Coastal California’s Living Legacy: The Monterey Pine Forest

The Monterey pine, (Pinus radiata) is widely farmed as a timber tree with over ten million acres in cultivation in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Spain, and Chile. This robust and expanding industry would seem to ensure the future of this economic resource, but those far-flung plantations depend on the genetic diversity of natural Monterey pine forests, which are limited in number and locale and are threatened by human development.

Conservationists dedicated to the vitality of this tree came together as The Monterey Pine Forest Watch to record the history and condition of natural Monterey pine forests.

The authors, with a long list of editors, photographers, artists, and financial contributors, have documented the fossil, natural, and human history of the Monterey pine and the current vulnerability of its ecosystem to disease and habitat shrinkage.

The book provides clear maps of the five natural Monterey pine forests and recounts the history of the trees at the three Central California coastal sites. This history begins thousands of years ago when Native Americans (Salinans and Ohlones) occupied the area, continues with the Spanish era through the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, and extends into the period of California statehood, which began in 1850.

The chapter, “A Natural History,” provides a botanical and ecological primer supported by detailed appendices for each of California’s native Monterey pine forests.

An extensive chapter, “Stalking the Wild Pine,” presents detailed maps and pine forest hike locations in Monterey and Santa Cruz counties. The authors encourage the reader to “explore, learn and enjoy the mysteries” of the pine forest and its natural beauty.

The book is comprehensive and attractive, with numerous photographs and illustrations. There is some repetition of key points, reflecting the individual perspectives of the several authors. Naming the primary author of each chapter would have helped to personalize the book. Still, the book’s overall message is clear: we need to appreciate and protect this natural treasure of Coastal California.

Coastal California’s Living Legacy: The Monterey Pine Forest is available at limited locations including River House Books, Pilgrim’s Way, and Carmel Bay Company, all in Carmel, California, and at the Wild Bird Center in Monterey. Copies may be ordered from Pine Nut Press, The Monterey Pine Forest Watch, PO Box 505, Carmel–by–the–Sea, CA 93921-0505.

Tom Karwin, Master Gardener
Santa Cruz, California