When we started a new initiative to collect needles from sugar pines around Truckee for genetic testing this spring, our old friend Tom Moore stepped right up to help out.
Tom has lived, worked and skied around Truckee ever since a momentous ski trip lured him westward from Boston in 1999. He was a ski patroller at Sugar Bowl and Homewood in the early 2000s when he started noticing tall, funny looking trees with what he considered to be “floppy tops” and “bad posture.” When he did his research, Tom learned that he was seeing sugar pines and he subsequently stumbled upon the Sugar Pine Foundation in its infancy.
Tom’s affinity for trees stretches back to his childhood in the Midwest. He not only attended Pine Street Elementary in Ohio, but he was a leader in his summer camp’s “Operation Green Tree” tree planting program all of the way through high school. It was a natural fit for him to volunteer with us just as we were beginning to hold our first restoration plantings in 2008, and he has become a volunteer with us in many capacities since then. Over the years, Tom has attended countless plantings and graced us with his computer expertise, GPS skills and artisanal sourdough bread.
This spring, the US Forest Service invited us to submit needle samples for genetic analysis; they want to use their new, rapid genetic testing technique to identify more white pine blister rust resistant sugar pines in the Truckee region. Since he lives in Truckee, we asked Tom if he would like to participate in the project. Tom good-naturedly led the way with his GPS – bushwhacking through thick manzanita – to find candidate trees, collect their needles and mark their location. He also helped visit USFS “legacy trees” – trees with known resistance that hadn’t been visited since the 1990s – to check on their health.
Reflecting on the experience, Tom said, “It’s a directed reason to go for a walk in the woods. It’s cool that I get to use my GPS, go for a walk and see sugar pines. The interesting thing about looking for candidate trees is that you can see where they’re at in their cycles [as the needles and cones grow].” Referring to the fact that sugar pines have five needles per bundle, but Jeffrey pine have three needles per bundle and lodgepole have two, he also jokingly noted, “Counting to five is a fairly important skill!”
For the Sugar Pine Foundation, having friends like Tom is likewise critically important to carrying out our mission. Our miniscule staff could never pull off planting upwards of 12,000 trees per year, tracking down new candidate trees, collecting cones, educating local youth, and watering and monitoring all of our seedling babies in the forest without all of our amazing volunteers!
We greatly appreciate Tom for his exemplary assistance over the years, and we invite anyone with some extra time and passion to reach out and get further involved! Now, more than ever, our forests need all of the help that they can get. Thank you Tom, and ALL of our volunteers, for all that you do to help us keep our forests green!