Collected pinecones to reforest land burned in northern Minnesota fires

Wildfires in northern Minnesota decimated tens of thousands of acres of pristine forest land this summer. Now, pinecones collected from across the state could play a part in building back what was burned. 

"They might need some help, those areas that are burned. We might need to seed those areas or if they are accessible by foot, we might need to plant those areas," said Minnesota DNR Silviculture Program Coordinator Mike Reinikainen. 

The State Forest Nursery has a program that pays Minnesotans for every bushel of pinecones they collect and turn in. A bushel amounts to a bit more than nine gallons. 

Seeds from those pinecones are then extracted and used for reforestation. 

"We plant anywhere from 2 to 2 1/2 million trees or seedlings a year on state forest land alone," Reinikainen said. 

Some of the collected pinecones from this year could eventually find a new home in the scorched earth left behind by the Greenwood Fire, which burned a mix of state, private and US Forest Service land. 

"Any of these disturbances, like these fires, are going to be additional work, so even more reason we need to get the seed in every year," Reinikainen said. 

This year, pinecones from Black Spruce, Jack Pine and Red Pine are needed the most. 

You can earn between $20 and $150 per bushel, depending on what kind of seed it is. The DNR is only accepting closed pinecones, so if yours are dry and crunchy, you can't cash in. 

You can learn more about the cone and seed collection program on the DNR's website.