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Foundation plans to plant 150,000 trees in Bankhead

From Staff, AP Reports

Bankhead National Forest is in the first group of forests to benefit from a plan to plant 50 million trees in the nation’s public lands.

The National Arbor Day Foundation is planting 150,000 trees in Bankhead this winter to help the U.S. Forest Service, which has spent so much money fighting fires and forest pests that it has not had money to budget for forest repair.

“Billions of dollars have been spent in the last few years in fighting wildfires,” said Kevin Sander, director of corporate partnerships for the Arbor Day Foundation. “It’s been one of the worst decades, if not the worst decade, for wildfires.”

The trees planted in the Bankhead forest will replace pine forests damaged by pine beetles, according to an announcement from National Arbor Day Foundation.

The foundation is working with Enterprise Rent-A-Car to plant 1 million trees a year on public lands for the next 50 years.

Enterprise is paying about a dollar per tree, in observance of the company’s 50th anniversary. The foundation will provide professional tree planters, and the Forest Service will maintain the trees.

Southern pine beetles have been a bigger problem than fires in Southern national forests. The Bankhead has lost hundreds of thousands of trees to the beetles.

Bankhead National Forest in Lawrence, Winston and Franklin counties is in an area where much of the longleaf pine, considered the nation’s most endangered forest type, remains, Bankhead Ranger Glen Gaines told The Birmingham News.

As a result, the area is in a good position to fill in damaged areas with native species.

“We’re taking this opportunity to do some restoration,” he said.

In the new project, native longleaf and shortleaf pines will be planted south of Double Springs, said Stephanie Love, the silviculturist whose job is to care for Bankhead’s trees.

Love said she expects as many as 95 percent of the trees to grow to maturity, and her staff will monitor the trees and replace them if necessary.

“We’re going to continue to seek funding for Bankhead,” Sander said. “They’re in need of hundreds of thousands of trees.”

Copyright 2005 THE DECATUR DAILY. All rights reserved.
AP contributed to this report.

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