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Naturalist Obi Kaufmann to host virtual walking tour of burned forest

Justin Scacco
Special to The Union
Oakland writer and naturalist Obi Kaufmann will host a virtual walk through a burned forest on Friday, Sept. 25.
Courtesy of Pete Rosos

As historic wildfires continue to burn across much of California, Oakland writer and naturalist Obi Kaufmann is hoping to shed light on fire ecology and fire history by hosting a virtual walk through a burned forest in the Sierra that is in the midst of recovery from a fire a few years ago.

On Friday, Sept. 25, Kaufmann and a small crew will take viewers on a live tour of a burned out area, while offering his perspective on the history of fire in California while discussing fire behavior and other aspects of climate and human development.

“Throughout the walk, I’ll be balancing my presentation between an analysis of fire ecology with a cursory survey of fire-history in California and what fire means to our ever-evolving identity as Californians in the 21st century — a history that includes so many wrong, bad and terrible policy-truths that needed to be reckoned with, from ecological naivety to outright colonialist violence,” said Kaufmann.

The walk will serve as part of a virtual book tour for Kaufmann, who released his third book, “The Forests of California,” on Sept. 8.

The location of the walk has yet to be determined said Kaufmann, but will likely be somewhere on the west side of the Pacific Crest Trail or in the eastern Sierra. During the walk, which is being sponsored by the Shane McConkey Foundation, Sierra State Parks, and Word After Word Books, Kaufmann said he’ll review three tiers of fire at scale across the landscape, including flame, fire behavior, and fire regime — the general pattern in which fires naturally occur in a particular ecosystem over an extended period of time.

Through the walk Kaufmann said he hopes to showcase a unique environment and how it’s recovering from wildfire while also advocating for forest stewardship.

“The real value, the real gold in the California mountains is not the pretty rock that guy found in the river by our state’s capital, but the biodiversity, the intact habitat network that has a very different and unique relationship to fire that involves not only adaptability to it but dependency on it in regularized, normalized fire regimes,” added Kaufmann.

“What I’m very encouraged by is that fire ecology is in the popular mind as it has never been before, and there’s no sign that’s going to go away. California’s calamitous conflagration is of this year, of last year, of 2018, of 2017, and then looking forward 2021, 2022, perhaps for decades to come we’ll be dealing with fire in a way that we haven’t since American settlers. It will define so many aspects of our relationship to this wonderful resource mosaic that is California’s arboreal world.”

The hike will conclude with a live question and answer session hosted by local skier Amie Engerbretson.

Tickets to the virtual event, Walk with Obi: Burned Forests of the Sierra, available at http://www.walkwithobi.eventbrite.com. Cost for the event ranges from $10 for general admission up to $145 for the event and Kauffman’s three books.

Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun, a sister publication of The Union. Contact him at jscacco@sierrasun.com or 530-550-2643.


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