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Mountain Elementary students help plant a new forest

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By The Staff

Have you ever walked on the Mitchell Trail after the Cerro Grande fire of 2000? Hundreds of volunteers, including Mountain Elementary School students, planted Ponderosa pine seedlings in the burned area the year after the fire.A lot of people think there are no trees living there. Mountain Elementary School sixth-graders thought that too until they went on a field trip and collected data to find out how many trees are growing there.Students counted the number of trees in 1/20-acre plots and measured their height. The average density of Mrs. Plotner, Mrs. LaDuke, and Mr. Orr’s classes calculated was 76 trees per acre.The Ponderosa pines are still little saplings that are only a few feet tall. The average height of all the trees measured is 32.4 inches. With this data, students put together graphs that showed them in the areas where the tree density was higher, the average height went down.When tree density was lower, the average height went up. Students think this is because when there are more trees in a certain area, there are not as many nutrients and water to go around, so these trees haven’t grown quite as big.These data that the sixth-graders collected tell that the forest that was burned is coming back. They learned it is important to have trees in the forest, but not too many, or it will not be healthy. When there are above 150 trees on an acre, the forest is considered unhealthy.Before the Cerro Grande Fire there were actually 2,000 trees per acre in some areas.Students also learned how to keep the trails and forest healthy and safe.They now understand that just because they can’t see the new forest, it doesn’t mean there is not one. In about a century, these trees will be very tall and the green forest might be back.