USA – SACRAMENTO, Calif. — After years of wildfire and drought, California’s forests need help.
Cal Fire is asking landowners — and the public — to keep an eye out for pinecones. Green ones. Growing in the tops of conifer trees.
“Right now, they’re still green,” said Jessica Huang, manager of the State Seed Bank. “Some species might be forming. It varies by area and elevation.”
Huang works at Cal Fire L.A. Moran Reforestation Center in Davis.
“We’re looking for 15 to 20 trees, healthy and the top-third of the tree having a lot of green cones,” Huang said. “Enough to fill maybe two buckets, two Home Depot buckets.”
Huang said Cal Fire then works with skilled climbers who go up into the trees and harvest the pinecones.
“We collect the cones when they’re still green from the tree and they’ll be put in sacks and they’ll be transported here to the L.A. Moran Reforestation Center, where they’ll be laid out on cone racks,” she said.
The pinecones dry out and are harvested for seeds.
“When they’re open and ready, we’ll put them through this huge tumbler, which literally tumbles the cone and the seeds come out, along with the scale pieces,” Huang said.
The seeds can then be stored in the State Seed Bank, a large freezer, until needed.
Seeds that are requested are brought over to the nursery.
“When I look up here, I don’t see these as seedlings, I see them as future forests,” said Kuldeep Singh, the nursery manager and horticulturalist.
Singh said they work to mimic nature for the seeds, growing them through winter-like conditions until spring when they germinate in the greenhouse.
He said the Cal Fire nursery is there to meet the needs of small, private landowners and private industry working to restore forestland affected by fire or drought.
“The demand has just skyrocketed,” Singh said, about the requests the nursery gets for seedlings.
He said about 27% of California forestland is owned by small landowners.
Earlier this year, Gov. Gavin Newsom proposed a $1 billion Wildlife Resilience Package as part of the state’s budget.
That money, if approved, could be used to help with forest health, dangerous fuel reduction and community efforts.