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 . . .

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Carmel Valley heritage oak

21 10 2016

Every so often I get asked to provide some care for a single tree, usually a large heritage oak that dominates a particular property. Following a motto of “one tree at a time”, I never hesitate to help. So last year a Sudden Oak Life colleague, Shannon Boyle, and I had the honor of helping a massive, Indian-era coast live oak in Carmel Valley, CA. This ancient oak has clear signs of being pollarded and tended by the native people who lived in this valley hundreds of years ago. We applied fire mimicry methods to the trunk and the soils around the oak. One year later the canopy is showing a noticeable response in density, greenness, and size.

Deep gratitude to our ancestors for giving us these creatures. What better way to honor our Native American fore bearers than to extend the life and health of their legacies!

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More Carmel oaks respond to fire mimicry

13 09 2016

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Carmel oaks respond to fire mimicry

13 09 2016

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Two years ago a property owner in Carmel, CA approached me about helping improve the health of her sick oak trees. When I inspected her oaks I found them to be severely diseased and the canopies very thin. I told her that I wasn’t sure I could save her diseased oaks, but that I felt confident I could help her other oaks. She agreed to have all her oaks treated with fire mimicry.

Two years later, the diseased oaks (first three sets of photos) are recovering nicely and the remaining oaks on both properties are showing improved canopy health. The photos below show the results of all the oaks I’ve treated on her property over the past two years. The photos show a nice response in some oaks, others showing a limited response. Overall, I’m pretty happy with the results in just two years.

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