News headline: “California Sudden Oak Death Reaches Catastrophic Levels”

29 10 2016

Yesterday I read a news report with the headline “California Sudden Oak Death reaches catastrophic levels“.

Yesterday I also read a news report “Standing Rock: militarized police from 5 states escalate violence . . .

Now it may seem obscure to most, but these two issues are intimately related. Let me explain how.

The first report states that California is experiencing a crisis in tree mortality with over 66 million dead trees, all attributed to a single disease (Sudden Oak Death) and a single insect pest (Pine Bark Beetle). The report features statements from two experts, a pathologist and an entomologist. Neither scientist mentions a single word about possible solutions.

And to make matters worse, regardless of which way the weather trends, they say that the death of the trees will be exacerbated. More drought will fuel Pine Bark Beetles, and wet weather will favor the spread of Sudden Oak Death. All appears hopeless in any direction.

Now I have no problem highlighting the serious forest health issues we are having in California. Trees are dying and it is affecting us all. The problem I have is that this issue is not reducible to two species of organisms. Even if we could find a cure for Sudden Oak Death and Pine Bark Beetles, the trees would still be dying. There are dozens of other diseases and insect pests that would fill their niches.

When one recognizes that the problems affecting our forests are not pathological or entomological, but are ecological and ethnographical in nature, then solutions become self-evident. California forests that were tended with fire by native people for thousands of years are now declining due to over-competition and soil acidification. Diseases and pests that are normally controlled by fire are now flourishing.

As the Standing Rock protest illustrates, we have lost our connections to the people and practices that gave us such magnificent lands and forests. Honoring our native people by tending to their legacies is one way of supporting all that they live and stand for.

This website is offered as testimony to the promise of traditional values and knowledge in forest health and restoration. Contained here are many hundreds of photos documenting the recovery of sick and diseased trees using solutions based on practices and materials used by native people for thousands of years.

In other news from yesterday – a sick oak that has been treated with traditional practices is making a steady comeback . . .





2 responses

8 04 2018
Martin Seebach

Dear Dr. Klinger,
I have wondered how a fairly large midden of shells accumulated above probable high water levels on San Felipe Creek. Some family members held theories that large indigenous gatherings could have occurred. The shells they felt were brought to feed expected attendees. While feasible it didn’t seem accurate. Over the years I’ve taken a shovel and dug to see if any recognizable shells are still there. As of 8 years back I found some 1.5 to 2 feet down. Good to see another possible explanation. I’m really glad to see essays on SODS that do not expect California to lose up to 1/2 of all oaks. Our ranch is located approximately 12 miles SE of downtown San Jose. Bounded on N and E by the San Felipe ranch. It has been added to Henry Sutcliff Coe’s home ranch. Then the Los Huecos property and others. Recently Mr. Hewlett built a home there. Currently they have acquired around 30,000 acres. Southern neighbor is/was the O’Connell family ranch. Our western neighbor was UTC, Pratt & Whitney, Chemical Systems Division and Rocketdyne who made rocket/missile fuel and the occasional crater. Most of that property has been acquired by Mid Peninsula open space district. UTC though must keep and maintain some very toxic areas they made at an open burn site and on our ranch.

A lot of oaks are coming down. Some had trunk diameters up to 15′. There are many remaining with diameters ranging from 2′ to 10+ feet. I’m glad to have found your writings and a way to say hi. If you are in the area and would like to see how oaks are doing about 5 miles downstream from the Grant Ranch Park send an eekmail to or text to 408.316.4217. Has coast hiway reopened. There goes the calm quiet if it has. Enjoy.


Martin R. Seebach

9 04 2018
Lee Klinger

Hello Martin, Thank you for your thoughtful comment. The land you describe sounds fascinating. I will contact you directly to follow up on your offer to visit. Kind Regards, Lee

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