The Forest Recovery Project documents the natural recovery of the Angeles National
Forest from the Station Fire in color images. An effort that began as the embers cooled
in the autumn of 2009, the Forest Recovery Project blurs the boundaries of art and
science, blending modern forestry theory and indigenous wisdom with the goal of
restoring a bit of our understanding of the natural world that we have lost by becoming
Fire is an integral part of the long term health of natural ecosystems. It can be
suppressed for long periods of time, but not forever. When fire returns to a region from
which it has been suppressed, it can be catastrophic, fed by fifty, sixty or a hundred
years of fuel build-up. In the wake of the Station Fire, the largest in the history of Los
Angeles County, recovery began as soon as the ground cooled. In order to allow the
natural recovery to take place, many areas were closed to the public, so most people
were unaware of the vigorous rebound of life. The Forest Recovery Project chronicles
The Forest Recovery Project is more than a collection of images. In the process of
documenting the forest's recovery, important discoveries and observations were made,
particularly with regard to the critical role of the fire follower known as Poodle Dog Bush.
This poisonous plant had little more than a bad reputation, but it is in fact a vital
companion plant to conifer seedlings and has a less understood relationship with oak
tree species. Much of what we knew about Poodle Dog Bush - even its accepted latin
name - was inaccurate. Through the Forest Recovery Project, an entirely different
awareness of this species is emerging.
The success rate of naturally occurring tree seedlings versus nursery raised, hand
planted seedlings and the need for aftercare also became overwhelmingly evident in the
documentary process. How we approach reforestation needs to be completely
reconsidered if it is to be a viable practice in this primarily arid landscape.
Additionally, the practice of "release" or denuding a wide circle of vegetation around tree
seedlings has been repeatedly documented as an unsuitable management method. It
leaves tree seedlings exposed to excessive sunlight and soil dehydration. Nothing in
nature exists alone. Complex symbiosis occurs between all living things, from a
molecular to a structural level.
Increasingly, the documentary process has been affected by another powerful
landscape altering force - epic drought. Whole stands of trees that either survived or
escaped the fire now fall due to lack of water, and he insect infestations that occur in
response to stressed environments.
Powerpoint-style presentations of the Forest Recovery Project are given throughout
southern California and occasionally beyond on a donation basis. The full archive of
images is available on SmugMug, a professional photography site. Spanning a range of
approximately 75 miles and all the major forest biomes, the documentary work is time,
money and labor intensive, and has been funded entirely through donations from
individuals and charitable foundations. The Forest Recovery Project has a Facebook
group, and a ten minute version of the presentation can be found on the US Forest
Please contact us (email is best at firstname.lastname@example.org) to schedule a
presentation for your group or class.
Click here to learn about The Pinon Project