Among the many crimes of government -- killing the world's oldest tree

Among the many crimes of government is this one -- killing the world's oldest known living organism.

  "On 6th August 1964, one of the greatest crimes against nature was committed when the oldest living inhabitant on Earth was unwittingly killed." Chopping down the 4,862-year-old bristlecone pine tree growing on remote Wheeler Peak in Nevada (whose age was unknown at the time), was authorized by officials of the U.S. National Forest Service.

  "No one would have walked more than a hundred yards to see it," National Forest District Ranger Donald E. Cox reportedly said at the time, calling the tree "very common". "I reported this tree was like many others and was not the type that the public would visit. I felt that this tree's best purpose would be to serve scientific and educational programs."

Love & Liberty,

        ((( starchild )))

On 6th August 1964, one of the greatest crimes against Nature was committed when the oldest living inhabitant on Earth was unwittingly killed. WPN-114, previously known to its affectionate admirers as Prometheus, was a bristlecone pine tree that, posthumously, was discovered to have been at least 5000 years old.

In the summer of 1964, Donald R. Currey, a graduate student in geography at the University of North Carolina, was undertaking dendrochronology investigations to establish climatic change patterns during the Little Ice Age - the period of cooling that occurred for approximately 400 years until the mid 1800s. Dendrochronology, the method of dating based on the analysis of patterns of tree-rings, can date the time at which tree rings were formed to the exact calendar year. So, to facilitate his investigations, Currey went in search of the oldest living trees.

In 1957, a grove of bristlecone pines in the White Mountains above California's Mojave Dessert stunned the scientific world when they were discovered to be the world's oldest living trees. But while the California Bristlecone Pines captured the media's imagination, another grove of bristlecones in the Great Basin at Wheeler Peak in eastern Nevada, not far from the Utah border, had slipped under the radar of all but few. And it was Wheeler Peak's colossal bristlecones that Donald R. Currey chose for his investigations.

Currey began taking core samples from several trees, and took particular interest in the 114th sample - "one of the larger living bristlecone pines" - which he labelled WPN-114. After several attempts, Currey's 28-inch coring tool broke. Without it, he was unable to obtain the continuous series of overlapping cores necessary to determine weather patterns. He therefore decided to ask the United States Forest Service to fell WPN-114.

National Forest District Ranger Donald E. Cox received the request. He consulted his superior, Slim Hansen, who was stationed some 250 miles away and consequently asked Cox to look at the tree and report back. Cox declared the tree to be "very common" and is reported to have said, "no one would have walked more than a hundred yards to see it." Hansen replied, "Cut 'er down."

Robert Jacobsen, superintendent of the Great Basin's Lehman Caves, attempted to intervene and wrote that cutting the tree "would be a loss to the world." And at least one Forest Service sawyer is known to have refused to participate in the felling on moral grounds. Nevertheless, the felling was scheduled for 6th August.

It took the whole of the day to cut down and section WPN-114. In the process of his subsequent investigations, Currey discovered that WPN-114 had been alive for at least 4,862 years.

He had killed the world's oldest known non-clonal organism.

Naturalist Darwin Lambert had grown up on a ranch in the Great Basin. To Lambert and his friends, WPN-114 was not a number... several years earlier, they had identified this particular tree's exceptionality and accordingly named it Prometheus. By 1959, Lambert had begun campaigning for Wheeler Peak to be granted national park status in order to ensure protection for Prometheus and his brethren.

Lambert learned of Prometheus's demise when he read Currey's report in Ecology, a year after the felling. He subsequently wrote of his despair upon learning that "Earth's oldest living thing was casually killed (yes, murdered!) in the name of science... We felt that we were walking home from a loved patriarch's funeral. The wounds open every time-to this day-when memories of that ancient tree surface."

The felling of Prometheus eventually reached the public and caused great controversy. Most fingers pointed at the U.S. Forest Service's decision to permit the tree to be cut. Yet, it is Donald R. Currey who will be forever associated with the felony.

Darwin Lambert predicted that Prometheus would become a 'martyr', and the incident would indeed initiate a restriction on the felling of old trees and the creation of Great Basin National Park. Perhaps most significantly, as a result of Prometheus's demise, the precise location of the tree now believed to be the oldest, Methuselah, is fiercely protected.

"The Murder Of The Ancient, His Furrowed Trunk Laid Waste By The Hand Of Ignorance And Minds In Thoughtless Haste." - Ger von Müehle

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Thanks, Starchild.


Aloha, B.