Bristlecone Pines Focus of Slum Pass Tree Planting June 9

Lake City’s third annual early June public tree planting day sponsored by U.S. Forest Service’s Gunnison Field Office was a resounding success.
According to Supervisory Forester/ Timber Management Assistant Drew Stroberg, over 15 volunteer tree planters arrived at the now decommissioned F.S. Slumgullion Campground near the summit of Slumgullion Pass bright and early last Saturday morning, June 9.
In addition to Stroberg, other F.S. personnel on hand working with the volunteers on Saturday were Tara Steadman and Kyle Taylor. According to Stroberg, Saturday’s larger-than-usual attendance was due in part to attendees from the Lake City area, as well as environmentally-conscious tree volunteers who arrived from Gunnison and Lake City.
First-time tree volunteer Abby Brown, a school teacher from Pawnee, Texas, was enthusiastic as she was rigged out Johnny Appleseed-like with a wood-
handled hoedad for excavation. Brown and other

volunteers grasped stacks of small black plastic mesh screens to be anchored into the ground on wire supports and, most important, had small tote bags slung over their shoulders containing 5” to 7” tall tree seedlings which were propagated in Nebraska (WORLD, June 1) especially for the occasion.
“I read about the tree planting program in SILVER WORLD and wanted to be a part of it,” said Brown prior to silently trudging off into the forest with her bag of seedlings.
Stroberg and his F.S. colleagues marked off a semi-cleared tract just on the Lake Fork side of the pass and immediately adjacent to the now decom- missioned F.S. campground.
The areas encompassing panoramic view of 12,826’ Red Mountain and adjacent high mountain peaks was previously obscured by the dense conifer forest, now sadly diminished by the bark beetle infestation.
In the midst of a slight breeze on Saturday, Stroberg cautioned planters to stay away from the dead standing timber which borders the clearing. In the event of an injury, Stroberg calmly stated, “we have an emergency plan, but I don’t want to use it.”
Volunteers were immersed in their surroundings, energetically swinging hoedads to dig divot holes down into the surprisingly damp soil. Once dug, the small holes were each quickly filled with one of the tree saplings, volunteers intently kneeling as they then gently filled in around the sapling with left over soil.
After the saplings were planted, and as a final step in the oft-repeated process, a small plastic sunscreen was then installed as a protective device to the immediate southwest of the newly planted tree. The screen provides the sapling with protection during the hottest and driest part of the day, 1-3 p.m.
Saturday’s volunteer tree planting day — excuse the pun — branched out from prior plantings days in early June in 2016 and 2017 when conifers were exclusively planted in the same area. In 2018, however, the new saplings are bristlecone pines which now dot the semi-cleared tract below the old Slumgullion Campground. The tree plantings are made in a random pattern with the bristlecone saplings approximately 10’ apart and separated from small living conifers which remain at the site.
Stroberg acknowledges that prevailing dry conditions this year will pose a challenge to the new saplings, although planters were buoyed on Saturday by surprisingly wet subsurface conditions. In a majority of the excavations, the clay-like soil was sufficiently wet to adhere to the blade of the hoedad and had to scraped off by hand.
With volunteers fanned out throughout the open clearing, Stroberg says a total of 630 bristlecone saplings were planted prior to a pizza lunch which was provided by the FS on Saturday. Generous slices of the Poker Alice pizzas were eagerly downed by the famished volunteers, punctuated with gulps of water from plastic water bottles.
In addition to the 630 bristlecone pines, about 100 Engelmann Spruce seedlings were also planted on Saturday, a majority of the Engelmann in and immediately adjacent to the old campground, including an “island” area in the campground surrounding the old outhouse.
Stroberg estimates a near-100 percent success rate for conifer saplings which were planted during Slumgullion’s first public planting day in 2016, and perhaps only slightly less — about 95 percent — trees which survived from June, 2017.