The Tonto National Forest kicked off the Emory oak initiative’s first restoration project on a 56-acre grove north of Payson on April 8.
Mechanized mastication equipment will shred smaller trees and brush, while retaining all Emory oak trees. This strategy will reduce species that crowd Emory oak trees and compete for nutrients, water, and sun.
Shredded material temporarily will remain on the forest floor until it is part of a prescribed burn in spring 2022, pending favorable weather conditions.
Apache elders observed in recent years that Emory oak stands were yielding fewer acorns, producing fewer seedlings, and declining in overall health, according to Kaibab National Forest Tribal Relations Staff Officer Nanebah Lyndon.
The Emory oak is a culturally significant tree for Native peoples and has been used for millennia for its nutritious mast (e.g., acorn harvest). The mast of the Emory oak is extremely low in tannins, has the highest fat (34%) and protein (9%) content of any other oak species analyzed to date, has 30 times more beta-carotene (Vitamin A) than most commercial nuts, and is high in other important vitamins and minerals.
This project will specifically benefit Apache and Yavapai groups as the Emory oak is an important traditional food and has spiritual and cultural significance. Tribal partners for the project include the White Mountain Apache Tribe, Yavapai-Apache Nation, and Tonto Apache Tribe.
The Tonto and Coconino national forests, with funding from Resolution Copper Mining, LLC are conducting the Emory Oak Collaborative Tribal Restoration Initiative. This initiative seeks to restore large Emory oak groves throughout Arizona and ensure the sustainability of subsistence foods for Arizona tribes.