After completing its first phase of reforestation to replace the damage caused by the historic 2011 drought, The Woodlands Township could begin the second phase of tree replanting in the fall following the board of directors’ approval.

John Powers, assistant general manager of community services for the township, said the drought destroyed about 52,000 trees throughout The Woodlands in 2011. The first phase of reforestation efforts to replenish that damage was completed in early April. Powers said 1,350 trees of 5-, 10-, 15- and 30-gallon sizes were planted in 200 strategic locations, while 91,000 seedlings were planted by residents for Arbor Day and by township staff.

“[Replanting locations] were identified by areas where hazardous trees had been removed that left a big void in a township reserve that buffered residential property from a major thoroughfare,” Powers said.

However, the reforestation program is not complete, as the township planned to plant 250,000 trees over five years beginning in 2013. Powers said township staff are awaiting direction by the board of directors on how to approach the second phase of reforestation, which could begin in the fall. He said the township has already spent more than $1.5 million on tree removal and reforestation because of the drought.

Powers estimates a similar number of trees could be planted in the second phase, although he anticipates fewer container trees, as seedlings can reach the size of 15-gallon trees in as little as five to seven years and are more cost effective. Only about 75 percent of seedlings are expected to survive, but they do not require as much irrigation as container trees, Powers said.

“The other thing that [seedlings] do is it’s more along the natural cessation of the forest,” he said. “Trees are going to seed out and new little trees are going to sprout. So, these seedlings are really just a couple of years old, and so it follows that natural cycle.”

Although most of the removal of hazardous trees is nearly complete, Powers said, there are as many as thousands of stressed trees from the drought, which makes them more susceptible to drought, disease and insects. Powers said The Woodlands was behind the overall average rainfall by about 7 inches in June, but the area benefited from a wet spring with colder temperatures.

“The pattern of weather we’re seeing the last month is fairly normal, and if it continues, I’m pretty comfortable,” Powers said. “But that could change at any time. A tropical storm on the gulf can be good or bad. It could bring more moisture or it could take it all away.”

Burditt Consultants, LLC., a consulting firm, recently updated The Woodlands’ Integrated Forest Management Plan from 2003, conducting site inspections at 34 locations throughout The Woodlands’ open space reserves. Although Burditt officials believe The Woodlands’ forests are recovering from the 2011 drought, the consultant recommended an annual or bi-annual review of all open space reserves to locate hazardous trees.

According to Burditt, 24,815 hazard trees were removed in 2012 and another 4,000 will be removed by the end of 2013.

The consultant also recommended the replanting of 8,000 trees in 2013-14 and another 2,500-4,000 be replanted from 2014-18 of various sizes throughout open space reserves. To avoid possible future drought effects, Burditt encouraged replanting the area with certain native species that are more drought resistant.

“We’ll continue to have a multi-year plan of reforestation,” Powers said. “Trees are No. 1 for The Woodlands. That’s what it’s all about, and the township board of directors has provided a lot of resources directed toward that.”

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