USA

Wildfire restoration in the Angeles National Forest

The Angeles National Forest, a calm and popular refuge just 50 kilometers from the buzz of the Los Angeles streets, is a source of pride and enjoyment for citizens of the City of Angels, many of whom spend their weekends at the campgrounds or hiking the iconic Pacific Coast Trail that crosses through the forest. 

The forest houses over 800 miles of trails which lead hikers, mountain bikers, equestrians, and off-highway vehicle riders across rugged backcountry, along high, scenic ridges, and through shady, tree-lined canyons, also home to wildlife including bobcats, mountain lions, and bears.

In 2009, a massive wildfire ripped through the Angeles National Forest destroying over 160,000 acres of beautiful pines, home to 16 endangered species. With an area almost two hundred times the size of Central Park ravaged, plus a subsequent Bark Beetle infestation, restoration has been a significant challenge. Reforestation efforts initiated in the years that followed have had a low impact, with only 15-20% of the replanted trees and shrubs surviving.

 

In these types of remote locations, finding ways to plant without repeatedly maneuvering a water truck to the site helps to make reforestation efforts manageable and affordable. While trees in the northern campground have struggled with dry winds and interference from curious campers, survival rates in the lower campgrounds are exceeding expectations, with results between 75-90%. The high survival rate means volunteers can focus on planting new seedlings instead of maintaining struggling trees or replacing those that have died. It also helps keep these hard- working volunteers motivated, which is essential when recruiting people to plant trees at 7am on a Saturday! As our trees grow, so does our understanding of what works best in these environments and how, with our partners, we can rebuild the Angeles Forest for all to enjoy.