Reforestation program helps recover Lost Pines

The Elgin Courier: November 28, 2018

After two consecutive devastating wildfires in Bastrop County destroyed a large portion of the iconic Lost Pines forest, a local forestry organization is continuing its next phase in replanting what was lost.

Through TreeFolks, landowners who lost trees in the 2011 and 2015 fires can sign up now to receive free loblolly pine seedlings at the beginning of next year.

TreeFolks is a nonprofit urban forestry organization that promotes tree planting and education in central Texas. Shortly after the first fire, the Bastrop County Complex Fire in 2011, TreeFolks and many other organizations launched the Bastrop County Community Reforestation Program (BCCRP) in December 2012 in order to start reforesting the privately-owned land affected by the fire. In the nearly six years since the BCCRP began, 2.5 million trees have been replanted for 500 families, according to TreeFolks executive director Thais Perkins.

“Some of those early trees we planted in 2012 are taller than I am now, and they’re starting to produce cones with seeds,” Perkins said. “It was a tremendously successful program, and we feel confident the Lost Pines has a very bright future.”

In October, Bastrop County renewed their partnership with TreeFolks to continue their efforts in replanting the Lost Pines and providing seedlings and educational resources to landowners affected by wildfire. Currently, applications are open for landowners who want to receive loblolly pine seedlings. Anyone who lives in the burned area of either the 2011 or the 2015 fires are eligible to receive trees, and they can find the application at Perkins said those interested in receiving trees should apply within the next few weeks.

In January, the seedlings will be ready to be delivered. There will also be a tree giveaway in January in which trees not given to applicants will be given away. When the seedlings are delivered to applicants, they will also receive a consultation and information on how to best take care of the young trees.

“We’re at the stage now of filling the gaps, where people’s pines may have not done so well in the first few years or the people who we just haven’t gotten to yet,” Perkins said. “We intend to stay in Bastrop as long as we are able to do so.”

The fire in 2011 burned so hot that it burned up all of the organic material in the soil. Although pines can grow in poor soil, Perkins said, it will take longer to regrow the forest than if the fire had not burned so hot, or the loblolly pines might not grow back at all without being replanted. The goal of the BCCRP was to help the trees get established earlier than they would otherwise.

Perkins said in addition to TreeFolks’ efforts in replanting trees and providing education and consultations, an important part of the program is restoring something important to the people of the Lost Pines area.

“(People) grew up in that area and they experienced their entire lives under the canopy of these pines,” Perkins said. “For Bastrop, their community identity has a lot to do with the forest, and when the forest was removed, it was another layer of trauma to people who had already lost quite a lot. We have had landowners tell us when they see the trees come back is the first time they can really envision the future, and it’s an important part of the healing process.”


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