PLACERVILLE, Calif. – Over 100 private organizations and individuals, including numerous garden clubs and civic groups, have contributed approximately $30,000 to the King Fire reforestation effort. Firefighters, from the Georgetown Ranger District, recently installed a sign at the overlook east of Stumpy Meadows Reservoir, on Wentworth Springs Road, to recognize these donors. The location provides a dramatic view of an area that burned in the 2014 King Fire.
“The Penny Pines Program is part of a long tradition of involving the public in forest conservation,” said Eldorado National Forest Supervisor Laurence Crabtree. “All contributions large and small make a difference when there is a widespread loss of trees.”
The Penny Pines Program was initiated in California in 1941, under the sponsorship of the San Francisco Sportswomen’s Association, who identified the need to restore forests after fires and drought. Today, the program is a statewide project with more than a million dollars donated in support of reforestation projects. Through these donations, millions of seedlings have been planted on national forest lands in California. The Eldorado National Forest receives approximately $6,000 per year in Penny Pines donations.
The minimum donation to the Penny Pines program is $68.00, which was the cost per acre of seedlings in 1941. Seedlings could be grown for about 10 cents each, and approximately 680 seedlings were planted per acre. Site preparation and planting costs were met through regular Forest Service appropriations. Today, the cost of growing seedlings for an acre is approximately $135, with an average of 200 seedlings planted per acre. Seedling survival is much better today than it was in the 1940’s, and fewer seedlings are needed to establish a young forest.
The King Fire Restoration Project includes 11,000 acres of reforestation, with about 4,500 acres already planted. Approximately half of the planted seedlings are ponderosa pine, with the other half being a mixture of sugar pine, Jeffrey pine, Douglas-fir, white fir, and incense cedar. Black oak and madrone do not need to be planted since they typically resprout from the base after fire kills the top.
Penny Pines donations have also contributed to reforestation after many other fires in the Eldorado National Forest, including the 1973 Pilliken Fire. The Pilliken Penny Pines plantations are currently being commercially thinned in the Pilliken Forest Health Project. Projects like this one provide many benefits, including employment opportunities, wood products, and storage of carbon in the trees that continue to grow, as well as in lumber and other useful products.
Since 1958, all of the trees planted in reforestation projects on the Eldorado National Forest have been grown at the Placerville Nursery, which is the only U.S. Forest Service tree nursery in California.
Penny Pines donations have helped maintain national forests throughout California. Participating in the program has also helped many people understand the importance of conserving natural resources and of using wise management to sustain the public forestlands that belong to them.