Charles Wentz (left), forester for the San Jacinto Ranger District, instructs the Woodies (from left) John Ladley, Norm Walker, Allen Graham (behind Walker), Eliott Taylor and Kim Fryer (behind Taylor) on planting techniques. They are planting Jeffrey pines in areas that were burned and damaged from the Cranston Fire. Photo by Edwina Scott, executive director,
Mountain Communities Fire Safe Council

The Cranston Fire burned more than 13,000 acres of the San Jacinto Ranger District in July and August. It will take years for nature to recover completely from this damage.

But the U.S. Forest Service is assisting nature. Charles Wentz, the forester on the San Jacinto Ranger District, already has begun the reforestation effort with the help of volunteers.

The Mountain Communities Fire Safe Council’s Woodies group, better know for cutting wood for the needy, has spent several days planting saplings in the burned area near Apple Valley, said MCFSC President Norm Walker.

Discussion of the joint effort began in September, Wentz said. “And I put it to the Woodies at a work session,” Walker added.

The saplings are about one-year-old Jeffrey pines. All have been germinated from seeds from the San Bernardino National Forest and grown at the Forest Service’s Placerville Nursery in the Eldorado National Forest.

The area where the planting is being done is near the May Valley Road. It has been burned

Robertus Darren Radyan (left) and Hannah Wakelin were two of more than a dozen Idyllwild Arts Academy National Honor Society students who helped with replanting of the local forest.
Photo by Kim Henderson

over during both the 2013 Mountain Fire and this summer’s Cranston Fire.

Unfortunately, the Cranston Fire burned most the young growth planted after the Mountain Fire, according to Wentz. These were about three years in the ground and about 18 to 24 inches tall.

“It takes a significant amount of time for these trees to grow,” he said. “In Southern California, we expect a low survival rate.”

Besides the Woodies, members of the Idyllwild Arts Academy’s National Honor Society helped with planting this past weekend.

Idyllwild Arts, through one of Wentz’s co-workers, approached the Forest Service for a volunteer activity.

“I told them that I manage the public land for the public. You’re the public and this is your forest,” Wentz related how he recruited 10 to 15 student volunteers.

The 10- to 15-acre area is relatively flat, which makes the planting easier, Walker said. During the first day, about 150 trees were planted. This past session, with experience and the IA students, between 800 and 1,000 saplings were planted, Wentz estimated.

“There is plenty of space left. I think the next effort will see 300 to 600 more trees planted,” he said.

With winter’s arrival, the planting will stop soon. In the spring, Wentz will survey the area and evaluate its success and determine the next step in the plan. His goal is a 30-percent survival rate over time.

While equipment for planting crews is limited, potential volunteers may contact Wentz at [email protected].