09/28/07 — Beavers help keep tree seedlings healthy at nursery

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Beavers help keep tree seedlings healthy at nursery

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on September 28, 2007 1:58 PM

Millions of forest tree seedlings depended on the Little River for growth at Claridge State Nursery this year.

They also got help from a handy pack of beavers and their Little River dam.

The southeastern drought -- which now has all but three of North Carolina's 100 counties in "severe" or worse drought conditions -- dropped the Little River to a critically low level.

Greg Pate, who oversees operations at Claridge State Nursery off of U.S. 70 in Goldsboro, says Little River water levels had worried nursery employees in the past month.

Claridge State Nursery is one of two state nurseries -- the other being in Crossnore -- that provide nearly 40 species of bare-rooted conifer and hardwood seedlings.

"We've been able to irrigate all of our seedlings," but water levels made Pate think the irrigation pump the nursery set up in a nearby river could run into problems.

Enter Mother Nature, who supplied the bucktoothed rodents that boosted the water level near the intake by building a dam downstream from the intake about three weeks ago.

"We had beavers build up a dam that kept water (near the intake)," said Dave Andres, N.C. Division of Forestry section chief for forest management and forest development.

Container slats of Longleaf pine seedlings are easily noticed when driving past the nursery, located on namesake Claridge Nursery Road.

The nursery has the seedlings in boxes filled with slats with overhead sprinklers that shower the young trees with irrigated Little River water, Pate said.

But although the irrigated water kept the trees alive, rainfall would have been better, the Claridge State Nursery boss said.

"They just don't do as well with irrigated water," Pate said. "Although they (the seedlings) look pretty healthy now."

Some rainfall earlier this month also boosted the fortunes of the operation's seedlings.

But the recent precipitation doesn't mean that Atlantic White Cedar, Loblolly pine and other baby trees at the nursery are out of the woods yet, Pate said.

Many of those fields will get a late dosing of nitrogen based fertilizer, which Pate said should give the seedlings girth but not add undesirable height.

The Division of Forest Resources, which oversees the state nurseries, says on its Internet site that it produces 30 million seedlings a year in Goldsboro and Crossnore.

The site says the Division of Forest resources has produced 1.13 billion trees for planting in North Carolina since 1925.