The Humble Pine Cone Will Help Restore Wildfire-Ravaged Colorado, New Mexico Forests

Wildfires Picking Pine Cones
Susan Montoya Bryan/AP
In this Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019, photo a partially open ponderosa pine cone sits in tree at Bandelier National Monument near Los Alamos, N.M. A cone collecting effort is underway in parts of New Mexico and Colorado as conservationists and land managers work to gather seeds to restore forested landscapes following wildfire.

Conservationists and forestry experts are scouring the American Southwest, hoping to gather as many ponderosa pine cones as possible to give nature a hand in restoring fire-scarred landscapes.

The goal: One million seeds.

It might sound lofty, but those helping with the project are looking to take advantage of a rare bumper crop this fall that has resulted from back-to-back summer and winter seasons of much needed rain and snow.

It takes time to find the patches of trees that will yield the most seeds. One spot is a mesa in northern New Mexico that overlooks vast expanses of rugged terrain that has seen its share of fire over the last two decades.

With drought and the severity of wildfires on the rise, scientists say seed collection and reforestation are becoming more important across the West.