Note from David Milarch: “The gut feeling I had about our forests when I started Champion Tree Project all those years ago, and then Archangel Ancient Tree Archive more recently was that we needed to move fast to save our forests. Man-made threats are placing tremendous pressure on the survival of not just the trees, but on people, too. This new photo essay from BuzzFeed is an example of why Archangel is so vital to the survival of California’s trees. I wanted to share this with you so you can see what keeps us motivated to act. Please join the fight.“
John Muir, naturalist and cofounder of the Sierra Club, wrote of the forests in the Sierra Nevada, “Going to the woods is going home.” Unfortunately, since 2014 that home has seen unprecedented levels of tree mortality with as many as 129 million trees across 8.9 million acres lost. Where once stood a lush, green forest, there are now trees turning yellow and brown. The alarmingly accelerated pace of their death has been linked to the stress caused by climate change, more specifically increased temperatures, years of severe drought, and an unhealthy overgrowth due to years of fire suppression, which led to a significant spike in bark beetle infestations.
Photographer Mette Lampcov spent three days in November 2017 in California documenting the Sierra National Forest’s dead trees, as well as the homeowners forced to reckon with their dying surroundings. According to the US Forest Service’s 2017 Tree Mortality Aerial Detection Survey results, the Sierra National Forest has seen the largest number of tree deaths in California national forests, with nearly 32 million since 2010. The change in landscape was immediately noticeable, said Lampcov: “As you drive up a steep road heading into the Sierras, you start seeing the dead trees. It’s overwhelming and hard to explain what endless views over mountains look like with a sea of brown and yellowing trees. The area is so affected by dead trees; you smell fires and hear chainsaws all day long. Everywhere you look there are dead trees.”