It’s about Flammable Homes, not forests

Here’s how to respond to those misleading posts claiming our recent fires are all about tree huggers preventing logging and a supposed fuel build up via past fire suppression.

1. Most of California’s most devastating fires were far from any forest (see map below).

2. For those few devastating fires that were near forests, most if not all of those forests around the communities destroyed had the kind of suggested thinning and fuel treatments misinformed commentators claim didn’t exist.

3. The majority of the area burned during the Camp Fire before it hit the town of Paradise had burned 10 years ago and was composed of habitats other than forest (e.g. post fire shrublands). The wind-driven ember rain that ignited the town came primarily from these 10-year-old sparse to dense shrublands, grasslands, areas damaged from salvage logging, and young tree plantations northeast of the town. A large percentage of the trees within the devastated town did not burn. See the fire progression map here and match it with the current view on Google Earth.

The Los Angeles Times discussed the science behind the fire’s path.

Here is an excellent map of the fire from the New York Times.

4. Climate change is drying the state. Dryer conditions lead to a more flammable landscape. We may also see more of the kind of winds that powered the Camp Fire into Paradise.

“The major factor is climate change across the west. Regardless of fuels management, we just wouldn’t be burning like this, especially in Northern California, in a normal year.”
– Dr. Leroy Westerling, UC Merced

More fires will dramatically alter the kinds of habitats we are used to seeing. Highly flammable, non-native weed-filled landscapes that dominate places like Riverside County will likely become more common. More on this issue here.

Tree Mortality 14 Final

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Rediscovering our true, wild selves through Nature

Carl Jung, the founder of analytical psychology, was once asked about the future of our species.
“Are we going to make it?”
“Yes,” he answered, “if enough people do the inner work.”

Jung’s answer is providing the guidance for the Chaparral Institute’s new vision – Rediscovering our true, wild selves through Nature.

Jake chasing butterflies III

Reestablishing our intimate connection with the natural world can provide a path toward helping all of us create a more meaningful existence, which in turn will heal the wounds that cause so many to treat Nature (and each other) with malice. While the intellect is important in assembling facts and discussing shared ideas, it fails miserably when we seek to replace destructive behavior with understanding.
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Fighting Argentine Ants – killers of California natives and the scourge of the kitchen

If you live anywhere in a suburban area, you have encountered the plague of Argentine ants (Linepithema humile), those little brown irritants that crawl up your leg while reading a book outside, cover your kitchen counters with massive troop movements, wipe out native harvester ant colonies (which are the primary food of our native horned lizards), and have now been revealed as possibly one of the key predators of California native plants.

Evil, non-native brown Argentine ants attacking our native harvester ant. Photo from the Scratching Post Blog.

These little buggers appear do their dirty work by forming colonies near or around the base of their victim, collecting sucking insects like scales from the surface and placing them on the roots (they use these plant sucking creatures for the sweet “honeydew” fluids they excrete), and possibly spreading pathogens to the plant. How do you know if your native plant has been attacked? The lead symptom it typically death. Suddenly, the leaves start to look sick and limp. By the end of the week the leaves are drying out and beginning their journey to various shades of morbid brown.

Here at the Chaparral Institute garden we have lost a number of plants suddenly – a huge flannel bush (Fremontodendron californicum),  a gorgeous white bark ceanothus (Ceanothus leucodermis), and three beautiful Catalina ironwood trees (Lyonothamnus floribundus). Fortunately, we still have one ironwood left. But around the end of August it was looking sick. By early September the leaves were brown.

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