accident in Truckee during Thanksgiving weekend 2012. Thanks to the vision and charitable donations of his family and friends, a sugar pine grove will be established inside the Donner Ridge Fire scar. Koechlin was an avid skier, biker and lover of the mountains. Planting a memorial sugar pine grove near his second home will be a fitting tribute.
“Though we were deeply saddened by Bobby’s untimely death, we are glad to be able to contribute to his legacy by planting sugar pines near his Tahoe Donner home,” said SPF Development Coordinator Tressa Gibbard. “Memorial groves are a beautiful way to remember lost loved ones and we are honored to work with anyone who may like to plan such a planting.” The SPF will provide seedlings, tools, and instruction. Community members are invited to join and children are welcome. Volunteers are encouraged to wear boots and sunscreen, to bring their own gloves, water, and a pointed shovel. The planting will begin at 10500 Teton Way at 10 a.m.
Students will be diggin’ the dirt
The SPF’s last planting of the season will take place on Friday, May 17, with Alder Creek Middle School seventh-grade students.
The SPF is working with the Sierra Watershed Education Partnership (SWEP) and the Tahoe Institute of Natural Science (TINS) to conduct an interdisciplinary field day for the students on Tahoe National Forest land in Russell Valley. Students will rotate through three learning stations hosted by SPF, SWEP and TINS, respectively: “Trees are Terrific,” “Water is Wonderful,” and “Animals are Amazing.” Students will learn about forest health and native versus invasive plants, watershed health, and local wildlife.
Best of all, the children will get to enjoy digging in the dirt to plant hundreds of little sugar pines.
Spring is the season of new life and new growth. The natural moisture in the soil in springtime make conditions ideal for giving the SPF’s young seedlings a good start. The SPF invites the community to help celebrate the season by attending one of its plantings, or by purchasing a seedling to plant in their own backyard.
For more information about the organization, event or to order seeds or seedlings, visit www.sugarpinefoundation.org.