MISSOULA - The Lolo National Forest partnered with the National Forest Foundation to plant over 200,000 seedlings to make steps toward recovery in areas impacted by severe wildfire.

Three years have passed since the fires of 2017 and the Lolo National Forest is still working to recover areas that were significantly impacted. The National Forest Foundation is a national nonprofit of the U.S. Forest Service that has helped to plant over 240,000 Ponderosa Pine and Western Larch seedlings across Missoula, Seeley Lake, Superior and the Plaints-Thompson Falls Ranger Districts that stretches across Missoula, Mineral and Sanders counties.

 The seedlings will help to stabilize nearby watersheds, increase cover vegetation, and improve habitat for wildlife in the future. The areas that were impacted by these fires are fire-dependent ecosystems that have evolved to respond positively to fire and rely on fire to reproduce and grow. However, some areas burned so hot and severely that regeneration is only possible with more planting efforts.

“Ongoing recovery efforts are possible because of the strong partnership we have with the National Forest Foundation,” stated Carolyn Upton, Lolo National Forest Supervisor. “With the Foundation’s help, we are encouraging the process of regeneration in severely impacted areas.”

The NFF with support from small businesses and individuals contributed over $90,300 to purchase the seedlings for planting in the spring. This project is one of the NFF's 50 million for our forests campaign, which addresses the most pressing reforestation needs on National Forests across the country.

“We are pleased to support projects locally here on the Lolo National Forest that help contribute to resilient forests – these projects are outstanding examples of the reforestation needs we are trying to address at a larger scale,” said Wes Swaffar, NFF’s Director of Reforestation and Partnerships. “We are grateful for both our generous supporters and our strong partnership with the U.S. Forest Service.” 

Crews planted 130,000 native Ponderosa Pine and Western Larch seedlings across the Lolo Peak Fire on the Missoula Ranger District and the Copper King Fire on the Plains-Thompson Fall Ranger District. Together these projects will help to restore a total of about 570 acres.

Planting is accomplished through contract crews consisting of up to 12 skilled planters working approximately eight-hour days. The seedlings were grown at the Coeur d’Alene Forest Service Nursery, using seeds harvested from the Lolo National Forest at similar elevations to where the planting took place. Fortunately, rain fell during or shortly after planting in these areas which will help the seedlings survive and thrive through the summer. Forest Service personnel will monitor the progress of the seedlings for the next several years. If all goes well, most of the seedlings will survive to continue to stabilize the watershed and surrounding landscape.

News For You