Forest restoration after the 2015 Valley Fire in Lake County, CA

5 03 2017

Forest devastation following the Valley Fire in Lake County. Photo taken in October 2015.

In 2015 a devastating wildfire consumed large areas of Lake County, California. Prior to the fires I had been working with some properties affected by the fires and soon afterwards I visited these areas, volunteering my time, to help guide the land managers on how best to manage their lands after the fires. Yesterday I heard back from one of my friends asking about specifics in restoring their forests. My response seems appropriate for a wider audience, so I am posting it here as general informati0n for those who have been affected by wildfires, as well as those who have not . . . Read the rest of this entry »


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 . . .



Talk on Gaia and trees for Gaia University

21 06 2016

A few weeks ago I gave a talk on “Applying Gaia theory to forest restoration”. The talk was arranged and recorded by my lovely daughter Ava Klinger, who works for Gaia University. I’m also proud to be involved with Gaia University as an external reviewer of students.

The link to talk is here. Enjoy!

AK Eklutna Clouds copy

Grandfather oak revisited

4 08 2015
Grandfather oak before and after 7.5 years of healing.

Grandfather oak before and after 7.5 years of healing.

Last week a group of volunteers, assisted by Greg Laden of Marin County Open Space, visited a 400+ year-old coast live oak growing on King Mtn. I have reported on the progress of this oak in two previous posts: Grandfather oak and Grandfather oak – April 2011 update. This oak lies along the main trail up King Mountain and has captured the attention of many a hiker. Donna Shoemaker is one of those hikers. In the Fall of 2007 Donna contacted me about her concerns for the health of this oak. When I inspected it I found it was indeed in poor shape with signs of disease and insect infestation. I proposed a plan to her that could help the oak, but I was not optimistic that it would ever be cured. Donna organized a volunteer party to treat the oak and in December of 2007 we gave the oak its first of several fire mimicry treatments. There was an article by Richard Halstead in the Marin IJ (Sudden Oak Death Roars Back) that described the event, adding that “scientists studying the disease expect the (fire mimicry) treatments will prove futile”.


Volunteers assisting in the fire mimicry treatment of Grandfather oak, July 2015

Grandfather oak volunteers - July 2015

Grandfather oak volunteers – July 2015

Well, I’m happy to report that 7.5 years later have NOT proved futile (UC scientists take note!). Grandfather oak is still alive and is noticeably healthier than before treatments began (see photos). The scientists studying sudden oak death have yet to come to terms with the success of fire mimicry. This is not surprising as their research is based on the disease model of forest health, whereas the fire mimicry approach is based on the ecological model of forest health. More than $100 million dollars has been spent studying one disease organism, Phytophthora ramorum, the pathogen that scientists claim “causes” sudden oak death. They are not about to disrupt that gravy train by expanding their scope of study to include ecological factors such as fire regime and soil pH. Their closed mindedness is our loss of so many oaks. Some day one oak too many will die and the mindshift will be inevitable . . . Read the rest of this entry »

A California oak stonehenge

3 07 2015


I met Ryan Masters at Tassajara a few months back while I was teaching a workshop on fire mimicry. He is a delightful person and impressed me as knowledgeable and sincere, so I shared some important Native American wisdom with him. He followed up diligently and the result is this fine article about an Ohlone oak stonehenge here in California.

Ryan also wrote this wonderful article about his adventures in the Ventana Wilderness and the Native American “Hands” rock shelter.


On Sudden Oak Death, fire mimicry, and canker surgery

22 10 2012

Coast live oak in Marin succumbing to Sudden Oak Death after 4 years (Photos by Lee Klinger)

Recently the California Oak Mortality Task Force issued a press release reporting on an explosive growth in Sudden Oak Death in the San Francisco and Monterey Bay areas. This is a sad situation, knowing that untold thousands of ancient heritage oaks will die while under our care, or rather our lack of care.

For thousands of years California Native Americans tended and cared for all these ancient oaks, and associated plants, animals, and fungi, in an effort to live sustainably. The concept of reciprocity permeated their spirituality and culture, the oaks provided them an abundance of food (acorn), and so in return they managed the land in ways that helped the oaks prosper.

