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Nation’s Largest Sitka Spruce Dies In Oregon Storm

So just how powerful is the storm currently raging its way across Oregon?

Well, among many other means of destruction, it’s strong enough to rip down the nation’s largest Sitka spruce tree. The Oregon Department of Forestry reports that the 206-foot tree in Klootchy Creek County Park, also known as “Klootchy,” has indeed tumbled to its death.

According to Paul Ries at ODF, the 700-year-old spruce snapped about 75 feet from the ground. In perhaps the most poignant quote ever, Ries simply says: “The tree will now die.”

Let’s take a look at a few things that have happened to the environment during the span of this great tree’s life:

1347 to 1350s — The Bubonic plague kills one third to 75% of the populations of Europe and Asia, creating the first attempts to enforce public health and quarantine laws. And to think, Klootchy was no thicker than a femur back then.

1666 — Japan government officials warn against dangers of erosion, stream situation and flooding caused by deforestation. A follow-up proclamation urges people to plant tree seedlings. Now a handsome youngster, Klootchy sent much love across the Pacific for this one.

1804 — Lewis and Clark expedition begins their journey West. Upon reaching the Columbia River and ultimately the Oregon coast, the party spent a miserable winter sheltered no more than 50 miles from the now deceased Klootchy.

1852 — A giant sequoia tree 300 feet high, 92 feet in circumference and an estimated 2,500 years old is cut down in what will eventually become Yosemite National Park for display in carnival sideshows. The New York Tribune calls the act “vandalism” and “villainous speculation.” At least Klootchy was able to die a natural death.

1879 — Division of Forestry established in US, which later became known as the US Forest Service. Since its inception, it’s been a love-and-hate relationship between Oregon trees and the Forest Service. Private timber sale, anyone?

1955 — Congress passes the Air Pollution Control Act. Now a wily veteran of the planet, Klootchy dreams of clean air and consistent temperatures. And then Al Gore had to come along and break his heart.

1970 — The first nationwide Earth Day is celebrated. Cool, maybe the television will be good for something. Like telling couch potatoes that it’s freaking’ Earth Day!

1990 — United Nations report warns that global temperatures are on the rise. Report recommends reducing CO2 emissions worldwide. Umm… yeah.

2001 — Bill Clinton moves out of the White House with more than 58 million acres of national forest protected from development that weren‘t prior to his election. Among the lands protected is the forest Klootchy called home. Thank you spotted owl!

2003 — Bush Administration strives to abolish or least weaken the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the toxic waste Superfund, the Right to Know Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act and several others. Klootchy says, “wait a minute?”

2007 — Dec. 3 — Klootchy meets his demise courtesy of a violent winter storm pouring off the Pacific. It was a fine life, dear tree, a fine life indeed.

For a complete tree profile of the massive spruce, click here.

About Joseph Friedrichs

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Book Festivals of the West 2011

Each year readers and writers gather to celebrate the written word at book festivals, fairs, and writing conferences throughout the West. Although there are a few spring festivals, everything really begins to pick up in June, and the schedule remains busy through November. The offerings vary from those that concentrate on helping writers improve their craft, such as the Lighthouse Writers Workshop's retreat in Grand Lake, Colo. (July 10th-15th), to those that introduce writers to readers through panels, readings, and book signings, such as the Montana Festival of the Book in Missoula (October 5th-7th). Some, such as the Aspen Summer Words Festival (June 19th-24th), combine workshops and readings. The workshops charge fees, but plenty of the festivals are free to attend, including the Montana Festival of the Book in Missoula and the Equality State Book Fair in Casper. Most workshops are already accepting applications for this year. I've updated the Book Festivals of the West map with this year's information when it was available. Please let me know if there are any more events to add or update—I'll even throw this open for events in California and Texas. New West will run reports from the festivals again this year—we already have correspondents lined up for the Jackson Hole Writers Conference, Aspen Summer Words, and the Montana Festival of the Book, and are looking for more contributors.


  1. According to the official Sitka website:

    “Time and nature have weakened the tree beyond saving. It’s health condition is irreversable. The tree is at the end of its natural life cycle.”

    So in a way the windstorm this week could be considered compassionate euthanasia–the Sitka was ready to move on to that great old-growth forest in the sky. Mother Nature snuck into the Sitka’s hospital room late last night and pulled the plug.

    Rest In Peace, old Sitka.

  2. I visited the sitka mentioned many times on our way to Cannon Beach. But did you know that Oregon’s largest ponderosa is about 25 miles south of Bend?

  3. A few weeks ago, my wife and I visited a tree in Lake Quinault, WA, that was also coined as the largest sitka spruce in Washington.

    I guess there is no more controversy about which sitka spruce is king.

  4. Glad to see that that the writer thought it important that the 1990 UN Report regarding global warning occured during Klootchy’s life. No doubt Klootchy might have reflected, at the time, recalling …

    July 9, 1971, Washington Post: “U.S. Scientist Sees New Ice Age Coming.” A prediction by NASA and Columbia University scientist S.I. Rasool. The culprit: man’s use of fossil fuels.

    The Post reported that the dust discharged by burning fossil fuel would screen out so much of the sun’s rays that the Earth’s average temperature could fall by six degrees.

    The article warned that the temperature drop “could be sufficient to trigger an ice age.”

    Supporting Rasool’s research, the Post reported, was a “computer program developed by Dr. James Hansen,” that predicted global cooling.

    Dr. Hansen more recently announced in favor of global warming.

    Subsequently, Newsweek Magazine published, “The Cooling World”
    in its April 28, 1975 issue. “The evidence in support of these predictions [of global cooling] has now begun to accumulate so massively that meteorologists are hard-pressed to keep up with it.”

    Perhaps as “massively” as the evidence to the contrary. I imagine that Klootchy had become, if it read the news at all, somewhat skeptical, at best, of “predictions”, particularly when politicans, newspaper reporters, and grant seekers get ahold of them ….

    RIP Klootchy, in its silence, an honest tree …

  5. On a more self-serving note, let me mention that Sitka Spruce, used to make the soundboards of fine acoustic guitars, is becoming extremely rare. Perhaps Klootchy will be able to live on in the form of a few hundred beautiful guitars.

  6. I hope Bob Wire is right. It would be a shame to waste this giant.

  7. Must everything be politicized? The left coast has lost its mind. If the author is going to throw Bush under the bus, why not mention the disastrous effects of many do gooder previous administrations failed forestry protection polices?

    We don’t let our forests burn naturally, we don’t do as the Indians ( oh scuzz me, native Americans ) did for 1000’s of years before that, so we in effect kill them with unnatural biomass fueled super hot fires. Someone proposes a way to reduce some bio mass, and save them, and these anti-capitalist morons, who can’t bear for anyone to make any money, object. Flawed principles over logic. Unintended but irreversible damage caused by elitist yet ignorant self righteous prics.

    It was a wind storm, not George Bush, who toppled that tree. And there is a forest full of others that will one day grow to be that big, if you clowns will wake up and get rational, and get over your selves.

    Global Warming is a crock. It is capitalism you hate. Move to Moscow or Shanghai, the air is much cleaner there, NOT.

  8. It’s said to see big tree dead.Hims Tops made me dizzy when i was little,Hims limbo scared me when sittin,Hims down under the stars back in 88 halphway point on my first long bike ride was the last time i cared about that.Now i go for the tone ,i wish i was that storm so i could box it up take it home shape it, throw strings on it and it would live on.

  9. My parents use to take me to see Klootchy when i was a child and i visited it a few times as an adult …….. today i learned the tree had fell in 2007 Rest In Peices klootchy