Hundreds of acres in the Black Hills National Forest will soon get new seedlings. The goal is to erase some of the scars from a wildfire two decades ago.
The Forest Service plans to plant more than 153,000 ponderosa pine seedlings in a large tract of Jewel Cave National Park. The Jasper fire burned about 83,500 acres 20 years ago.
Crews plan to plant at least 10,000 seedlings each day. They will also spread grass seed across the area by helicopter.
Hot dry conditions and plenty of fuel on the forest floor helped the Jasper fire burn hot and spread rapidly.
Jason Virtue is the fire staff officer for the Black Hills National Forest. He says the intensity of the fire makes re-seeding the area extremely difficult.
“In essence it neutralizes the soil, and it may take years for tree to repopulate, to grow back. And then, we have to come in and try to help that along.”
Virtue also says after a fire, the vegetation AND the wildlife need to recover.
“The wildlife, you know, in essence the wildlife has to readjust as well. And there’s cover, there’s areas where the wildlife can hide, and a lot of that, vanished over just a couple days period.”
Based on the life cycle of the forest, recovery efforts from the Jasper fire could take hundreds of years.