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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Forest nursery marks centennial

This photo of the Savenac Nursery was taken shortly after the 1910 fires burned the nursery and millions of acres in the Bitterroots. Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service
 (Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service / The Spokesman-Review)

After being destroyed by one of the biggest, deadliest fires ever recorded in the West, a U.S. Forest Service nursery at Haugan, Mont., was rebuilt and went on to supply millions of tree seedlings for the burnt landscape of the West.

Although the Savenac Nursery no longer grows trees for the Forest Service – now it’s a historical site with cottages and buildings available to rent – the facility will mark its 100th anniversary this weekend.

Superior District Ranger Sharon Sweeney said Savenac supplied upward of 3 million tree seedlings a year and played a critical role in “shaping the forests we enjoy so much today.”

When massive fires swept the Bitterroot Mountains in 1910, the Savenac was burned, as were many communities, including Wallace. The nursery was quickly rebuilt, however, and also served as the site for a large Civilian Conservation Corps camp.

A Forest Service nursery in Coeur d’Alene now grows most of the seedlings needed by the agency in the region. But nurseries have taken on a different role for the Forest Service. No longer are they used simply to restock forests after a fire or a logging project. Now, the nurseries play important roles in research and for preserving forest biodiversity.

“They’re still extremely important, but they have a shift in focus,” Sweeney said.