Sugar Pine trees set to be planted in burned area

Ashland Ore. — An unexpected event from a prescribed burn near Ashland last year is creating a new opportunity.

A few “legacy trees” that are centuries old went up in flames during a controlled burn last spring.

The event was quite devastating as the legacy trees are very resilient to wildfires.

But now a forest resiliency group in Ashland is seizing the opportunity to create new legacy trees.

“Using fire proactively in a good way is one of our key strategies to be able to control the size and severity of future wildfires,” Forest Division Chief Chris Chambers said.

Forest Division Chief Chris Chambers with Ashland Fire & Rescue is a big part of the Ashland Forest Resiliency Stewardship Project.

Created in 2010, the project aims to thin wildfire fuels in order to lower the fire danger around Ashland.

“We really have a significant issue with our forests and the impact of those conditions on communities and our natural resources,” Chambers said.

To prevent wildfires from getting out of control, the forest resiliency team spends the fall and spring doing prescribed burns.

However, one of those burns in spring of last year, grew more than expected when it caused a lot of heat due to the lack of natural fire cycle.

“As that heat moved up through the canopy, it basically dried out the needles of trees unexpectedly, and we ended up killing some trees that we didn’t think were gonna die. We had not had that experience happen to us before,” Chambers said.

The fire burned down a few of what are called “legacy trees”.

Legacy trees are at least 150 years old and they’re well-adapted to fire which means they aren’t a good resource to lose.

“It’s not what we wanted to happen, and we’re making corrections and learning from it, but we wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to put this rare species back into a place where we know it’ll thrive,” Chambers said.

Sugar pine trees are now set to be planted in the 50-acre area.

The pine trees are native to Southern Oregon and used to be highly valuable in the logging days.

So valuable, they are now quite rare… especially since many also died from an Asian fungus in the early 1900s.

But Chambers is confident the new trees will thrive.

‘They are trees taken from local seeds of trees that have been identified in the field by researchers as having resistance to the disease called blister rust,” Chambers said.

The goal of the planting is to create new legacy trees for future generations.

“We have some really big, big sugar pine that are still hanging on in the watershed, but what we don’t have are small, sugar pine seedlings that are growing up to be tomorrow’s big trees”

The planting of the sugar pine trees was supposed to start  tomorrow, but unexpected weather has delayed it to a later time in the coming weeks.

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