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Muir Woods, California

by Community Forests International on February 19, 2010

“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.”  -  John Muir

Redwoods at Muir Woods

Redwoods in Muir Woods

It’s hard to believe that the quote above was written over a century ago. Muir is the grandfather of modern environmentalism and helped influence the policy that led for the transfer of ecologically sensitive land from state to national control, building the American National Park system. As a well-respected writer, explorer and scientist, Muir gained the ear of his day’s leading intellectuals, including president Theodore Roosevelt, one of the first presidents to put conservation on the national agenda. Muir has been credited with the protection of Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks and co-founded the Sierra Club.

Redwoods stretch to the high canopy

Redwoods stretch to the high canopy

At the turn of the 1900’s, John Muir befriended Gifford Pinchot, the first head of the United States Forest Service. Initially this friendship offered the key to a future of sustainable and responsible forestland use. But as the years passed, the two intellectuals began to quarrel and used many leading journals and publications as a stage for their fight. Although Pinchot held the natural environment in high revere, he believed that ultimately nature was a resource for human use. Through his post with the United States Forest Service, he made national forest reserves available for private interest and development, a divergence from Muir that led to a duality maintained by many North Americans regarding natural resources and nature conservation today.

On Tuesday I walked through Muir Woods, just outside of San Francisco while working with CFI’s tech team on a new organization we’re founding called Envaya. While standing under the planet's tallest tree species, in one of few pockets of these old-growth giants left, I understood what John Muir meant about a return to home. The air, the breath, the constant murmurs of, “this is amazing” heard along the trail provided a backdrop of collective wonder - a sharp contrast to Silicon Valley, an hour away, where humans have built the technology capable of moving humanity further away from nature than ever before. Many of the redwoods were charred from fire, a testament to the lack of resin in their stringy bark, which makes the redwood highly resistant to fire. An important lesson given the forest fire endemic in California, where much of the old growth redwood forests have been cut down at least once since 1850. Why do we as humans constantly work to simplify our forests and our natural resources? It’s time we reexamine the divide between conservation and consumption.

Charred Bases of the Redwood Demonstrates Fire Resistent Nature

Charred Bases of the Redwood Demonstrates Fire Resistent Nature

Since starting the Pemba Trees project in 2006, Community Forests International has grown into an organization committed to connecting communities to the forestlands that sustain all human life. Nestled between parklands and a clear-cut, Community Forests International believes in the alternative. As modern humans, we have evolved with nature since first appearing on the planet 200,000 years ago, but have recently made the environment hostile towards our species due to the mistreatment of the forests that feed us, the water that we drink, and the air that we breath.

This summer Community Forests International hopes to offer a course in New Brunswick, Canada based around the principals of conservation forestry, also known as ecoforestry, restoration forestry or analog forestry. Although the name may change, the idea is the same – we must work to make conservation a product of our consumption. Harvest a tree to help a forest, mill a log to leave a legacy and manage our forests to conserve the world’s working lands. While walking through a small patch of redwood forests it’s easy to dream of a future where change is positive, and where people everywhere can share the experience of coming home. If your interested in conservation forestry check out Ecoforestry, Wild Foresting or Restoring the Acadian Forest, or contact us to find out more about our summer programming.

CFI's Wizard Tech Team and Executive Director

CFI's Wizard Tech Team and Executive Director

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