A few years ago I was part of a team doing an environmental assessment for a local road project. When I saw these giant bur oaks (all around four-and-a-half feet diameter at breast height), I knew I’d be among the last to see them.
The project drew a lot of opposition from local residents and environmental groups. Alignments changed to avoid certain impacts. Wetlands and listed species are regulated. Oak trees such as these are not. To my knowledge, nobody spoke up specifically for this old grove of trees. Nobody chained themselves against their coarse, four-inch thick bark. Nobody called their representative. These trees fell uneventfully and without resistance.
It was an imprecise and difficult task due to the roughness of portions of the cuts, the bees swarming from hollows higher up in the fallen trees, and mosquitoes, but on two different trees I counted approximately 180 rings.
This grove predated Aldo Leopold’s birth by decades, and his “Good Oak” wouldn’t lay down its first ring-wood before these oaks were making acorns. Passenger pigeons still migrated in the billions.
Today the location where these trees grew is buried deep beneath the grade of a four lane bypass.
Mourn and ponder this tremendous loss with me.