Conservation interests fear prized yellow cedar may face extinction

Paul E. Hennon, USDA Forest Service Commons Attribution 3.0 License

Paul E. Hennon, USDA Forest Service Commons Attribution 3.0 License


By Theresa Soley

In some areas, yellow cedar trees stand white and empty of needles against a background of green hemlock. The places appear skeleton-like, bare trees standing with limbs exposed, said Paul Hennon, a research forest pathologist with the U.S. Forest Service.

He said in some of its range, 75 percent of mature trees have died.

Gregory is Tlingit Raven Beaver from Angoon, but was raised in Juneau. He began carving at a young age, inspired by other local artists.
Gregory carves almost exclusively with yellow cedar. Its wood is strong, yet easy to carve, and the tree has natural anti-fungal properties that inhibit decay. It is one of the few local woods that can withstand the elements over time and avoid rot outdoors.

These are the reasons that yellow cedar is valuable in the market.
Research suggests that yellow cedar could live up to 3,500 years. The tree grows slowly and can survive in nutrient-poor soils. Bears gnaw on yellow cedar bark and deer shelter within the tree for warmth in winter.

In a 2012 paper published in the journal BioScience, researchers identified climate change as a culprit of yellow cedar deaths. A warmer climate has reduced snow cover and created areas with poor soil drainage. With no blanket of snow for protection, roots freeze, causing immense injury to the base of the tree system.

This has killed swaths of trees prematurely.


About Vince

I am a Tlingit, born and raised in Tlingit Country, and a proud member of the Tlingit Nation.
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