This past week, volunteers from all over Central Texas gathered together in Bastrop County to plant loblolly pines trees for people affected by the wildfires in 2011. Those first three planting days were exhilarating–and just the beginning of our goal to plant another 400,000 pine seedlings this winter. This week, we’re working with professional tree planting crews to plant the largest swaths of land, and will restore smaller properties with six more volunteer planting days in early 2016. We’ll also give away 20,000 pines for area residents to plant on their own.
In 2011, the Bastrop County Complex Fire consumed 34,000 acres of the Lost Pines. In addition to the ecology damaged by the fire, part of the residents’ cultural identity was also affected. Shortly after the fire, TreeFolks committed to help Bastrop County and the Texas A&M Forest Service reestablish the forest on private land by planting 2 million seedlings over 5 years at no cost to landowners.
The Lost Pines of Bastrop County are an isolated population of loblolly pines, separated spatially from eastern populations of that species by more than 100 miles, and genetically by adaptations to a drier clime. An oasis of tall pines amidst the scrubby hardwoods and junipers of Central Texas, Bastrop County’s forest holds ecological significance for its wild inhabitants, including the endangered Houston toad. Equally evident is the cultural significance of the forest to the people who’ve made their homes there. The identity of Bastrop County’s residents is tied to the Lost Pines, a fact that can be observed in the names of the region’s businesses, streets, and neighborhoods.
By accelerating natural regeneration of the forest, the Bastrop County Community Reforestation Program seeks to not only restore vital ecosystem functions, but to rebuild the central feature of Bastrop County with which its residents so ardently identify. Over the last 3 years, we’ve planted over a million seedlings to reforest the Lost Pines, but there is still much work to be done.
As 2015 comes to a close and we enter the fourth year of the project, please consider making a year-end contribution to help us continue this important work. In the year to come TreeFolks will plant 400,000 loblolly pines, distribute another 20,000, and approach our goal of planting 2 million pines in Bastrop County over the 5 year project. With your help, we can bring the Lost Pines home again, one tiny seedling at a time.