Upcoming talk – “The cultural modification of trees and forests by California’s Native Peoples”

4 11 2017
CMT madrone

Culturally modified madrone tree in Big Sur, CA

In January 2018 I will be giving a talk “The cultural modification of trees and forests by California’s Native Peoples“, co-sponsored by the Sempervirens Fund and REI. Details of the talk are here. The talk is free but you will need to sign up through Eventbrite. Hope to see you there!


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 »

Variable one-year responses of birch, apple, and pine trees to fire mimicry

28 07 2016


Shown here are several birch, apple, and pine trees that were treated last year with fire mimicry. Telling from the photos it appears that the birch trees have response moderately, and the apple trees have responded significantly! The pine trees have yet to show much response. This seems to be typical of pines, which can take several years before showing visible responses (seeĀ  here and here).


Slide3 Read the rest of this entry »

Pine, oak, and ironwood trees in Big Sur responding nicely after a decade of fire mimicry

20 07 2016

What is fire mimicry?

pine B



Ponderosa pines responding to fire mimicry

10 04 2016

There is a small grove of ponderosa pines up in Sonoma county being tended with fire mimicry techniques. I’ve been tracking their progress for 6 years and, while slow to respond initially, they are now showing noticeable improvement in canopy density. All the pines below have been treated EXCEPT for the last pine.


Slide23 Read the rest of this entry »

California oak, pine, and toyon trees responding to fire mimicry

4 05 2015


Here are some assorted results on oaks, pines, and one toyon tree that I collected over the past two weeks. All have been treated with fire mimicry. As you can see some trees are responding better than others. Some of the trees here are showing only a slight improvement in canopy size and density. But results are results, so here they are. Fortunately, I found no infections of sudden oak death disease in any of the oaks here.

Slide12 Read the rest of this entry »

Reflections on “Tending the Wild” workshop at OAEC

8 07 2013
Acorn. Photo by Kat Steele.

Acorn. Photo by Kat Steele.

When people don’t use plants they get scarce. You must use them so they come up again. All plants are like that. If they’re not gathered from, or talked to, or cared about, they’ll die.

– Mabel McKay, Pomo Elder, quoted from News From Native California

Last week I attended a remarkable 3-day workshop at Occidental Arts and Ecology Center (OAEC) called “Tending the Wild”. It was organized by my friend and colleague Lindsay Dailey, who is the Associate Director of the Wildlands Program at OAEC. For the past few years Lindsay has been training and working with me in the use of fire mimicry techniques in oak woodland restoration. I have found her to be a serious student and practitioner of traditional ecological approaches in land care.

The workshop drew together an amazing group of teachers and elders speaking on the topic of wildland tending by the Californian native people. The first day was led by M. Kat Anderson, PhD, author of the book “Tending the Wild“. Her thesis is that the richness and abundance of the historical ecosystems in California were largely the result of thousands of years of tending by the native people, primarily through the wise use of fire in burning the land to improve soil fertility and promote plant production/regeneration. In answer to the question: “Why are plants and animals disappearing?”, her response is: “Because we no longer have a relationship with them.” Read the rest of this entry »