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Cal Fire Helping Restore California's Forests At Seed Bank In Davis

DAVIS (CBS13) - From six-inch seedlings to giant sequoias 150 feet tall, California's trees are a precious resource, and their recovery after devastating wildfires is no small task.

After putting out the flames, Cal Fire is also working to help restore forests. CBS13's Elizabeth Klinge got a chance to go inside the effort at their reforestation center in Davis.

Tree by tree, acre by acre, wildfires tore through California forestland, destroying timber from Tahoe to the coast.

But as the smoke cleared and Mother Nature tries to heal, Calfire crews are still hard at work to give our future forests a head start.

"Especially after a fire season like this fire season we now have millions more acres that are going to need to be reforested. Both on federal and private land," said Calfire Staff Chief, Wildfire Resilience Stewart McMorrow.

And that process begins with pine cones -- 2,100 bushels carefully collected branch-by-branch from across the state. They're all converging in Davis at Cal Fire's Lewis A. Moran Reforestation Center.

"Cal fire is made up of two parts: the forestry and the fire protection side but at the end of the day we are all one team," said McMorrow.

One part of the team specializes in seeds -- tossing and tumbling the pine cones to shake them free. Then, it's on to de-winging and sorting out debris by hand. The seeds are even x-rayed to ensure they're healthy.

In the end, the seeds are packaged up and boxed up-stored in a special freezer called the seed bank. A seven-pound bag of seeds could eventually produce 14,000 trees.

Then it's time to get on to growing

"We try to mimic their nature," said Nursery Manager and Horticulturist Kuldeep Singh.

Inside the greenhouse, Singh tries to give these future giant sequoias a fighting chance.

"I always compare the seedlings to human beings. If they get everything they want for their survival, they will survive," said Singh.

The seedlings will be planted by hand on state and privately owned land. Similar efforts are underway by the U.S. Forest Service as well.

And there's no question that once these seedlings are in the ground, their strength will be put to the test.

"It's not as if nature hasn't experienced tough times before. However, we are finding the effects of climate change are negatively impacting the forests as we see them right now," McMorrow.

Forests are facing an increasing fire threat. But getting a small head start at growing back-one tree at a time.

The seeds and seedlings Cal Fire grows are available for purchase by private landowners -- and it's a labor-intensive process planting all those by hand.

But there is new technology that could speed up the process.

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