The Klamath Mountains: A Natural History

I could not be more proud of our new book. It is, in reality, a project 10-years in the making. I first started cooking up the idea when I finished Conifer Country in 2012 based on the fact that a natural history had never been written for the Klamath Mountains. Around 2015, during a winter gathering, I proposed an outline to a group of friends and asked who wanted to help write the book with me. Justin Garwood raised his hand and the rest is now history!

Why Natural History?

Writing a natural history happens with definable landscapes. For it to be comprehensive, regional boundaries defined by geology, ecology, and climatic patterns—or realistically all three—create a space wherein a natural history emerges. The Sierra Nevada’s granitic boundaries have produced numerous natural histories. Other regions of the West that have their own natural histories include Daniel Matthew’s Natural History of the Pacific Northwest Mountains that weaves climate and ecology. A new tome, Mountains of Nevada, by David Charlet, uses political boundaries to define an entire state’s flora by way of 300+ mountain ranges. Lawrence R. Walker and Frederick H. Landau use climate to tell A Natural History of the Mojave Desert. The list goes on. These books are exciting because natural history is foundational in building and maintaining the human relationship with nature. The written relationship of natural history in the western world started with Charles Darwin and Alexander von Humboldt. Aldo Leopold, John Muir, Annie Dillard, Peter Matthiessen, Robin Wall Kimmerer, and others have continued these traditions—today, I believe we are experiencing a natural history renaissance.

Our Natural History

The Klamath Mountains: A Natural History

With the help of 34 co-authors we are now better connected to the natural history of the Klamath Mountains. Climate, soils, fire, and geology connect all living things across space and time. From those connections to the land, interpreted by the First People in the beginning and built upon by western scientists who followed, the deep knowledge for this place is helping to reinvigorate relationships to the land and with each other. In this bond, we all have something to offer—and even more to the mountains and rivers and forests. We will continue to share our current knowledge and better understand what those before us have done and thought. Through these connections, we can only hope that some of our old approaches and understandings fade away and a better path for place-based connection and stewardship continue to grow.

The Natural History Institute defines natural history as the “…practice of intentional, focused attentiveness and receptivity to the more-than-human world, guided by honesty and accuracy.” Justin and I present our honest and accurate work for the Klamath Mountains.

Praise for The Klamath Mountains: A Natural History

I am deeply impressed by this book, which has all of the virtues of an old-fashioned ecological aspection, but so much more as well. I have never before seen published such a complete portrait of an entire region’s biota, in the full context of its physical setting, by such a knowledgeable collection of authors. And what a region! The Klamath Mountains are unlike any others for their diversity and complex geological and evolutionary origins, and this is just the book to do them justice. A stunning accomplishment, and a phenomenal resource for all naturalists. Robert Michael Pyle, Ph.D., author of Wintergreen, Nature Matrix, and The Butterflies of Cascadia

Hallelujah! Far too long ignored in favor of the Sierra Nevada, the richly diverse Klamath Mountains are at last the subject of a thorough and beautifully illustrated guide to their natural history, Indigenous history, and conservation and management concerns, assembled by a team of the region’s leading experts. This much-needed contribution will guide exploration and appreciation of the Klamaths for many years to come. –Susan Harrison, professor of ecology at the University of California, Davis

We need more natural histories of this level of detail in California and everywhere else. –Ken-ichi Ueda, co-founder of iNaturalist

A truly impressive collaborative effort, this book is a treasure trove of useful information for all who wish to learn more about the unique and fascinating Klamath bioregion. Stephen C. Sillett, Kenneth L. Fisher Chair in Redwood Forest Ecology at Cal Poly Humboldt

The Klamath Mountains: A Natural History is a beautifully written guide to the intricate world of nature in all her fascinating facets, beckoning us to get reacquainted with her treasures through spending many hours in the field. But this is no ordinary guide. It teaches us that to love the land as naturalists is not enough. Indigenous voices are prominent, reminding us that these same plants and animals, mosses and mushrooms, are intimately tied to Native livelihoods and spiritual life—composing local cuisines, medicinal formulas, myths, stories, and songs. Indigenous people are our foremost naturalists, but they offer us a more unifying concept of the human place in the natural world by demonstrating gathering, fishing, and stewardship practices that have maintained the renewal capacity of plants and ecosystems for eons. Here are modes of cooperation with nature that we can all learn from. It is these sophisticated and complex set of relationships beyond industrial forestry and agriculture that have the potential to create a new vision of human-nature interactions that can heal our planet, build cultures of place, and honor the ancestral roots of each of us. M. Kat Anderson, Author of Tending the Wild, Department of Plant Sciences, UC Davis

­­­­­­­­­­­­Every map, every table, every figure and beautiful photograph guide you on an unforgettable journey through the wonderful natural history of the magical Klamath Mountains. Matt Ritter, Author of A Californian’s Guide to the Trees Among Us

At last, a comprehensive and beautifully written natural history of this vital and significant region. The Klamath Mountains brings human history, climate, wildlife, geology, and biology together, all told from the perspective of a diverse and enlightened roster of experts. This is an absolutely necessary book for understanding the world we inhabit, and it’s a model for how natural histories should be written. It’s educational, entertaining, and thought-provoking, and will serve as the definitive reference for years to come. Amy StewartNew York Times bestselling author

The editors have assembled an all-star cast of biologists, ecologists, and practitioners that develops a complete picture of this region’s amazing diversity and caters to the nature nerd inside us all. This book is an excellent companion for anyone seeking to explore the ancient forests of the Klamath region. It gives readers the means to fully understand the context of the natural history – from the connection to its First Peoples, to geology and climate – and promotes the important notion that this special landscape needs stewards and advocates. Chandra LeGue, author of Oregon’s Ancient Forests: A hiking guide

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­The Klamath Mountains: A Natural History will be seen as one of the great natural history works of western North America. –Reed Noss, Ph.D., Conservation Biologist and Author