Replanting Redwood - A Way of Life

Georgia-Pacific Corporation (G-P) is one of five major companies that operate tree nurseries in California. Together the five companies produce more than 13 million seedlings each year - and 4.5 million of them are redwood.

At G-P in Fort Bragg, Calif., budding forest giants are grown from seeds by the Nursery Manager and his crew at Fort Bragg, California. The nursery is a giant affair - five big metal-framed, plastic-covered greenhouses, where filtered light, perfect soil and on-call, overhead water is sprinkled on millions of baby redwood and Douglas fir trees. This intricate system has turned horticultural science into routine - it almost looks easy.

"Replanting is a lot of work, and our greenhouses are pretty big, but replanting is a way of life for us," the nursery manager said. "We grew nearly two million seedlings here last year, and everyone will go into the ground ... then we'll start all over and do it again for next year."

The manager explained that his nurserynursery.jpg provides Georgia-Pacific with the tools to maintain its sustained yield harvest commitment on 200,000 acres of lush North Coast forestland. Like most other California forest products companies that operate in the redwood region, nearly 99 percent of G-P's harvest is made up of second-growth trees.

"What we do is carefully monitored by the California Department of Forestry (CDF) which has the strictest forest practice laws in the country," he said. "You have a certain number of years to achieve the restocking levels prescribed by the CDF, and those guys are very serious about it. On our land we usually replant five to six trees for every one that has been harvested," he said. "It's hard work, and there's no two ways about that."

Much of the restocking in the redwood region takes place in December and January. So that means crews are out on the ground in wet and cold conditions from early to late, placing each tree by hand. Since they want to see a survival rate of 80 to 90 percent, each planting is done carefully.

"Replanting is just one of the ways redwood is regrown on California forestland," the Nursery Manager said. "Redwood does an amazing thing when it's harvested. If there is enough sunlight allowed to strike the harvest site, the cut trees will send up sprouts from roots and stumps. It does this so prolifically that many of the farms that were carved out of the forest generations ago are now being returned to forestland. It's just too much work to keep the land cleared of trees, and landowners are finding a much higher return on their investment with redwood timber sales."

Like all redwoods, the trees that the G-P crews plant are fast growers. "It takes a year or two to get the roots established and to absorb all of the water and nutrients they need and wow, off they go," the Manager said. "It's common to see a young tree grow several feet per year. An established tree will put on six to eight feet a year. A waist-high seedling will be a 130-foot-tall tree in 60 years.

"This summer I went out to the very forest planting area I worked on with G-P seven years ago, and now they're double my height. It means I've left my mark on the forest, and I'm real happy about that."

The result of the regrowth work that G-P and the rest of the industry do is that a fully-stocked redwood forest that is 80 years old averages 70,000 board feet of timber per acre. On superior sites, 200,000 board feet per acre are being measured in 80-year-old stands of fully-stocked ground growth--enough wood to build more than 20 houses. Many young-growth acres have more wood now than was in the original forests when they were harvested in the 1880s.

Courtesy of the California Redwood Association