Wildlife are irresistibly drawn to Ponderosas. Some, like woodpeckers, bluebirds, nuthatches, brown bats, and some squirrels make their homes within its cavities or the hollows of dead trees. The tufted-eared Abert’s squirrel builds a huge nest (drey) high up on the south side of a Ponderosa trunk. A plethora of birds indulge in pine nuts, insects, and other arthropods gleaned from beneath the bark and within the branches.
For the past 100 years, many forests have encountered human suppression of forest fires, resulting in dense Ponderosa stands. Trees growing in close proximity deprive each other of sunshine and compete strongly for nutrients and water. As a result, these forests often have spindly, drooping, sparse-needled pines with root systems only as wide as a tree’s crown.
The specimens will never grow to the picturesque, open, park-like woods one pictures when envisioning a Ponderosa pine forest. The only way to turn these forests back to their former glory is through proper management. The Four Forest Restoration Initiative is aiming to do just that here in Northern Arizona. It will hopefully: restore structure, pattern, composition, and health of fire-adapted Ponderosa pine ecosystems, reduce fuels and the risk of unnaturally severe wildfires, and provide for wildlife and plant diversity.
If you’re contemplating planting a young Ponderosa pine, keep in mind this pine will grow quickly — 50 feet in 50 years, and once it has attained a considerable height, you may need to consult an arborist to assess any problems the tree may face. Be aware the crown spread will be about 25-30 feet, so watch for power lines and structures. Before digging, call 811 to determine where underground utilities have been placed.