Several years after the 2011 Complex Fire and 2015 Hidden Pines Fire, the demand among Bastrop County landowners for pine tree saplings remains high.

The reforestation nonprofit TreeFolks reported Monday that even after 2.2 million trees have been planted on private properties in Bastrop County in the last five years, the number of sapling deliveries and landowners served has increased in the last few years.

The local demand is met thanks to a partnership TreeFolks forged with Bastrop County in 2017 that helped cover reforestation after the expiration of a contract the nonprofit had with The Arbor Day Foundation. The county has since contributed $46,000 for both the 2017 and 2018 planting season, which lasts from December or January through March.

TreeFolks reported that it made 117 sapling deliveries and gave away saplings to another 149 people during events in 2017, and 190 deliveries and 240 giveaways in 2018. The efforts have planted another 50,000 loblolly pines across more than 5,000 acres of private land decimated by the two fires.

The regeneration of interest is due to a concerted advertising push, first done through online platforms, then yard signs that were posted in targeted areas. The yard sign tactic proved to be particularly successful and forced the nonprofit to start a wait list for saplings, it said.

But the need still persists.

“Many areas in the 2011 Complex Fire area still lack significant natural regeneration of loblolly pines,” the nonprofit said in its 2018-2019 seasonal report. “Persistent erosion, reduced shade, increased takeover by invasive species, degraded habitat for the Houston toad, and property value impacts all result from the lack of healthy, mature pines in those areas. Furthermore, the 2015 Hidden Pines Fire created renewed need for reforestation on both previously unburned land and those that had already begun to recover from the 2011 fire.”

Bastrop County Judge Paul Pape said Monday that he expects the county to continue funding TreeFolks next year.

“For us to continue with the reforestation effort with TreeFolks, we’re going to have to continue our support. So when we come to discussing the budget next year we’ll need to be prepared to continue to fund that,” Pape said. “We’re going to have to participate. I don’t think the job’s done yet.”

TreeFolks is just one of a handful of organizations cooperatively working to replant the loblolly pine forest. All told, state agencies, landowners and nonprofits have planted nearly 6 million saplings in the wake of the fires, according to the Texas A&M Forest Service.

In the five years following the Complex Fire, the forest service helped facilitate the federal Emergency Forest Restoration Program, which helps private landowners fund forest recovery. The program became crucial to the Lost Pines Restoration, as 75% of the burn area is privately owned.

Since 2012, the forest service and TreeFolks have been going through the same annual cycles: taking orders in February, receiving them from the nursery in December, planting them through March, and then placing orders again for the next season.

Each delivery to a landowner includes a planting demonstration and a 30-minute consultation on loblolly pine forest ecology.

“Through those meetings, TreeFolks staff are able to advise all landowners on best practices to give their seedlings the best chance for survival and to set expectations for reforestation,” the seasonal report said.