USFS plans big cedar planting project

KETCHIKAN — The U.S. Forest Service is planning a big cedar planting project for Alaska’s Prince of Wales Island.

The 700-acre project is scheduled to take place over the summer, according to the Ketchikan Daily News.

Most of the areas are in the shaded north slopes of mountains, said timber stand improvement forester Damien Zona.

“These are areas we’ve projected where yellow cedar will be doing well in the future,” he said.

At 100 yellow cedars per acre, the Forest Service will be planting about 70,000 trees.

The effort is part of the agency’s response to the decline of yellow cedar in Southeast Alaska.

Researchers with the Forest Service believe climate change is the decline’s predominant cause.

“The thinking is that these early spring thaws are taking down the snow load,” Zona said, “and you get these later freezes and it’s damaging the fine roots. They have some serious problems with root die back.”

Yellow cedar grows in wet, cool environments. Heavy snowfall normally insulates shallow roots from freezing temperatures, the Forest Service said. The roots are damaged by repeated freezing and eventually the tree dies.

Zona said the 1- to 2-year old seedlings will be planted by contracted workers.

The trees are frozen before the journey from the Lower 48 and kept frozen during the transport. Zona said the freezing simulates the hardening process trees experience in winter.

Once the yellow cedars come out of the hardening process, they normally experience extensive foliage and root growth, and they need to be planted quickly.

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