BASTROP – Nearing the one-year anniversary of the most destructive wildfire in Texas history, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Arbor Day Foundation and Texas A&M Forest Service today appealed for help by launching the Lost Pines Forest Recovery Campaign, a multi-year public-private partnership to raise money to plant more than 4 million trees on public and private land.
The September 2011 fire destroyed more homes than any other in state history, and it raged through 95 percent of 6,600-acre Bastrop State Park, as well surrounding private forest lands. The forest recovery campaign, expected to cost more than $4 million, aims to plant native loblolly pine seedlings on about 16,000 burned acres. That includes about 2 million trees in the state park, and more than 2 million on surrounding private land.
The Lost Pines ecosystem includes more than 75,000 acres of loblolly pines scattered across sections of five Texas counties, an ecological island separated from larger pine forests in East Texas. About 80 percent of the forest lies in Bastrop County, and 32,400 acres of it burned in the fires. Of that total burned acreage, about 20 percent is in the state park. Another 5 percent is on county land, mostly road right-of-way. The remaining 75 percent is controlled by some 3,600 landowners.
The Arbor Day Foundation will lead forest recovery fundraising, while the state parks and forest agencies will serve as on-the-ground partners in the five-year forest recovery effort. The foundation has already secured financial commitments from several corporate sponsors, including Mary Kay, Inc., FedEx, Chili's Grill and Bar, Nokia and Apache Corporation.
However, campaign partners emphasized more help is needed to restore the Lost Pines forest to its pre-disaster condition. Anyone can donate online at www.arborday.org/Texas, as well as find links to volunteer opportunities.
"The Lost Pines Forest Recovery Campaign is about bringing life back to Central Texas," said Dan Lambe, Arbor Day Foundation vice president of programs. "These trees are part of the long and important history of the people and land of this state. For just $1 per tree, or about $500 per acre, supporters can make a big difference at any level."
Lambe said the Foundation has experience working with partners on several post-disaster replanting efforts, delivering more than 200,000 trees to families affected by Hurricane Katrina and last year's tornadoes in northern Alabama and Joplin, Missouri.
"In today's climate, no one entity has the resources to do it all alone, but we're fortunate that people care deeply about natural treasures like the Lost Pines and Bastrop State Park," said Carter Smith, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department executive director. "There are many ways to help the Bastrop area rise from the proverbial ashes, but bringing back the trees is an essential step to restore the region's ecological lifeblood. If we each donate a little, together we can do a great deal."
"It means a great deal to my agency to have been part of the wildfire response in Bastrop," said Tom Boggus, Texas A&M Forest Service director. "It means even more to be part of the recovery. TFS is providing 100 percent of the genetically-unique seed to be able to restore the Lost Pines. And although the agency has the seed source, it is the support of the Arbor Day Foundation that helps make this all possible."
The forest recovery campaign will support the work of the broader Lost Pines Recovery Team, a consortium of local, state and federal agencies led by Bastrop County.
About the Arbor Day Foundation: The Arbor Day Foundation is a nonprofit conservation and education organization of one million members, with the mission to inspire people to plant, nurture and celebrate trees. More information on the Foundation and its programs can be found at arboday.org, or by visiting us on Facebook, Twitter or our blog.
About Texas Parks and Wildlife: The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department mission balances outdoor recreation and sustainable use of resources with conservation and management of natural and cultural resources. The department operates 95 Texas state parks and historic sites, 51 wildlife management areas, three saltwater fish hatcheries and five freshwater hatcheries. TPWD game wardens and wildlife and fisheries biologists work in every Texas county, enforcing laws and encouraging management to conserve fish and wildlife. For more information, see the TPWD website (http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us).
About Texas A&M Forest Service: Texas A&M Forest Service, a proud member of The Texas A&M University System, focuses on conserving and protecting the state's trees, forests and related natural resources. Learn more at http://texasforestservice.tamu.edu.