Dozens of Volunteers Replant Seeds of Life

08:25 PM PDT on Sunday, March 9, 2008

By MICHAEL PERRAULT The Press-Enterprise

CEDAR GLEN - Several yards from a charred pine, Bruce Cranfill and his 8-year-old son, Robert, delicately planted a sapling on a hillside Saturday morning in an effort to reforest acres left scarred by devastating wildfires last fall.

One seedling down -- 24,999 to go.

"We may do 400 or more trees today," said an exuberant Cheryl Nagy, project coordinator for the Mojave Desert Resource Conservation District, which administers the Mountain Communities Wildfire ReLeaf native tree-planting program. Story continues below Paul Alvarez/The Press-Enterprise Andrea Korgan and Sean Koon, both of Loma Linda, were among the more than 60 volunteers who spent Saturday morning planting pine trees in Running Springs. Among others at the Mountain Communities Wildfire ReLeaf program was celebrity Matthew Modine.

She was pleased that the Cranfills and more than 60 other volunteers showed up to hike through patches of snow and mud. Even actor Matthew Modine, known for his roles in movie such as "Birdy," "Full Metal Jacket" and "VisionQuest," took part in the day's events.

The program, which took root after the Old Fire in 2003, uses seeds previously collected in burn areas and a current crop of cones to propagate seedlings for planting across charred landscape in the San Bernardino Mountains.

Nagy said some 25,000 native tree seedlings grown at CalFire Magalia Reforestation Nursery arrived recently and will be planted in the weeks ahead. Volunteers are needed for March 22, March 29 and April 12, as well.

Volunteers met Saturday at Cedar Glen's post office before making their way to Pali Mountain. It's just one area where the colossal Slide and Grass Valley fires swept through near Lake Arrowhead, Green Valley and Running Springs. Story continues below Paul Alvarez/The Press-Enterprise Running Springs resident Shanda Foster, 36, plants a pine tree atop Pila Mountain in Running Springs on Saturday.

CDF Forester Jonathan Pangburn gave volunteers a quick planting lesson before turning them loose in six-person crews to plant hundreds of seedlings on a few acres.

"Please bear in mind that they're relatively fragile at this point," Pangburn told volunteers of all ages who showed up from throughout the Inland Empire. "Remember, the more air that's touching their roots, the less they'll survive."

Kelvin Haire -- a 37-year-old from Oxford, England, who has lived in Redlands for six years -- listened intently as Pangburn talked about placing small "shade cards" next to saplings to keep surface soils cooler and prevent the sun from frying plant roots. Until recently, Haire didn't know the Wildfire ReLeaf program existed.

"It seems almost rude not to come and help when people have set this up and made it so easy for us," Haire said. "I thought this was very worthwhile."

Should Haire and the other volunteers manage to plant 400 trees on 2 acres, about 50 to 80 percent would probably survive, said Jason Meyer, a CDF forestry assistant.

Meyer led the throng of volunteers to a planting site where firefighters had once brought in 15 engines to battle the fast-moving blaze.

"This is one of the areas where firefighters made a pretty good stand," Meyer said, noting nearby buildings that were still standing.

Modine, 48, a native of Loma Linda now living in upstate New York, said he was photographing the tree planting for American Forests, a nonprofit that benefits from his annual global environmental initiative called Bicycle for a Day.

"The photograph I'm trying to get today is something that emphasizes that we don't plant trees for ourselves, we plant them for our grandchildren," Modine said.

Reach Michael Perrault at 909-806-3053 or mperrault@PE.com

Read the original article here.