I will never forget the first time I killed a tree. It was a warm January morning, and my forehead was sweating under my orange hardhat. I pulled the starter rope of my chainsaw, lifted the roaring silver blade, and sliced through a small Douglas fir. The tree barely made a sound as it fell.
With sawdust and the smell of fresh resin filling the air, I turned toward another fir and paused, wishing I knew a ritual to make its death easier. Within minutes, bits and pieces of seven trees lay strewn around me. I separated limbs from trunks and stacked them, hoping that orderly piles of firewood might alleviate my guilt.
I live in coastal Sonoma County, California, where Douglas firs grow faster than most other native trees, eventually shading oaks from sun and often killing them. The trees near my cabin are valley oaks, the largest of American oaks, found only in California. Each of them can live up to 600 years and will drop as many as 3 million acorns during its lifetime, making valley oaks the most important source of food and shelter for wildlife. I w... Read more