Across vast tracts of rugged ground from Maine to California, Latinos do the dirty work in America’s woods. They plant trees by the millions, thin out snarls of vegetation that stunt the growth of commercial timber and slash away the dense mats of brush and spindly trees that stoke forest fires.

They are pineros, the men who work in the pines. They are the major source of manual labor in America’s forest industry, the muscle behind the Healthy Forest Initiative - often paid in tax dollars to work on public lands. And they are being misused and abused under the noses of government officials.

Even frequent visitors to America’s forests may never see them. They live in motels and campgrounds on the fringes of society, traveling through resort towns long before dawn on their hours’-long commutes to deep backwoods areas.

In this three-part investigation, The Bee takes you inside the hidden lives of the pineros.

On to Part 1 »