Letters 10-24-2016

It’s Obama’s 1984 Several editions ago I concluded a short letter to the editor with an ominous rhetorical flourish: “Welcome to George Orwell’s 1984 and the grand opening of the Federal Department of Truth!” At the time I am sure most of the readers laughed off my comments as right-wing hyperbole. Shame on you for doubting me...

Gun Bans Don’t Work It is said that mass violence only happens in the USA. A lone gunman in a rubber boat, drifted ashore at a popular resort in Tunisia and randomly shot and killed 38 mostly British and Irish tourists. Tunisian gun laws, which are among the most restrictive in the world, didn’t stop this mass slaughter. And in January 2015, two armed men killed 11 and wounded 11 others in an attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. French gun laws didn’t stop these assassins...

Scripps’ Good Deed No good deed shall go unpunished! When Dan Scripps was the 101st District State Representative, he introduced legislation to prevent corporations from contaminating (e.g. fracking) or depleting (e.g. Nestle) Michigan’s water table for corporate profit. There are no property lines in the water table, and many of us depend on private wells for abundant, safe, clean water. In the subsequent election, Dan’s opponents ran a negative campaign almost solely on the misrepresentation that Dan’s good deed was a government takeover of your private water well...

Political Definitions As the time to vote draws near it’s a good time to check into what you stand for. According to Dictionary.com the meanings for liberal and conservative are as follows:

Liberal: Favorable to progress or reform as in political or religious affairs.

Conservative: Disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditions and limit change...

Voting Takes A Month? Hurricane Matthew hit the Florida coast Oct. 6, over three weeks before Election Day. Bob Ross (Oct. 17th issue) posits that perhaps evacuation orders from Governor Scott may have had political motivations to diminish turnout and seems to praise Hillary Clinton’s call for Gov. Scott to extend Florida’s voter registration deadline due to evacuations...

Clinton Foundation Facts Does the Clinton Foundation really spend a mere 10 percent (per Mike Pence) or 20 percent (per Reince Priebus) of its money on charity? Not true. Charity Watch gives it an A rating (the same as it gives the NRA Foundation) and says it spends 88 percent on charitable causes, and 12 percent on overhead. Here is the source of the misunderstanding: The Foundation does give only a small percentage of its money to charitable organizations, but it spends far more money directly running a number of programs...

America Needs Change Trump supports our constitution, will appoint judges that will keep our freedoms safe. He supports the partial-birth ban; Hillary voted against it. Regardless of how you feel about Trump, critical issues are at stake. Trump will increase national security, monitor refugee admissions, endorse our vital military forces while fighting ISIS. Vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence will be an intelligent asset for the country. Hillary wants open borders, increased government regulation, and more demilitarization at a time when we need strong military defenses...

My Process For No I will be voting “no” on Prop 3 because I am supportive of the process that is in place to review and approve developments. I was on the Traverse City Planning Commission in the 1990s and gained an appreciation for all of the work that goes into a review. The staff reviews the project and makes a recommendation. The developer then makes a presentation, and fellow commissioners and the public can ask questions and make comments. By the end of the process, I knew how to vote for a project, up or down. This process then repeats itself at the City Commission...

Regarding Your Postcard If you received a “Vote No” postcard from StandUp TC, don’t believe their lies. Prop 3 is not illegal. It won’t cost city taxpayers thousands of dollars in legal bills or special elections. Prop 3 is about protecting our downtown -- not Munson, NMC or the Commons -- from a future of ugly skyscrapers that will diminish the very character of our downtown...

Vote Yes It has been suggested that a recall or re-election of current city staff and Traverse City Commission would work better than Prop 3. I disagree. A recall campaign is the most divisive, costly type of election possible. Prop 3, when passed, will allow all city residents an opportunity to vote on any proposed development over 60 feet tall at no cost to the taxpayer...

Yes Vote Explained A “yes” vote on Prop 3 will give Traverse City the right to vote on developments over 60 feet high. It doesn’t require votes on every future building, as incorrectly stated by a previous letter writer. If referendums are held during general elections, taxpayers pay nothing...

