Images from the Spring 2022 Fire Mimicry and TEK workshop at Indian Canyon

16 05 2022
Opening circle

This past weekend Sudden Oak Life, EcoCamp Coyote, and Indian Canyon Nation joined efforts to choreograph the second FIre Mimicry and TEK workshop. This hands on 3-day event was attended by over 30 enthusiastic participants who took a deep dive into the ecology of fire and the practice of fire mimicry in the context of Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK). Our host and teacher of Indigenous knowledge was Kanyon Sayers-Roods (Mutsun Ohlone). Here are various images from the workshop. If you missed this event, please come to our Fall 2022 FIre Mimicry and TEK workshop at Indian Canyon in November.

An Ancestor oak at Indian Canyon treated with fire mimicry at the workshop
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Sudden Oak Life event Spring 2022: Fire Mimicry and TEK at Indian Canyon (May 13-15)

11 03 2022

Indian Canyon Nation, EcoCamp Coyote, and Sudden Oak Life are collaborating again on an upcoming 3-day intensive workshop titled “Fire Mimicry and Traditional Ecological Knowledge” being held at Indian Canyon May 13-15, 2022. This event will feature Kanyon Sayers-Roods (Indian Canyon Nation, Mutsun Ohlone), Tom “Little Bear” Nason (Tribal Chairman of the Esselen Tribe of Monterey County), Leo Lauchere (EcoCamp Coyote), and Lee Klinger (Sudden Oak Life). Here are some of the topics we will cover:

• How this restoration work supports and is informed by indigenous cultures and traditions

• Explore right-relationship with the land and its people

• History and shared lineages of the Esselen and Mutsun Ohlone People

• Modern cultural tending and management of Central Coast forests

• Identifying culturally modified trees and landscapes

• The science and practice of fire mimicry

• Demonstration of stem canker surgical procedure

This is a rare event and should not be missed by anyone passionate about tending oaks and other native trees. More information and registration for the event are here.

Responses of Big Sur oaks to fire mimicry followed by wildfire

25 02 2022

In February of 2019 I began photo documentation of 21 coast live oaks in Big Sur, CA. At least six of these appear to be “Ancestor” oaks, culturally-modified by the Esselen Indians via pollarding of their canopies. All oaks were initially treated with a fire mimicry protocol (clearing, pruning, moss/lichen removal, soil fertilization, & limewash), with the intention that this work would improve the survival rates of the oaks, whether or not a wildfire occurred. The first year results were About photo documented in February 2020. In August 2020 a severe wildfire was ignited in the area and burned through all the groves of the treated oaks.

Yesterday I was finally able to access the site to observe and photo document the findings. Both wooden structures on the property were lost, as were two treated oaks that grew adjacent to them. However, of the 21 oaks initially surveyed, 17 survived the fire, a survival rate of just over 80%. Four of the six “Ancestor” oaks also survived. More than 75% of the oaks showed noticeable signs of improvement in canopy lushness following fire mimicry. A year and a half after the wildfire, 6 of the surviving oaks continue to show signs of heavy fire damage in their canopies. However, 11 (or just over 50%) of the surviving oaks are showing significant improvement of their canopy health following the wildfire.

These are exciting results (see photos below) and show to me that fire mimicry treatments can provide considerable benefit to survivability and health of oaks and other trees in the event of a wildfire.

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Video recording of “Forest restoration theory and practice based on Indigenous cultural tending”

17 11 2020

Here a Youtube video of my recent lecture and discussion in the course FORESTS, hosted by the Humanities Center of Texas Tech University. Many thanks to Bruce Clarke and Michael Borshuk for facilitating this talk!

Upcoming zoom lecture (Thursday, Nov. 12) – “Forest restoration theory and practice based on Indigenous cultural tending”

7 11 2020

This Thursday, November 12, (5:30 pm Pacific Time) I will be conducting a zoom lecture and discussion for the online course FORESTS, hosted by Texas Tech University, on the topic of “Forest Restoration Theory and Practice Based on Indigenous Cultural Tending”. The points I will be addressing are: Gaia theory, ecological succession, fire ecology of California, evidence of cultural modification of trees and landscapes, and approaches to forest restoration. The lecture is open to all, just be sure to register beforehand. Follow the embedded link to register.

