EXPLORING THE BURN Obi Kaufmann, naturalist, artist and author, will explore Big Basin on Nov. 17. — contributed

EXPLORING THE BURN Obi Kaufmann, naturalist, artist and author, will explore Big Basin on Nov. 17. — contributed


California author and naturalist Obi Kaufmann will host a virtual walkthrough of a burned area of Big Basin on Nov. 17, sharing his perspective on the historic State Park’s recovery from the CZU Lightning Complex fires.

On the coattails of his latest publication, The Forests of California, Kaufmann said he will explore “right outside the park, in land owned by the Sempervirens Fund.” The artist and author will spend most of his time in a “crown burn,” where fire torched from the forest floor up to the canopy.

“It’ll be hard hat required, as ongoing death is still occurring,” he said. 

As Kaufmann has yet to return to Big Basin since the fire, he expects to work through many emotions throughout the tour, but he said he will advocate for the silver lining.

“We’ll work through emotions together as we dig through the grey to find green,” he said. “The CZU fire can be thought of as calamitous, but every point of despair has a moment of hope. As a student of ecology, looking with a historical perspective, this is a turning point for Big Basin. We have a great opportunity to reimagine this forest. We can actively steward and make it more climate resistant, with adaptive management strategies to reset and restore the habitat. It’s going to look different, but it’ll be healthier.”

The CZU fires burned more than 80,000 acres in total over Santa Cruz and San Mateo counties and Big Basin endured much of the brunt. The oldest California State Park, at 118 years, lost many historic buildings, such as the park headquarters, lodge, ranger station, nature museum and store.

Throughout the hour-and-a-half-long session, Kaufmann said he will delve into the specifics of the Big Basin ecosystem and “the bigger picture of our relationship with fire as Californians.”

“We need to realize that fire is a tool and part of a complex, healthy ecosystem,” he said.

An “informed citizenry” is another tool Kaufmann said he wants to utilize.

“Humans protect what they love and humans love what they understand,” he said. “This is an opportunity, not a challenge, for us to learn.”

Ultimately, Kaufmann said his hope for Big Basin mirrors his thoughts on the valleys.

“What a resilient and amazing human community you have,” he said. “Let’s do our best to protect it.” 

Register for the tour at www.wildboundlive.com/events/obiredwoods. Kaufmann’s latest novel, The Forests of California, is out now.  

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