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Redwood seedlings planted in fire-scorched Santa Cruz Mountains – CBS San Francisco

SANTA CRUZ COUNTY (KPIX) – A local nonprofit is teaming up with Cal Fire to rehabilitate large swaths of the burn scar at the CZU Fire complex in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

The Save the Redwoods League – in partnership with Peninsula Open Space Trust, Sempervirens Fund and the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County – is planting 23,000 redwood seedlings and 190 Douglas fir seedlings in the San Vicente Redwoods, an 8 200 acres along the 11800 Empire grade blocks.

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A small army of workers fanned out over about 4,000 acres of the northern half of the property and planted the one-year-old seedlings, tying together “isolates” or small clusters of redwoods to improve cohesion.

Anthony Castaños, land stewardship manager at the Save the Redwoods League, said the effort would help return the area to its natural state before it is used for logging, with the “ultimate goal of create a forest ready for fire”.

“Between the two redwoods [isolates], they’re all tan oaks, which kind of grew and kept these different groves of redwoods separated from each other. It is more difficult for new propagations of redwoods to enter. So this is our chance to try and get him back on the trajectory of what he was,” Castaños said.

The intense heat and flames from the CZU fire damaged or destroyed 97% of San Vicente’s trees, reaching the canopy and scorching foliage that would have absorbed much of the sunlight before reaching the forest floor. As a result, tan oaks and madrone shoots now grow faster, potentially smothering redwoods.

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This week’s planting gives redwoods a much-needed boost and edge. Due to the natural fire resistant properties of redwoods, returning the forest to its original state will prepare the area for the next disaster.

“The fire burns at a much lower intensity, burns in a much more natural way, like it did when Native Americans managed the landscape with fire. And then we don’t end up with these really catastrophic wildfires that are devastating the forest and burning some communities,” Castaños said.

A typical worker can plant 100-200 seedlings per day. The crews should be finished by the end of the week. Those who participated were happy to help with the reforestation plan.

“To be able to add to the forest so that others in the future can also benefit in the same way I did, it’s an amazing feeling,” said Stanley Shaw, conservation programs assistant at Save the Redwoods League.

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“It was amazing. Just being here, putting life into the ground after a fire is pretty awesome,” said Save the Redwoods League writer and editor Dana Poblete.