National Forest Foundation

Visiting an NFF Tree Planting Project on the Lolo National Forest



Category: Trees
by Wes Swaffar

As most of us know, the realities of the pandemic have presented difficult challenges for all aspects of our normal lives. The reforestation projects we support at the National Forest Foundation (NFF) are no exception.

The U.S. Forest Service has been conducting risk assessments and grappling with how to safely implement important projects across the country. While some areas were unable to implement projects due to COVID-19, other areas are able to move forward with planting seasons with risk mitigation and strong social distancing practices.

That’s why I felt especially grateful to join our Forest Service partners on the nearby Lolo National Forest this spring to witness one important reforestation project. After a 30 minute drive to the community of Seeley Lake, Montana, and several miles of dusty forest roads (each in our own vehicles) we arrived at the site.

Photo by Dave Gardner Creative

Photo by Dave Gardner Creative

The Forest Service hired contractors to plant in an area that burned in the 2017 Rice Ridge Fire. For two hot summer months in 2017, local communities endured an unprecedented level of wildfire smoke as the fire burned a grand total of 160,000 acres.

While not all areas in the burn area needed planting, this project area clearly needed new trees. Mature trees, understory shrubs and saplings all succumbed to the fire. I watched in awe as a crew of 12 professional tree planters spread out in front of our small group, planting native ponderosa pine and western larch seedlings every 13 feet.

Photo by Dave Gardner Creative

Photo by Dave Gardner Creative

The “clank” sound of a planting tool encountering a rock interrupted the chorus of spring songbirds, carried by western tanagers and chickadees. No sooner than I could check the time, professional planters arrived back at the site to refill planting bags with more seedlings and continue on.

In a time when our world has been upended, it was no small comfort to witness this important work occurring.

Photo by Dave Gardner Creative

Related Posts

Gliding Through Appalachian National Forests

These nocturnal flying squirrels soar among the trees of high elevation forests, though they don’t actually fly. Instead, they glide by unfurling their furred-skin folds into a square and using their tail as a rudder.

Read more

From Seed to Tree: How We Restore Forests

The National Forest Foundation receives generous donations from individuals, small businesses and corporations to support tree planting on our National Forests. We work closely with the U.S. Forest Service to complete these important projects. So what happens when a partner like Boxed Water gives us a call and says they’d like to support tree planting?

Read more

The Firs: the Best Christmas Trees

Ninety percent of American families pull out their wallets and buy their Christmas tree from a lot or a “cut your own” Christmas tree farm. But if you are craving a woodsier Christmas tradition, consider channeling your inner Paul Bunyan and pull out your saw instead. Getting your tree from a National Forest can be a fulfilling and adventurous family outing, but it does require a few extra considerations.

Read more

Share this post on social media


Support Tree Planting

Support our National Forests for generations to come and plant trees today.

Donate Now