Cottonwoods Save Salmon

Who says you have to buy big expensive trees? Hardly anyone can afford a forest that way. At the George Zappettini Tree Farm in Tuolumne, California, for just $56.00 give or take a quarter, you can be the proud owner of 100 Cottonwood Trees. Not just any Cottonwood Trees, either. These 12″ sprouts will grow to 8´ in one year, and to 60 feet tall with a 60 foot diameter crown in twenty short years. It´s a cross between a California Black Cottonwood and an Eastern Cottonwood, two truly fine species, both tall, broad, and fast growing. For windbreaks and for firewood (in a reburner low emission fireplace, of course), this Populus Americanus is an excellent tree.

But what about the streams that empty into the cleaner than ever San Francisco Bay, flush with rainwater and Salmon? What about those choke points where the water temperature is too hot for too long a course? Don´t they cry for such trees? When the river cries for trees, can you hear?

In California´s Santa Clara (Silicon) Valley, you cannot plant trees below the 100 year flood mark, unless a special dispensation is granted by the Water District Officials, who own and administer most of the waterways in that area. We at are looking into said dispensation. In real life, creek trees must be below the 100 year flood mark, so they don´t die of thirst in the summer.

In the capriciously dry streams and creeks of Silicon Valley, and elsewhere I´d reckon, year-round moisture about one foot down is essential for trees, and that condition is usually reached either in a moist mountain canyon or on a floodplain.

There are stretches of San Jose´s Guadalupe river where in twenty years 100 of these magnificant Cottonwood trees would be visible from Airliners, as they bathed the Salmon rich waters with shade and all the beneficence that restored ecosystems would bestow.

It is astonishing that such a small amount of well-placed investment can yield such an aesthetic and ecological reward. Simply poking 100 sprouts of Cottonwood in the right holes along a river will turn in half a generation a sun-parched precarious ribbon of life into a great greenbelt of moisture, cool waters and fragrant trees.

Nobody on earth reading this should doubt for a moment the immense return on such a small but thoughtful commitment. Made one at a time but with logarithmic acceleration to transform the planet. Who in Bangalore will go to Rishi, and bring their educational cards and anchor trees to Varanasi, to the Mahant? Who will grow the seeds in tree farms fed with the dung from algae ponds that will clean the mother river?

Categorized | Trees & Forestry
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