Beware Trump When the country you love have have served for 33 years is threatened, you have an obligation and a duty to speak out. Now is the time for all Americans to speak out against a possible Donald Trump presidency. During the past year Trump has been exposed as a pathological liar, a demagogue and a person who is totally unfit to assume the presidency of our already great country...

Picture Worth 1,000 Words Nobody disagrees with the need for affordable housing or that a certain level of density is dollar smart for TC. The issue is the proposed solution. If you haven’t already seen the architect’s rendition for the site, please Google “Pine Street Development Traverse City”...

Living Wage, Not Tall Buildings Our community deserves better than the StandUp TC “vote no” arguments. They are not truthful. Their yard signs say: “More Housing. Less Red Tape. Vote like you want your kids to live here.” The truth: More housing, but for whom? At what price..

Home · Articles · News · Features · The Man Who Planted Trees
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The Man Who Planted Trees

Erin Crowell - April 16th, 2012  

David Milarch, the subject of a new book, uses intuition and science in an attempt to save the planet

David Milarch sits at the desk, his feet propped up on an office chair, and leans back, lighting a cigarette.

“Did you know that 98% of our old growth forest is gone?” he asks, a rhetorical question that seems to hang in the air with the puff of cigarette smoke. As we talk in the the Archangel Ancient Tree Archive (AATA) office—a small building located in the village of Copemish—new age music streams from the office speakers. Pictures hang around us of tree climbers dangling from 400-plus-foot sequoias and redwoods, the same old growth trees Milarch speaks of now.

“Archangel is basically a Noah’s ark, but instead of animals, we’re loading up the genetics of the great trees of the world,” he explains.

The mission of the Archangel Ancient Tree Archive (AATA) is to clone, archive and re-distribute the hundreds of champion tree species of the world, the ones that are the largest and oldest – the same trees Milarch believes will save this planet from an ecological disaster.

The AATA co-founder now serves as a volunteer, working six to seven days a week from 4:30 in the morning to sometimes late in the evening as an offset to what limited budget the non-profit has to operate.

However, most of Milarch’s time as of late is the result of a book, The Man Who Planted Trees, by Jim Robbins, an environmental science journalist for the New York Times. Robbins followed Milarch and his work for the past decade, compiling a first-hand account filled with scientific research, studies and cultural beliefs surrounding the importance and influence of trees in our environment.

Released April 17, early reviews of the book have returned praise across the board, along with book signings, speaking engagements and a flurry of media interview requests from NPR, Reader’s Digest, The Associated Press, Forest Magazine, and Audubon Magazine, to name a few.

Before he was to leave for a conference in Silicon Valley last week, he called me up at the Express office.

“Jim Robbins wrote a book about me and I want you to have the first interview,” was the gist of what he said – not only because he and my parents go back several decades, but because, as he puts it, “It just felt right.”

David Milarch depends a lot on his intuition. Robbins takes note of this throughout the book, including the time Milarch kept hearing the word “tires,” and he found his vehicle’s tire pressure was dangerously low. Another time, Milarch postponed a propagation trip because he believed a storm was coming.


This intuition manifested the night Milarch believes he was visited by an archangel or “light being.”

It was a winter night in 1992, and Milarch, his wife Kerry, and their two sons, Jared and Jake, were sound asleep on their Copemish farm.

“I woke up to this bright light and it scared the starch out of me,” he recalls. “I heard a voice, a female voice. It wasn’t angry, but it had an authority to it. The voice said, ‘Go sit at your desk and take out a pad and pen.’” Milarch said he agreed, but only if the voice would dim the bright light that had him shielding his eyes with his hands. The lights dimmed and he went to his desk.

The next morning, Milarch had no recollection of the previous night’s incident until he found a 10-page paper on his desk.

“You didn’t write this,” his wife, a teacher, had said taking note of the outline’s perfect spelling and grammar.

But the handwriting was his; and it said how Milarch was going to save the dying population of old growth trees.

Between his flannel shirt, faded ball cap and tendency to drop the F-bomb casually into conversation, Milarch is a man who doesn’t seem like one to confess a celestial experience, let alone fit the stereotype of a tree hugger. He is a third generation shade tree farmer who used to arm wrestle for beer money, not the stereotypical long-haired, soft-spoken type who buys organic foods and drives a Prius.

