Monday, April 6, 2015


     We're in new territory now. California is in the fourth year of a drought and experts say the state has never been drier, though that may not be true. It's problematic.
      The tree above is a neighbor, one of many Monterey Pines in this area's unique pine forest, one of three natural such forests. I'm worried about the tree and many of its kindred.
     The drought has exacerbated other problems and some predict a mortality rate of 40-80% of the forest. When trees die and suffer so does the abundant wild life in the area.
      We've shared the ridge with this tree and a few that have died and thinned the copse. We've watched a marvelous cycle of life now in peril. 
      First we hear the plaintive cry of a young hawk, then in time we watch flying lessons and still later we watch the aerial combat of hawks and families of crows who have also lived here for generations. Wild turkeys seek refuge in the shade, bob cats, fox, deer and many species of birds roam or roost here. Skunk, raccoons and squirrels are here. Mushrooms spring in the under thicket, wild flowers patch their way into and share the sun. When an old tree goes, life changes in profound ways.
      This blue planet is in the midst of changes and so it has always been. Woodworkers and scientists tell us areas of California have endured droughts that extended decades. Decades! Historians have written of extended droughts that ended eras of cattle ranching. There is a theory the last 100 years have been the anomaly, wetter than normal. 
      We are all in this mystery together and largely we are powerless. We can respond and we have. People of our village have reduced water use by as much as 45%. A newly built system uses waste and brackish water to supply a percentage of our needed supply.
      Meteorologists discuss a Pacific Decadal Oscillation, intense high pressure and variations in the jet stream though, regardless of cause, we live with uncertainty. In our time on the ridge we've seen 37 inches of rain in a season and as low as 8. The last four have been the driest and that brings us again to our trees. 
      It has become necessary to thin the forest of dead trees, to reduce danger. Problems; how to get it done, how to pay for it, what to do with the old wood? Citizens, elected representatives and a variety of experts are in a kind of scrum to chart a course of action.  
     California Governor Brown has renewed the water restrictions and serious people are asking even more serious questions about what this means to California's agriculture, which feeds the nation. Many look to the Pacific and see what could be a water supply, but not without cost and process and politics.
     The good citizens of this marvelous and vast state move toward a future with unmeasured dimensions and uncertain challenges. This is a state of enjoyment where so much of life is lived outside, where the light is vivid and saturated like the colors, aromas and flavors of diversity. These are people who have built technology empires, entertainments and lifestyles where relaxation, kicking back, hanging out bespeak attitudes and spirit.  But it's a new time. Changes are coming.
      Our approach to forest management is likely one of those changes.  Neglect and inattention did not create the problem, but they did not help.  Earlier cutting, thinning, better stewardship and management would have dialed back the fire danger.
      In our village a forest management plan was written years ago, agreed to by levels of government and regulatory agencies, but it has never been funded.  Shame on us!  It is too late for too many trees. I hope my neighbor will survive and I hope we may learn in the uncertain future that we all have a stake in every aspect life on this blue marble.
      Pollution in China, nuclear radiation in Japan, overwatered golf courses in the desert, neglected forest management, toxic waste in rivers, whirlpools of plastic in the oceans, chemicals on lawns, lack of conservation, and on and on, are all ultimately local issues in every community and threatening problems to all life. They respect no boundaries.
   We are all in this together.

    See you down the trail.


  1. Bad times for the Golden State.

  2. In a former occupation I was a xmas tree farmer. We grew Monterey Pines cause they grew fast and looked nice. If you truly have a forest of Monterey Pines in Cambria I can tell you this; they grow fast and if not watered they die fast. So if they do die plant new ones and in a few years you will look good again sooner than you think.

  3. It seems clear that California was not designed to accommodate 40 million people. The earth is very old, and is just now beginning to respond to the infestation of disrespectful humans trashing it. It remains to be seen if we can come together as a species to save ourselves and the only home available to us.

  4. As you pointed out, it's not just California that's experiencing the changes. Islands in the Pacific are facing rising water, China has drought that may be worse than CA's, on and on. The time to act, as in prevention, is likely past. Now it's react, as best we can. It's odd, that even with all the evidence, our gov't (congress) continues to defund regulatory agencies that are directly trying to help. The congress the US has elected. Hoist on our own petard, so to speak.

  5. You have my sympathies. Even here in Minnesota, we're starting to feel the effects of drought. As others have said, it's high time to do something about the mismanagement of the planet.