Redwood trees show signs of recovery after devastating 2020 fire

Published: Apr. 22, 2022 at 9:24 AM EDT
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BOULDER CREEK, Calif. (KGO) - Thousands of acres of redwood trees in California’s Santa Cruz mountains are showing signs of life again.

It’s a sign of hope after the devastating 2020 CZU fire, which closed Big Basin Redwoods State Park. The fire raced across 97% of the 18,000 acres that make up the park.

It killed Douglas firs, live oaks and madrones, and charred the stately old-growth redwoods.

However, nearly two years later, nature is showing signs of resiliency.

Even after losing most of their leaves, the redwoods are growing a new canopy overhead. And down by their roots, they’re sending out new growth.

“They send out all of these new saplings along a trunk, so they stump sprout. Then these little guys will keep growing, competing with one another,” Laura McLendon said. “One or more may make it.”

McLendon is director of Sempervirens Fund, a land trust that partners with California state parks.

Inside Big Basin, they have planted thousands of redwood saplings in the hardest-hit zones.

But nature is hard at work, too.

“We’re going to continue to see many of these little saplings and shrubs get bigger, and you know, in as little as 20 years, most people won’t even be able to tell there was a catastrophic fire here,” McLendon said.

The famous auto tree, where visitors used to bring their vehicles and have a picture taken, looks dead. However, it is alive and a great example of how resilient redwood trees are.

Big Basin has gone from lush green to black and white after the fire. But it’s showing signs of a comeback.

Sempervirens Fund was also able to purchase this year 153 adjacent acres at the entrance to the park.

No announcement has been made about reopening Big Basin as work continues to fell trees that pose a safety risk. Support structures, fences and other facilities still need to be replaced.

Birds and some wildlife have returned home already. Yet the risk of future wildfires remains a threat.

If the forest is under too much stress, it could impede the regeneration process.

For now, nature, with a little help from humans, is moving forward.

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