As we drive through Copemish in his 1989 Chevy pickup, Milarch points out rows of small trees along the street with a cigarette dangling between his fingertips.

“Leslie Lee, Archangel co-founder, and I planted these a few years ago,” he notes of the maturing native sugar maples. Across the street, a stand of fully mature maples shade the village park. “My grandfather planted those in 1910.”

Up until a few months prior to his late-night visitor, Milarch was a heavy drinker, so much that he nearly died when he quit cold turkey. His kidneys and liver shut down and he felt himself slipping away while his wife and mother sat by his bedside.

The book describes this moment: “I remember lifting up out of my body…then an angel came alongside me and said, ‘Don’t be afraid, we know you’re afraid, but we’re with you.”

Milarch goes on to describe his journey through a tunnel and feeling an overwhelming sense of love before an angel announced that he couldn’t stay; that he had “work to do.”


That work appears to be restoring what is quickly disappearing not only in the United States, but across the world.

Throughout the book, several botanists, scientists and environmentalists point to shifts in our ecosystem, from an increase in diseases and the disappearance of honeybees to the hatching pattern of insects, the health of our streams, lakes and oceans and the steady rise in temperatures…pages full of voices saying the disappearance of our forests is causing an unprecedented shift in nature, and vice versa.

“When you read this book you’re going to find all the pines from the Mexico/ Arizona border all the way up to the Alaskan border are on their way out,” Milarch says. “Hundreds and hundreds of million of acres are dying out. And we can’t stop it because of diseases we’ve introduced that are no longer being killed by cold winters.

“There were 63 million acres of virgin old growth white pine in the northern half of Lower Michigan and the U.P.,” he added. “A few years ago we had a contest with a local magazine to find one old growth forest. We couldn’t find one virgin old growth pine in the Lower Peninsula. A guy found one deep in a canyon in the Porcupine Mountains. We’ve destroyed the largest stand of old growth white pine in the world.”


The Man Who Planted Trees is a book that will make you care about trees – not just an appreciation for their aesthetics, their majesty or the impressive stats of their century-year-old grandparents, but their overwhelmingly underrated roles in a balanced ecosystem.

It’s an eye-opening look into the micromechanisms of a sophisticated system, a “butterfly affect” that not only plays a key role in the immediate surroundings, but reaches our oceans, our atmosphere and the ebb and flow of life overall.

“Before we even knew the role trees play in our ecosystem, we cut them down. The 3,000-year-old sequoias and 2,000-year-old red woods store carbon faster than any other species of tree on earth,” Milarch says. “A mature sequoia weighs 1,000 tons— that’s equal to nine blue whales—but what nobody told us is that 40% of that tree’s dry weight is stored carbon. How many of those puppies should we plant all over the world?” The Man Who Planted Trees is about an ordinary man turned modern-day mystic who is not only driven by but also supported by scientists and experts who recognize a monstrous problem.

But it’s a problem that has a solution.

“It’s simple. We have to repair and restore what we’ve destroyed,” he says, a message he leaves me to discuss further with Cory Bigelow, a propagator for AATA who will give me a tour of the nursery full of cloned trees.

For Milarch, a man who seems to set off office equipment with his presence, a symptom of his near death experience, he considers himself merely a messenger, a radio for another world – one that is deeply concerned about the future of our planet.

“I’m doing this because I want to be able to say to my kids that I did everything I could, for them and their children and their grandchildren,” Milarch says.

Before I leave with Bigelow to visit the collection of maturing willow, sequoia and pine—the offspring of their champion parents—Milarch asks me one more question.

“By the way, how old are you now?” he asks.

“Ironically,” I laugh, “28 on Tuesday… the same day the book is coming out.”

Milarch and Bigelow exchange looks. “Ha!” Milarch shouts, throwing his hands to his forehead and looking up.

“Okay, I get it.” he says, but the statement isn’t directed at anyone standing in the room.

“I get it.”

David Milarch, the subject of “The Man Who Planted Trees” by Jim Robbins, will be at B.A.M. Books in Traverse City on Saturday, April 21 from 2-4 p.m.; and at Horizon Books, Traverse City on Saturday, May 5 from 2-4 p.m.. The book retails for $25.00 and is available April 17.

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