Stephani Smith: Reforesting California, One Seedling at a Time

Written by Stephani Smith, Sierra Nevada AmeriCorps Partnership (SNAP) member, May 2024

Stephani Smith is the Seed Need and Inventory Specialist for the USDA Forest Service Placerville Nursery.

Spring is here, and at the USFS Placerville Nursery, that means sowing season! We started sowing our seed lots for the container program in March 2024 and will conclude in June 2024. By the end of it, the container program will grow 2.1 million seedlings until December 2024, when they’re ready to be lifted and sent to their respective forests.

During this time, I will be assisting the container horticulturist in container maintenance (i.e. container processing and organizing, irrigation repairs, culling, weed-eating, shade cloth deployments) and irrigation/fertigation. This season is extremely critical for the success of the seedlings because they are vulnerable to birds (they eat the seeds, especially sugar pine), root rot, fertilizer burn, and under/over-watering. I will be monitoring the growth and health of the seedlings through data logging and nursery staff communications.

In addition to assisting with the container program, I will be working with American Forests (Davis CalFire Nursery and El Dorado National Forest) on cone surveying and collecting starting in June 2024. There is a seed need for lower elevation confiers. We will be driving to approved and accessible lands where there have been successes of cone collecting in the past or if there are spotted stands (groups of trees with cones). The purpose of the cone surveying period is to document the locations of priority seeds and to inform future cone-collecting contracts.

The USFS Placerville Nursery is the only federal nursery in California. We grow conifers for all of California’s National Forests and a few other agencies including El Dorado Resource Conservation District (RCD) and Pacific Southwest Research Station (PSW).

Funding for SNAP is supported by Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation’s Nature Fund and Martis Fund – a collaborative project of Martis Camp landowners, DMB/Highlands Group (the developers of Martis Camp), Mountain Area Preservation Foundation (MAP), and Sierra Watch. Sierra Nevada Alliance is a proud grantee of AmeriCorps and California Volunteers, Office of the Governor.

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