A troubling story of the devastating and compounding effects of climate change in the Western and Rocky Mountain states, told through in-depth reportage and conversations with ecologists, professional forest managers, park service scientists, burn bosses, activists, and more.
Climate change manifests in many ways across America, but few as dramatic as the attacks on our western pine forests. In Trees in Trouble, Daniel Mathews tells the urgent story of this loss, accompanying burn crews and forest ecologists as they study the myriad risk factors and refine techniques for improving forest health and saving this important, limited resource.
Mathews transports the reader from the exquisitely aromatic haze of ponderosa and Jeffrey pine groves to the fantastic gnarls and whorls of five-thousand-year-old bristlecone pines, from genetic test nurseries where white pine seedlings are deliberately infected with their mortal enemy to the desertlike expanses at the heart of the hottest megafire sites and neighborhoods leveled by fire tornadoes or ember blizzards.
Highly personal and scrupulously researched, Trees in Trouble explores not only the compounding effects of climate change, but also introduces us to the people devoting their lives to saving our forests. Mathews also offers hope: A new approach to managing western pine forests is underway. But in order for our forests to adapt, this approach needs a wider understanding and bipartisan political support. Trees in Trouble explores how we might succeed in sustaining our forests through the challenging transition to a new environment.
Daniel Mathews is the author of Natural History of the Pacific Northwest Mountains, Rocky Mountain Natural History, and Cascade-Olympic Natural History. During a career of learning and writing about the natural history of western North America, he has backpacked far and wide, watched for fires from Desolation Peak Lookout, watched a forty-foot fir crash onto his family's house in a storm, and lived for years in a forest cabin without electricity, heating with firewood and writing by kerosene lamp. He lives in Portland, Oregon.
"The appeal of Mathews' evaluation of these valuable conifer forests may skew slightly to the more scientifically minded reader, yet his deeply personal connection to the land and its majestic trees makes this equally suitable for any tree lover and everyone concerned about the state of the planet."
"A walk in the woods with an environmental journalist and natural-history writer reveals that the forested world is in grave danger [...] His book sounds a timely warning to pay more heed to the health of the woodlands. Thoughtful environmental reportage suggesting that the fate of trees is the fate of all life."
– Kirkus Reviews
"Natural historian Mathews vividly relates the complex environmental situation facing America's western pine forests in this fascinating account [...] Eco-conscious readers, even those unversed in this seemingly niche subject, will be intrigued and enlightened by Mathews's thoughtful work."
– Publishers Weekly
"Lays out challenges facing today's pine forests that inspire new respect for their strength and resilience-and for the dilemma they're in."
– Amy Wang, The Oregonian
"Trees in Trouble, the work of a self-avowed tree lover, is no environmentalist screed. Daniel Mathews has written a comprehensive, deeply informed, and personally anguished call of alarm about the great conifer forests of the dry American West. He takes you to the sites around the region where scientists have been collecting data and building a grave prognosis: some major forests are dead, some dying, many in danger. The fires grow more intense every year. Yes, global warming has a hand in it, but the tragically misguided management practices of the twentieth century bear most of the blame. There is hope, says Mathews – you can't hang out with old trees and not feel hope – but the strong medicine our forests need will not please aesthetes or wilderness purists. It involves preempting fierce fires with cooler ones and considerable work with chain saws. Trees in Trouble is crucial reading for anyone who cares about the Mountain West."
– John Daniel, author of The Trail Home and Rogue River Journal