The Sacramento Bee Reports on the Need for Replanting

Replanted private land provides a stark contrast with charred remains in Lassen National Forest.

Large fires across the West since 2000 have sparked enormous concern in Congress, state legislatures and forest communities, reports Tom Knudson, staff writer for The Sacramento Bee. They have led to huge new investments in firefighting and prevention. But far fewer dollars have been routed to the tricky business that follows a fire: getting the trees growing again. The article, Restoration lags in charred forests, was published on October 15, 2006.

According to the article, various government reports show that 40% of the Forest Service budget is spent on fire suppression. Only about 1% of the budget goes toward reforestation. Additionally, the reports show that, as wildfires increase, the reforestation backlog grows. In 2000, 722,000 acres were left unplanted; in 2004, the total increased to 900,000 acres. (Note: additional data shows the total reforestation backlog for 2005 was 1.1 million acres.)

Eroding canyons and dense shrub fields that stretch for miles are among the concerns of Doug Leisz, a former associate chief for the Forest Service, if reforestation doesn't happen more quickly. It's an extremely serious matter, states Leisz. Our forests are too precious to lose this way.

Knudson refers to the Lassen National Forest in California as one example of the dire need for replanting. After a massive wildfire swept through 27,000 acres of the forest in 2000, some areas designated for replanting have not yet been touched. (See photo) And natural reforestation can take centuries in areas where the ground is scorched and the seed-producing trees are gone.

According to the article, the Forest Service spent $200 million more than Congress allocated for fire suppression. The difference was made up by borrowing from reforestation funds. Consequently, even regions where projects have been approved for rehabilitation and restoration funding have seen that funding transferred to pay for fire suppression.

More: The urgent need for trees.

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