Oaks we know, and as the native people knew, are early successional fire-adapted species, meaning that they need periodic understory (ground) fires to thrive. These fires alkalinize the soils, which is a good thing, and they remove encroaching shrubs and young trees which draw away water and nutrients from the mature oaks.

Without periodic fires the oaks begin to decline. Over many decades the soils gradually acidify and more shade-tolerant species such as bays, firs, pines, and redwoods invade the oaklands. Eventually these later successional species overtop the oaks and out-compete them for light, water, and nutrients. At this point fires, if they due occur, are usually large stand-devastating fires that burn the entire canopies of the trees, from which few oaks can recover.

The oak forests in California are experiencing a rapid shift in their ecology the likes of which has not been seen for thousands of years. The weakening oaks are succumbing to diseases like Sudden Oak Death, and it is likely to get worse.

Unless, we started start caring for the oaks under our care.

How many of us have befriended an oak, enjoyed its protective canopy and felt the nurturing presence of a stately being?

How many of us have tended an oak?

All the while the oaks are enriching the air and land, helping sustain us, along with so many birds, mammals, insects, plants, fungi, and much much more, they are running out of time. The current sad state of affairs is largely due to improper actions, or lack of actions by our parents, grandparents, and great grandparents in managing the oaks on our lands. They simply didn’t know what the native people knew, that oaks need tending.

So now many of us know, and I pray others will too, that the problems with our oaks, with some effort, are solvable. I and many others are using fire mimicry methods, which involve restoring oak forests using  clearing, pruning, and soil fertilization methods that mimic to a degree the normal effects of fire.

My purpose here, as is the purpose of my life, is to inform you and others that we can save our oaks and, more importantly, to do the work on the oaks and show you how it’s done.

Here are several oaks that have received fire mimicry treatments beginning in 2005:

Note the improved canopy density and fullness. Fortunately these oaks are not infected with Sudden Oak Death, nor will they be (at least on my watch).

Here, however, is a nearby oak that is infected with Sudden Oak Death:

(Note the roof line has been altered by remodeling since the original photo)

While infected, this oak has some hope for a longer and healthier life as a result of the treatments. In addition to the fire mimicry treatments, I have done a surgical removal of the canker, which was still at an early phase of growth when discovered. For this I used an axe, then hammer and chisel to excavate the infected tissue, then I used a propane blow torch to cauterize the wound. This tree still has a small infection and will require some additional surgery, but the majority of the surgery appears to have worked to clear the tissue of the canker, and the tree is already healing over much of the wound. I predict that this oak will live for many decades, and if you hang around here I’ll keep showing you the photos of its recovery.

Finally, let me remind all you tree lovers that these techniques work on many kinds of trees. Here’s an example of what can be done for sick pines:

Interested? We’d love to hear from you!

New study of Appalachian forest fire history

9 09 2011

A new study of tree rings and fire scars by Charles Lafon, associate professor of geography at Texas A&M University, describes the fire history of forests of the southern and central Appalachian Mountains. His findings are consistent with and relevant to the forest dynamics in California, and provide support the use of fire mimicry methods in mitigating forest decline.

Fire-scarred oak in Santa Barbara. Photo by Lee Klinger.

Here are some excerpts from the Science Daily report:

“We know that Indians often set fires to clear areas”

“Many tree species that inhabit fire-prone areas have thick, protective bark,” he points out. “Some trees depend on fires for their own reproduction. One such tree is the Table Mountain Pine. Through a feature called serotiny, its cones often will not open to release the seeds unless they are heated by a fire, ensuring that the new seedlings emerge at an optimal time to survive and grow — right after a fire has cleared away the competing vegetation.”

“The decline in fire frequency during the 20th century, for example, permitted tree species like red maple to encroach into pine and oak forests. Now the pines, oaks and other fire-associated species like the Peters Mountain mallow are declining in abundance”

Read the entire article here.

Note the similarity of these results to those from the study of oak forests from the Upper Midwest reported here.