Dirt, dust, burned-out trees and new shrub growth is like a blanket across May Valley a year-and-a-half after the Cranston Fire ripped through the area, quickly chewing up anything in its path. The Santa Ana winds didn’t give way Saturday morning as about 25 volunteers worked tirelessly planting saplings as part of a reforestation project led by 14-year-old Ryan Lawrence.
Lawrence attends Idyllwild Arts Academy as a classical piano major and is also an Eagle Scout candidate, which is the highest rank attainable in the Boy Scouts of America. Lawrence approached the U.S. Forest Service about wanting to do something to benefit the forest, which they happily supported him in doing.
“We had seedlings left over from the Lake Fire, so we are going to take 657 Jeffrey Pine seedlings and replant it in a unit that was burned in the Mountain Fire and reburned in the Cranston Fire,” said San Bernardino National Forest (SBNF) Forester Charles Wentz.
For the next few years — twice a month — watering will be conducted by Lawrence, SBNF and other volunteers to give the saplings a chance to survive until the mountain receives decent rainfall.
Being an Eagle Scout himself, Wentz told the newspaper: “This is his project and I want to make sure he gets the leadership side of it. As the government official when I sign off, I want to make sure I’m confident that this is an Eagle Scout. That’s cool for me anytime I get to do stuff like this where the community gets involved. I work for public lands and I absolutely love the fact about my job that I get to work for John Q. Public. This is your land and I want the public to be able to appreciate the land and feel ownership as much as I do.”
In between planting and managing the other volunteers, Lawrence took time for a quick interview with the Town Crier. “This is my Eagle Scout project, which is reforestation,” said Lawrence. “I knew that we had the Cranston Fire out here last year, and it burned right through here just like the Mountain Fire did. If it rained again, there’s not enough roots to hold up the hill, so it could cause a mudslide, which could stop the creek below from running. This is the third weekend we’ve worked on this. This is the first weekend of planting, but we had two weekends of scouting [location].”
On the first day of planting, volunteers were actively planting for three to four hours before calling it a day.
“We got 160 trees planted, which is impressive,” Lawrence said.
“For other planting projects that we’ll be doing in the future, we are always eager to have the public who want to come out and help,” Wentz said.
If you have an interested in volunteering, you can contact Wentz at the San Jacinto Ranger Station.