Yampa Valley Sustainability Council expands ReTree Steamboat program
After five years of hosting one ReTree workday per summer, the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council will now host four workdays at two locations: Chuck Lewis State Wildlife Area on June 14 and Oct. 4 and Stagecoach State Park on June 18 and 20.
The decision to have four rather than one workday was based upon changes in tree productivity in ReTree’s targeted areas and YVSC efforts towards retaining community interest in forest health year around.
Whereas YVSC had upwards of 250 volunteers at each workday from 2010 to 2014, it is now limiting each workday to 40 volunteers at the Chuck Lewis State Wildlife Area.
“When the first ReTree workday happened in 2010 at the height of the pine beetle epidemic, our goal was primarily reforestation, and with that we could allow everyone who wanted to help come,” said Sarah Jones, YVSC executive director.
YVSC’s ultimate goal is to maintain a 60 percent tree survival rate. In most places where YVSC has held ReTree workdays, the tree survival rate is between 70 and 80 percent.
“Now, it’s about creating healthier forests, which involves more research-based efforts. These are harder to manage with more volunteers,” Jones said.
The Stagecoach State Park workday, for example, will focus upon the waterbox program, which will help YVSC and the Colorado State Forest Service — YVSC’s partner in the ReTree program — to study how trees grow in certain amounts of water. Taking such measurements with a large number of volunteers, Jones explained, would pose management difficulties.
In addition, maintenance of tree health requires more than just a single day of community interest, Jones said.
“We are trying to make it more of a year-round program rather than a single event,” she said. “In addition to these workdays, we also have planting days scheduled with the Routt County schools, the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps and Service Learning Corps.”
ReTree Steamboat’s broader goal is twofold: environmental stewardship and community engagement.
“On the one hand, we have the ecosystems that we are trying to reintroduce trees to and maintain as an area (of) vegetation,” said Carolina Manirquez, a forester with the Colorado State Forest Service. “On the other hand, we have the human factor. Social forestry is a huge component and is a convenient way of doing place-based education with different demographics within the community.”
“Obviously tree planting helps climate change since trees are a way of sequestering CO2,” Jones said. “But most of ReTree is about raising awareness about the natural resources that we have.”
To date, 2,058 volunteers have helped ReTree Steamboat plant and care for 23,190 trees.
“For natural forestry, that is a really high percentage,” Jones said. “The fact that we have gotten to that point proves that our efforts have help forest regeneration.”
For more information on and signups for workdays, visit yvsc.org/programs/retree-steamboat/.
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