Oaks and madrones in Felton, CA thriving after mimicry treatments

17 11 2022
Coast live oak with roots compromised by adjacent construction still faring well

In November 2020 I began fire mimicry treatments on several coast live oaks and Pacific madrones in Felton, CA. Last year, when I checked on these trees, they were already showing a nice improvement (see here). Now after two years nearly all of the trees are showing noticeable positive responses to the treatments, even at the height of drought conditions. Several of the oaks have undergone major stem canker surgeries, but still seem to be on the mend. Hope you enjoy these results as much as these trees.

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Thoughts and images from our “Restoring Fire Safe Communities: Fire Mimicry and TEK” workshop at Indian Canyon (Nov. 11-13, 2022)

14 11 2022

Kanyon Sayers-Roods welcoming us to Indian Canyon with song and ceremony

In 2005 I had a thought (ironically, or not, beneath an Ancestor coast redwood) of creating a movement called Sudden Oak Life, with the intent of helping restore the dying oak forests of California through the efforts of fire mimicry. The movement has grown steadily over the years as more and more positive results from my fire mimicry practice have been documented. Now that I’m able to give more time to sharing these practices with the larger community, the Sudden Oak Life movement is now blooming.

Thanks to the fine efforts of EcoCamp Coyote and Indian Canyon Nation this past weekend we attracted more than 70 participants of all genders, ages, and ethnicities for our “Restoring Fire Safe Communities: Fire Mimicry and TEK” workshop at Indian Canyon. Along with my teachings on fire mimicry, we had TEK instruction led by Kanyon Sayers-Roods (Mutsun Ohlone) and Chanel Keller (Esselen Tribe), We were also honored to receive some heartfelt teachings from Anne Freiwald and Lydia Neilsen on methods of stream restoration. Ammon Felix guided us in the basics of chain saw safety and operation. At the end of the workshop, the enthusiasm of the participants for the teachings shared and the futures created were palpable.

I’m immensely pleased to see how this movement has grown in both size and diversity! Below are a few images of our event.

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Big Sur oaks on the mend …

26 10 2022

In October of 2020 I began fire mimicry treatments on 4 coast live oaks and one black oak here in Big Sur. The above oak also received a major stem canker surgery. Yesterday I checked on the progress of the oaks at the two year mark, nearly to the minute. I’ll never tire of seeing trees get healthier!

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Before-and-after photos of ladder fuel management in oak forests

7 10 2022

The photos here show several stands of old-growth coast live oaks in Carmel Valley, CA that were cleared, thinned, and pruned in order to reduce the ladder fuels and prepare these sites for future prescribed burns. Time-lapse videos of these and other nearby sites are presented in several recent posts.

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Reducing ladder fuels and competition around an Ancestor coast live oak

4 10 2022

Here’s a clip of some fire mimicry work we did today around an ancient coast live oak in Carmel Valley, CA. The focus in this first stage of fire mimicry is to remove ladder fuels and reduce the competition from nearby woody shrubs. Afterwards, we will fertilize the soils with biochar (produced from burning the slash piles), along with compost tea and alkaline-rich minerals, then apply limewash to the trunks.

Upcoming Event: “Restoring Fire Safe Communities” Nov. 11-13, 2022 at Indian Canyon

2 10 2022

The “Restoring Fire Safe Communities” workshop at Indian Canyon next month (Nov. 11-13) is shaping up to be a stellar event. Along with my teachings on fire mimicry, our host Kanyon Sayers-Roods will be sharing some of her Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Cultural Competency. Tom Little Bear Nason, Esselen Tribal Elder, will be speaking on his experiences of the challenges and successes in managing his traditional lands here in Big Sur. All the while EcoCamp Coyote will be providing vegan meals and other logistics in environmentally-conscious ways.

Event details are here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/restoring-fire-safe-communities-tickets-358816077547

Hope to see you there!

More ladder fuel removal from an oak grove in Carmel Valley

26 09 2022

Here’s a time-lapse video of the fire mimicry work we did today in Carmel Valley. Enjoy!

Removing ladder fuels from an ancient oak grove

21 09 2022

Yesterday our crew of fire mimicry practitioners began treatment of an ancient oak grove in Carmel Valley, CA. The videos here show the results of clearing ladder fuels to help prevent a healthy ground fire from becoming a destructive canopy fire. The video below was cut short by an unfriendly encounter with a wasp nest, an ever-present menace along with all the poison oak.

Restoration of oak woodland and native bunchgrass prairie in California’s central coast

17 09 2022

The latest efforts here at Sudden Oak Life have involved the restoration of about 20 acres of oak woodland and native prairie habitat in the Central Coast. I have pulled together a strong team of workers who are well trained in the principles and practices of fire mimicry.

On one particular hillside young coast live oaks have been invading an adjacent prairie of native bunchgrasses dominated by California fescue. Coastal prairie is one of the most endangered ecosystems in California due to fire suppression and conversion to agricultural uses. In places, the oak trees have shaded out and all but replaced the native prairie species. Our work here focused on removing many of the woody shrubs and young oaks along the prairie margin, and thinning and pruning oaks in nearby woodlands that still support substantial bunchgrass cover. Efforts were made to preserved many of the native understory species including toyon, currant, sage, and mountain mahogany. All the removed oaks were less than 6″ in diameter, per county regulations.

Young coast live oak invading native bunchgrass prairie, marked for removal
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How to prepare a grove of ancient oaks for cultural burning

10 08 2022

Here are several time-lapse videos from today showing our efforts to prepare a grove of ancient coast live oaks for reintroduction of cultural fire via fire mimicry. Notice that our focus is on removing ladder fuels in ensure that any cultural fires remain on the ground (good fire), rather than spreading into the canopies (bad fire).