Plant willow cuttings to reforestate


Photo credit: The Gazette

In this file photo, Boy Scout member Jared Shumway holds a ponderosa pine tree sapling in place as he and seven other troop members joined about a hundred volunteers Saturday, April 20, 2013 at the Flying W Ranch to reforest the property that burned in the Waldo Canyon Fire. Michael Ciaglo, The Gazette

Reforestation part of the healing process

By: Matt Steiner

On May 31, a group of volunteers from the Mile High Youth Corps, Fort Carson and the Rocky Mountain Field Institute will load more than 1,000 small willow trees into backpacks and hike into burned-out forest land off Rampart Range Road in the Camp Creek watershed.

The RMFI expedition into the Waldo Canyon burn area west of Colorado Springs marks the culmination of a project that began in January with the goal of helping to reforest the 18,000 acres charred by the June 2012 wildfire.

Jennifer Peterson, RMFI’s executive director, said her organization and others have been working to grow trees and other native fauna in the Waldo Canyon scar for the past few years. Workers have placed thousands of log erosion barriers along steep slopes in the mountains outside Colorado Springs, spreading seeds and planting tiny willow stakes in the ash-laden ground.

“But success hasn’t been as high as we had hoped,” Peterson said.

So, RMFI joined forces with the U.S. Forest Service to figure out a way to encourage the willows, which Peterson says can “propagate very quickly” to take root in the unstable ground.

Researchers suggested cutting high-altitude willows and allowing them to root in a nursery setting before planting them along rugged slopes exposed to the elements. So, that’s what RMFI and the Forest Service did.

Peterson said a group drove to the Crowe Gulch Picnic Area 3 miles up the Pikes Peak Highway on Jan. 12, harvesting about 250 willow cuttings. The willows were cut into smaller segments and taken to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Charles E. Bessey Nursery in Nebraska. The tiny trees rooted and eventually were transplanted to individual pots, Peterson said.

Now, the 10 volunteers from the Youth Corps, 25 soldiers from Fort Carson and other workers will make multiple trips into the Waldo Canyon burn scar, carrying a few willow plants at a time. The Youth Corps workers will stay behind for about 10 days, Peterson said, planting the more than 1,000 willows in a concentrated area.

Read the full article: The Gazette


Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.