It Takes a Village to Restore a Forest

Neighbors Jerry Rudd and Lauri Kemper working together.

Jerry Rudd is 81 years old.  Every day, he takes a morning walk on the wooded trails near his house.  It is a daily exercise routine with a purpose: to water and care for 14 baby sugar pine seedlings that he has adopted, thanks to his neighbors, Lauri Kemper and Susan Sybert.

Lauri Kemper is the former Assistant Executive Officer of Lahontan Water Board, a current school board member and a long-time friend of the Sugar Pine Foundation.  As a dedicated environmentalist and community member, she was keen to help plant our resistant sugar pine seedlings this spring.  She came to the Sugar Pine Foundation headquarters three times to get some trees during our Seedling Give-Aways, but the trees disappeared so fast that she was left empty-handed each time!

Not one to be deterred, she advertised on Facebook that she could help plant trees if others had extra.  Luckily, her friend Susan Sybert did!  Thanks to Susan, Lauri obtained 20 sugar pine seedlings and planted them in prime sugar pine real estate not too far from her house.

While out on one of his morning walks this spring, Jerry encountered Lauri watering some of her freshly planted sugar pine seedlings.  As the two neighbors chatted, Jerry learned about Lauri’s trees and the importance of restoring sugar pines in Tahoe’s forest ecosystem.  Lauri ended up showing Jerry where she had planted 15 sugar pine seedlings that could use some watering and TLC.  Jerry, it turns out, was the perfect man for the job!

Since June, he has been regularly watering and monitoring 14 of her trees – one of the original 15 died – on his morning walks, and he has devised a super clever, simple system!

Jerry Rudd’s “Work Smarter, Not Harder!” Watering Tips & Tricks

–          Put a couple of empty Nalgenes or – better yet – gallon milk jugs in your backpack on your way out the door.  En route to your seedlings, fill your empty vessels at a stream, lake or other water source.  Water is heavy – 8.3 lbs per gallon!  This way you don’t have to carry gallons of heavy water for miles.  SMART, right?

–          Mark your seedlings!  Using obviously visible sticks, pine cones, rocks, flagging or other materials for easy identification just makes it that much easier to find your sugar pine seedlings in the ever-growing, ever-changing forest.

–          If you can’t carry or bring enough agua to water every seedling in your grove, create a way to keep track of which ones got watered and which ones still need to be watered.  Jerry simply uses a rusty old can to mark which trees need water – and this way he doesn’t have to remember from one trip to the next where he left off!  Brilliant.

–          Take measurements and pictures.  It’s fun and rewarding to see how your seedlings are growing!  All it takes is a tape measure or measuring stick and a camera to track their progress.

–          Last but certainly not least: Spread the word and enlist help from family members, friends and neighbors!  Jerry says with a laugh, “I’ve been recruiting everybody!” We agree that this is a great strategy because, ultimately, we know it will “take a village” to restore our sugar pines!

Lauri, Susan and Jerry’s collaboration is a perfect example of how we can all work together to keep Tahoe’s sugar pines on the landscape and our forests healthy and vibrant for generations to come.  We are so proud to have such fine sugar pine stewards as our neighbors, supporters, friends and community!  Many thanks and cheers to Lauri, Susan, Jerry, our Citizen Scientists and all who are out there planting, tending, watering and caring for our forests!  You too can help water and monitor our seedlings that have been planted all around the Tahoe Basin and beyond!  Check out or join our Sugar Pine Restoration Monitoring Citizen Scientist project, which lists Spring 2020 planting sites by GPS location.  Call or contact us for past planting sites that could use watering and monitoring.

Jerry measured this seedling on July 12, 2020 and August 7, 2020.  In less than a month, it had grown about half an inch!  Awesome!

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