Major stem canker surgery on an ancient coast live oak in Big Sur

21 09 2021

Today I performed a major stem canker surgery in an effort to save an Esselen-era (400+ years old) coast live oak in Big Sur. The process involved large and small axe work, power multi-tools, cauterization, and poultice. This is part of a larger protocol called fire mimicry, which includes removal of woody understory, fertilization of soils with alkaline-rich minerals + compost tea, and application of limewash to the trunk. Here’s the link to a time-lapse video of today’s surgery: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pEISFdAErc4





Ancient Miwok-era oak and other trees in Novato, CA respond to fire mimicry

6 03 2021

The coast live oak above is about 5 feet in diameter and clearly dates from a time when the Coast Miwok Indians tended the land. The oak has obvious signs of being pollarded, with numerous lateral boles growing outward from a point about 4 feet above the base of the trunk. I suspect this tree is around 500 years old.

Two years ago we treated this oak and neighboring trees with fire mimicry, which involved clearing brush, pruning, removing moss and lichens from the base, fertilizing the soils, and applying a imewash to the trunk. Last year I returned to fertilize the soils again, reapply the limewash, and to surgically remove a stem canker infection (probably Sudden Oak Death) from the trunk of the large oak above. A few days ago I inspected the trees and found significant improvement in their health after only two years! Keep in mind that this past year this region has been in a significant drought. Seems these trees have something to say about taking an ecological/cultural approach to their care …

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Grandmother oak 4-year update

5 03 2021

Fours years ago we began fire mimicry treatments on an ancient, Ohlone-era coast live oak near Loma Mar, CA. Affectionately called Grandmother oak by the owners, she measures 17′ 8″ in circumference and is likely more than 500 years old. We started by clearing away the woody understory, removing nearby young firs and bays, and pruning off the dead lower limbs. Then we fertilized with compost tea and alkaline-rich minerals, and applied a limewash to the trunk. We repeated the fertilization treatments for two additional years. Above and below are photos showing how Grandmother oak has responded to care we gave her. She sure seems happier and more vibrant to me!





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!





Fire mimicry results with oaks in Novato, CA

2 11 2020

The above coast live oak is a ~500 year old coast live oak that was clearly pollarded by resident Coast Miwok people. I recently inspected this and several other coast live oaks treated with fire mimicry in February of 2019. Due to the difference in time of year of the photos these results are not exact comparisons. Still, significant improvement in canopy density and lushness is apparent in all the oaks, except for the untreated (control) oak shown in the final image.

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A lecture on my latest results – Texas Tech University online course: “Forests”

21 09 2020

This Fall 2020 I will be lecturing 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 speaker list is excellent and I plan to participate on all of the lectures and discussions.





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 NatureπŸ™πŸ½πŸŒ€πŸŒπŸŒ²πŸ»πŸ™πŸ½ 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.

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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.

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Fallen giant sequoias from paludification, along with over competition.

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Fire Mimicry Step 1 – Clearing, thinning, and pruning

27 05 2020

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The iconic oak woodlands of California are the result of thousands of years of tending by the various native tribes. They put fire to the land regularly, in places every year or two, to create open, park-like conditions under which the oaks and other keystone species could thrive. As the native people were forced from their lands by western settlers the healthy ground fires that sustained the oaks ended. Now our oak woodlands have become overgrown by shrubs and small trees, and dead wood has piled up on the forest floor. The soils have become acidified and mosses and lichens have built up to unhealthy levels.

While cultural burning is still happening in a few places, most of the oak woodlands can no longer be burned due to the heavy buildup of fuel. The only hope to save these ecosystems is to introduce fire mimicry.

These past few days I have been implementing the first steps of fire mimicry on an ancient Ohlone Costanoan oak woodland in Aptos, California. This involves clearing most of the woody understory (including literally tons of poison oak), thinning young trees, removing dead and dying trees, and pruning the lower branches of the mature oaks. These photos show the progress after only two days of work with a hardy crew of four. We also started to amend the soils with compost tea and alkaline-rich fertilizers, and apply a limewash to trunks to control the mosses and lichens. Stay tuned …

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Grandmother oak, year 3

9 03 2020

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Three years ago I began fire mimicry treatments on an ancient coast live oak (estimated at over 500 years old) in Loma Mar, CA that shows clear signs of being pollarded and otherwise tended by the Costanoan Ohlone native people. As reported in a previous post on Grandmother oak, the massive tree was heavily overgrown with young bay laurel and Douglas fir trees under and around the canopy. Several of the limbs were dying and the canopy was thin and sickly. We cleared away the young trees, pruned some of the lower branches, removed the mosses and lichens from the trunk, fertilized the soils with compost tea and alkaline-rich minerals, and applied a limewash to the main trunk. The photo sets above and below show how well this oak has responded to the renewed care. Enjoy!

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