By Debra B. Pearson


My reverence for the backyard forest was sparked by a tragedy that occurred in 2014, when it was almost destroyed. It was Easter weekend, and I was awakened by a trembling of the earth. I rushed out of bed to witness carnage. Several mature trees had been cut and were lying across my backyard. There were several men who were pulling and guiding ropes; ropes that were tied to trees in my neighbor’s yard; trees that were being removed because of fear and ignorance. My neighbor did not value the dozens of trees he destroyed that day. In felling his trees, he also destroyed mine. He directed the tree workers to protect his home and to use my forest as the place upon which his cut trees would land. Thus, several beautiful, mature, and healthy native trees were caught in the crossfire of destructive tree practices. Some of my trees did not survive the carnage. I felt powerless to stop it.


I frantically called an environmental organization for advice. I was guided to Eco-A director, Kathryn Kolb. Kathryn spoke to me—a total stranger with so much compassion. The broad scope of her knowledge about tree ecology and the environment invoked within me a calling and a purpose to advance the ethos of tree conservation and advocacy.


Kathryn directed me to an arborist who came to the forest to access the damage. He also made recommendations as to how I could improve and support the forest. One suggestion he made was to create a narrow trail around the perimeter of the forest using felled branches and limbs as borders. I followed his advice, and as the trail began to take shape, I developed a deep and reverent bond with the forest. I began to see each tree as an individual with whom I wanted to become acquainted; each plant as a member of my family whom I wanted to protect and love. And my relationship with the forest has grown deeper and more reverent with each passing season.


Since my forest “tragedy,” I have spent hours and hours in forests throughout the metro area and beyond. I am constantly learning from the earth and her plant based inhabitants. I have hosted learning events in my backyard paradise in an effort to spread awareness about forest ecology. Last summer, I conducted a very meaningful and successful forest camp for children. Kathryn has become not only my mentor but a respected and dedicated friend. I continue to learn from her vast reservoir of knowledge.


The tragedy of my forest experience has evolved into what I consider the golden highlight of my existence. I continue to be inspired by its essence. For the rest of my life I will enjoy its blessings.

Debra Pearson shares her backyard forest with Eco-A and friends on April 14th.  —  For more information and to register click HERE 


2 responses to “My Backyard Forest Story”

  1. Josh Hogan says:

    Lovely post. We have a backyard forest that I’m trying to restore slowly. Sadly, my next door neighbor bulldozed his forest to make a fenced back yard last summer. I was devastated. I couldn’t even look at him for weeks. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Diane Hawkins-Cox says:

    Thanks for this post!

    My backyard forest story:
    My son (best son ever!) last winter cleared privet from a big swath of forest in our backyard. We cut a few dead or leaning trees that were threatening to fall on our house or shed. We left 20 feet of some of the dead trees standing for woodpeckers. The cut trees were either chipped or cut into logs for a woodland path, so the trees are still with us, in a way. We also cut a big fallen tree that was blocking access to the shed into discs for the path. Our next step is to plant woodland plants along the path and among the trees. It’s so shady and peaceful and finally WALKABLE back there!

    Part of the path leads to a big tree in the still privet-invested part of the woods, on which my son installed a barred owl box (built by my hubby–best hubby ever!). I’m hoping a barred owl finds the box next breeding season (and kicks out the squirrel that has moved in). I’m also hoping my son will clear privet up to that tree this winter. Maybe eventually he can clear our entire five acres!

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