Gem State Roundup

Over 600,000 seedlings planted in Idaho’s Packer John State Forest

By: - August 15, 2022 4:05 am

A worker helps plant seedlings in Idaho’s Packer John State Forest. (Courtesy of the Idaho Department of Lands)

After receiving nearly $300,000 from a grant through the Arbor Day Foundation, the Idaho Department of Lands was able to plant 610,300 new trees over 2,000 acres in the Packer John State Forest in Valley County. 

Years of insect infestations and drought had already damaged the forest, but the ruined lumber was sold for salvage after an invasion of Douglas-fir tussock moths in 2019, according to a Department of Lands press release. 

The grant was given to the Department of Lands due to the uniqueness of the project, where a forest susceptible to insects has been replaced with species that will be able to restore the site to a healthy forest. The press release stated the destruction of the forest had a negative impact on Idaho public schools because the schools are the owners and beneficiaries of the land and funding from the timber.

The trees of the area, which consisted of douglas fir, subalpine fir and grand fir, have been replaced with tree species like ponderosa pine and western larch that aren’t as susceptible to tussock moth damage. Nearly all of the trees in the salvaged areas were sold for lumber, leaving lots of room to grow for the new seedlings. Crews from Alpha Services were able to plant an average of 63,000 trees a day with 32 planters and three foremen.

Now that the seedlings are planted, they will be monitored for survival throughout the summer, with the focus being on root development and the fall bud set. A survey will be conducted next spring to see how the seedlings did in their first year. The Department of Lands will be able to plant new seedlings in any bare patches at that time. 

“What we are doing is very unique because the vulnerable trees are gone and will be replaced,” Department of Lands Forest Management Program Manager Tyler Nelson said in a press release. “It will take time for these trees to grow, but as they do, they will hold strong against the insects and disease which are natural to these areas, but don’t feed off of the new trees.”

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Anteia Elswick
Anteia Elswick

Anteia McCollum is an intern with the Idaho Capital Sun. She will graduate from a the University of Idaho with a journalism degree in December. She has served as a columnist, reporter, photographer, graphic designer and editor during her time at The Argonaut, the UI student newspaper. She also freelances with Project FARE, a nonprofit focused on telling Idaho's food stories. In 2017, she joined the Idaho Army National Guard as a combat engineer and will complete her contract in December 2023. She's an avid outdoor enthusiast with an interest in environmental reporting as a lifelong career. Her hobbies collide with her line of work, including reading, photography, design and some outside activities like backpacking and wandering around the local farmers market.