Tom “Little Bear” Nason, Esselen Elder, on the history of fire management in Big Sur

20 09 2020

I live on Esselen tribal land. The name “Esselen” is derived from the word Ex’xien, or “the rock”, assumed by many to be Point Sur (pictured above). Several years ago I met an Esselen tribal elder named Little Bear at a meeting of the Four Winds Council in Big Sur, CA. I have since joined him in sweat lodge ceremonies and jaunts into sacred redwood groves. His perspectives have fascinated me over the years I have known him.

With his permission I am reposting below a recent series of photos and commentaries by Little Bear on the history of land management here in Big Sur. Please pay attention!

Tom “Little Bear” Nason, September 20, 2020:

“My Great Grandfather Fred P Nason with guests in Pine Valley, Los Padres National Forest in 1940s. Our family has lived, loved and shared this sacred lands for over many generations and we always will forever.Our family has been practicing traditional native indigenous Esselen tribal burning of this valley up until 1970s. Government said STOP BURNING!! My Forefathers all told them that by ordering ceasing off these lands it would begin a dangerous situation by allowing the brush and scrub to grow out control and the forests would become choked off and when a natural force like lighting comes it would cause the lower brush to burn at high heat and kill the trees. In this photo you see many big ponderosa pine trees and open meadows surrounding them. As Natives of this lands we knew how to manage our lands and the forests. Since 1940s, we’ve had many wildfires come thru the Santa Lucia Mountains and some were good for the land and most have been extremely damaging. I will start posting more pictures and stories about how my family and tribe have seen our beloved and sacred places here in Big Sur changing so much due to imbalance and the deep sadness for losing so many of the old trees. We need change and it’s very challenging for all us to live with so many fires so frequently!! Prayers and Respect to all who listen to Mother Nature🙏🏽🌀🌏🌲🐻🙏🏽 Tom Little Bear Nason September 20th, 2020 Last Day of Summer🌞 Praying for Early Rains🌧

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California’s big trees tell a story of overcrowding …

17 08 2020

I recently went on a several week journey to further investigate the big trees of California. Within the past month I have visited Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Park, Sequoia National Forest, Sierra National Forest, Redwood National Park, and various northern California state parks. Simply put, there is an overcrowding problem, but not of tourists.


Above is a giant sequoia surrounded by dozens of younger trees, all of which are competing for the same resources as this ancient tree, In previous centuries, these younger trees would have been removed by fires set by the local California natives.


Fallen giant sequoias from paludification, along with over competition.

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Lovelock Centenary talk by Lee Klinger recorded on July 31, 2019

7 09 2019

Here is my presentation “Indigenous-based forest management: Looking to the past for a way forward” at the recent Lovelock Centenary conference at the University of Exeter, UK

My talk begins at 59:38 and ends at 117:00. Enjoy!


Living with fire: The fire ecology of the Central Coast

28 11 2018

On Thursday, December 6, 2018 I’ll be presenting and discussing the fire ecology of the Central Coast at the Santa Cruz Public Library (224 Church St.) starting at 6:30 pm. Topics will include the California native people’s use of fire in land management, modern fire regimes, fire mimicry, and the role of climate change. For more information on this free event see:

Big Sur 2008 fire

Fire mimicry reverses decline in coast redwoods

30 09 2018


As I’ve discussed  previously (here), coast redwoods in many areas are showing symptoms of dieback, typically beginning towards the top and progressing downward. Drought and disease have been implicated in the redwood decline, but the true cause remains elusive. I suspect the decline is ultimately related to the altered fire ecology.

In October 2016 I applied fire mimicry treatments to a grove of coast redwoods in Alamo, CA that were in decline. Here are the results after two years.

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