College Students Help Replant Bastrop State Park

Flash back to Labor Day weekend in 2011 when high winds spawned by a tropical storm in Louisiana combined with epic drought conditions to fuel the most damaging wildfire in Texas history in and around the Central Texas community of Bastrop.

High school students planting trees at Bastrop State Park. (Source: statesman.com)

High school students planting trees at Bastrop State Park. (Source: statesman.com)

The wildfire that engulfed much of Bastrop County also consumed most of Bastrop State Park; however, Buescher State Park was not affected by the blaze.

The two adjoining parks are home to the famous “Lost Pines,” an isolated timbered region of loblolly pine and hardwoods. This 70-square-mile forest of loblolly pines is the state’s most westerly stand of these trees. These woods are called “lost” because they’re separated from the main mass of East Texas loblolly pines by about 100 miles.

The wildfire charred 34,000 acres and burned more than 1,500 homes, but Buescher State Park manager Cullen Sartor said his park dodged serious damage.

“The fire got within about two miles of our northern park boundary so it was pretty close,” Sartor said. “A little scary but we came out unscathed so that’s important.”

Buescher is only a sixth of the size of Bastrop State Park.

Massive help poured in then for the people affected by the fire.

Scene from the fire that devastated  Bastrop State Park in 2011 (Source: KVUE-TV)

Scene from the fire that devastated Bastrop State Park in 2011 (Source: KVUE-TV)

Now, fast forward to the February 16-17 weekend when hundreds of Texas A&M University students partnered with the Texas A&M Forest Service (TFS) and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) to help the Lost Pines ecosystem recover by planting thousands of pine seedlings, tamutimes.edu reported.

The student aspect is being led by Aggie Replant, a student environmental organization.

Approximately 800 Texas A&M students bussed to Bastrop State Park to start planting 30,000 seedlings as part of Replant’s community outreach efforts. The students separated into four groups—one Saturday and another Sunday and repeated the process following weekend—in planting loblolly pine seedlings to replenish the trees lost in the fire.

The event kicked off with brief remarks by representatives of the participating entities and invited dignitaries.

Texas A&M System Chancellor John Sharp was instrumental in bringing the key groups together to carry out the initiative, citing the benefits to the state and its citizens.

“This a grand example of working together for the common good—Aggies volunteering their weekend time to join teams from the Texas A&M Forest Service and the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department to restore this state treasure—the Lost Pines of Bastrop State Park—for future generations,” Sharp notes.

“For our Texas A&M University students, this event demonstrates our core value of selfless service, while also carrying out the land-grant mission of the Forest Service and The Texas A&M University System overall for the benefit of Texas and Texans.”

John Han, Aggie Replant director, agrees with Chancellor Sharp, saying, “I am excited for the opportunity that has been given to Texas A&M. We are taking the initiative to assist a community in need and that is truly exemplary. I think that this project does a good job of embodying Texas A&M and its core values.”

TFS foresters are helping facilitate the Aggie planting events and training the students on proper planting technique, working alongside Bastrop State Park rangers.

Since wildfire recovery replanting started in December, 214,089 seedlings have been planted at Bastrop State Park. The park has reopened since the fire, including all campgrounds, cabins, and almost all trails.

See the Bastrop State Park web page for complete visitor information and the latest on wildfire recovery.

Pine seedling, the start of reforestation of Bastrop State Park in Texas

Pine seedling, the start of reforestation of Bastrop State Park in Texas

Last fall, Texas A&M Forest Service, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, and Arbor Day Foundation launched the Lost Pines Forest Recovery Campaign, a public-private partnership to raise money to plant more than 4 million trees. Since then, more than $2 million in donations has been raised to aid Bastrop wildfire recovery.

Tree plantings this season are being paid for by the Apache Corporation, Friends of the Lost Pines, Nobelity Project, and many other donors.

Worth Pondering…

I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.

—John Burroughs

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