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Panhandle Passages: Taking Root

Every little bit helps, and every little bit has a way of turning into a big bit.

Such is the case with the Boy Scouts’ annual tree planting event at Fort Robinson State Park, which I enjoyed photographing Saturday. The process of getting hundreds of scouts and volunteers into the field to plant ponderosa pine seedlings in the yearly reforestation effort has been honed to near perfection and is a sight to see.

It was a bittersweet day, though, for many who have been involved with the reforestation effort that got its start following the 48,000-acre 1989 wildfire. It was the 25th and final year for the tree planting, which was originally projected to last only 5-10 years.

I could make up some clichéd line here about a “Phoenix rising from the ashes.” I’ll just say that a lot of good can come in the wake of catastrophe. The scouts of the Longs Peak Council and volunteers have planted more than 450,000 seedlings in the park during the 25-year span. Using common survival rates, they estimate that more than 70,000 of them have survived. The trees will be enjoyed by park visitors for generations to come, as will the memories created by the scouts, their leaders, park employees and the many other volunteers.

I’m not sure if words can aptly describe the vigor of youth from the event, so I’ll hope these photos and video can help me hit the mark. If that doesn’t work, I hope you will enjoy seeing a little more green around Fort Robinson — the result of a quarter century of work by the scouts and others. That’s the real legacy.

About Justin Haag

Justin Haag has served the Commission as a public information officer in the Panhandle since 2013. His duties include serving as regional editor for NEBRASKAland Magazine. Haag was raised in southwestern Nebraska, where he developed a love for fishing, hunting and other outdoor pursuits. After earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Chadron State College in 1996, he worked four years as an editor and reporter at newspapers in Chadron and McCook. Prior to joining the Commission in 2013, he worked 12 years as a communicator at Chadron State, serving as the institution’s media and public relations coordinator the last five. He and his wife, Cricket, live in Chadron, and have two children.

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