The beauty and majesty of Tahoe’s impressive Sugar Pines once towered above the other trees on every ridge and canyon in the Sierra Nevada. In the 1800s nearly all of the trees in the Tahoe Basin were logged and the evidence of this can still be seen today in Tahoe’s forests. The forests are now threatened by a non-native, invasive fungus called blister rust.
The Sugar Pine Foundation’s mission is to save Tahoe’s Sugar Pines and other white pines from blister rust by educating and involving the local community in hands-on forest stewardship. In 2013 the Parasol Tahoe Community Foundation provided a Community Fund Grant to the Sugar Pine Foundation. This grant has enabled the organization to update and develop its strategic plan.
“One major area in which the grant has helped our work has been in developing and coordinating our new Monitoring Program,” said Michelle McLean, Project Director for the Sugar Pine Foundation.
The process of restoring Tahoe’s Sugar Pines includes educating and involving hundreds of community members of all ages in forest stewardship. Then the monitoring process is to assess seedling survival and growth as well as to assess blister rust infection rates. Monitoring plots are marked with flags to identify the sugar pine seedlings for the monitors.
“Without the help of our dedicated volunteers we would not have been able to put in the ground the huge number of rust resistant seedlings that we have, over 70,000 and counting,” Michelle McLean said.
Classes from Sierra Nevada College planted seedlings at Sand Harbor in the spring of 2013. Then Lake Tahoe School students started monitoring in the fall of 2013 and have now revisited the Sand Harbor seedlings and either replanted more seedlings or watered those which had survived from the spring McLean said.
To learn more about the Sugar Pine Foundation and how to save our Sugar Pines, visit www.sugarpinefoundation.org.