The volunteers carried the trees on foot and on horseback to their new home deep in the forest, making at least seven trips down the Flat Laurel Branch Trail with some logging 14 miles for the day.
The trees, grown by the Southern Highlands Reserve in Lake Toxaway, are part of a longer-term effort to restore red spruce to its high-elevation native habitat in the Southern Blue Ridge Mountains. Red spruce is a keystone species in the endangered spruce-fir ecosystem, which was decimated by logging and wildfires in the early 1900s. These ecosystems are vital to endangered species such as the Carolina northern flying squirrel.
A long list of organizations composes the partnership committed to red spruce restoration, and SASRI itself is a collaboration-based organization with many partners. Going forward, the Southern Highlands Reserve will continue to grow red spruce trees and SASRI will continue to prioritize areas for restoration.