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Drawdown group kicks off 'Re-tree' project

Tanner Inman
Volunteers brainstormed ways to implement the new RE-tree plan at a meeting Tuesday.

Cook Inletkeeper is working on its third annual Drawdown project — Re-tree. Inletkeeper hopes to plant 23,000 seedlings on the central peninsula within the next one to two years, with the mission of repopulating the area with trees amid the ongoing spruce bark beetle invasion.

The nonprofit comes up with a Drawdown project every year to reduce carbon emissions locally. Inletkeeper’s Kaitlin Vadla said Re-tree would restore the loss of tree cover that’s impacted Southcentral since the bark beetle problem started.

“Growing up here, I remember trees all around," she said at a Drawdown meeting Tuesday. "And after the spruce beetle devastation — once, when I was a little girl in Clam Gulch, we lost all of our spruce trees. And now, up here on the northern peninsula, we have had another big wave. And it’s been devastating. Lots of folks don’t have any spruce trees in their yard anymore. They are such a part of our community and who we are that that’s a big goal. We want to stay a treed community."

Vadla said planting more trees would also be good for the environment, though she noted it would be a long-term solution since seedlings take years to mature.

At the meeting, community members said they want to be strategic about where they plant trees. They plan to work with public landowners and local agencies to figure out the best places to plant seedlings.

Soldotna Forester Mitch Michaud said a challenge is that seedlings aren’t easy to come by.

“There is such a large demand for tree seedlings in the United States now that tree production would have to increase by almost 20 fold to meet the need for tree seedlings in the U.S. today," Michaud said. " A lot of that is because of people like us who want to plant trees. And also the issues with all the fires and the other pests. We have spruce bark beetles. There are a lot of other pests that are wiping out beautiful trees in the Lower 48. We are not alone.”

He said one solution to the supply issue is in our own backyards. Existing trees sprout seedlings each year, which are often mowed over on Sunday afternoons.

Michaud said you can transplant those seedlings easily. All it takes is a little time and care.

“When you're transplanting from one site on your property to another site, there’s a perfect time to do it," Michaud said. "The best time to do it is in the spring, where the tree has not started growing yet. So transplanting in the spring, there's a lot of moisture in the soil makes transplanting more successful. And then you can plant trees again in the fall, when the tree is no longer growing bigger, taller and wider. And instead, it’s concentrated on root growth. So if you plant in the fall, then you pay more attention to what soil you put it in so that the trees will actually start making roots that will carry it through the winter for next spring.”

The project’s about more than just planting new trees. Inletkeeper wants to teach others to plant and care for their own trees, as well, through workshops and brochures. That education aspect is one of the first steps the nonprofit hopes to tackle in the next year.

Inletkeeper will hold a meeting August 23rd at 5:30 p.m. at the Community Action Studio to dive deeper into the project. Vadla said anyone who wants to help is welcome to attend.

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