Can David Milarch Save Endangered Trees Through Cloning?

People said David Milarch was nuts. Then his far-fetched plan for saving our treasured trees started to work.

david milarch by tree
Jamie Francis/The Oregonian

The story of the world’s most optimistic and improbable reforestry project began 45 years ago with a young man’s shock and grief.

In 1968, a brawling, shaggy, redheaded, hard-partying 18-year-old named David Milarch (pronounced Mill-ark) graduated from a Detroit-area high school and took off on a road trip with a friend. They cruised along in a ’61 Oldsmobile station wagon, sleeping in the car at night or on the ground nearby. Destination: San Francisco. But Milarch, unlike his buddy, harbored a deeper longing than crashing parties. “Cities didn’t interest me so much,” he says. “I wanted to see the redwood forests.”

The son and grandson of nurserymen, Milarch grew up working on his father’s shade tree farm, where ash, maple, oak, birch, and locust trees were cultivated. From age seven, he was in the fields every day after school and every weekend—weeding, hoeing, digging, and planting. He considered his dad a slave driver but nevertheless says, “I communed with the beauty and the laws of nature. I got a deep understanding of how things worked.” At 18, when it was his turn behind the wheel, Milarch steered not toward the street life of Haight-Ashbury but to Muir Woods National Monument.

There the young men parked and approached the old-growth forest of coast redwoods, also known as California redwoods. The tallest trees on earth (over 300 feet tall), they are also among the oldest, some an estimated age of 2,000 years.

Milarch crunched into the soaring, misty, tangled woodland and felt moved by its haunting majesty, its profound peace and archaic dignity, its crystal streams and twittering bugs and birds. Here, he felt, was holy ground.

But the teenager’s wonder was short-lived. This pristine, cloud-scraping sanctuary was being decimated by logging companies. It was as if he’d knelt in awe in the Notre Dame Cathedral of Paris and looked up to see wrecking balls shattering the stained glass windows. Beyond Muir Woods’s protected 554 acres (of which only 240 still held the foggy, ancient redwoods) stretched a lifeless wasteland. “We drove through hundreds of miles of stumps,” he says. “I felt physically sick.”

Next: “We’ve got to rebuild with the largest and oldest living things on earth.”

Become more interesting every week!

Get our Read Up newsletter

how we use your e-mail
We will use your email address to send you the newsletter each week, and we may also send you occasional special offers from Reader's Digest. For more information please read our privacy policy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Some people like to travel by train because 
it combines the slowness of a car with the cramped public exposure of 
an airplane.

Dennis Miller

I think my pilot was a little inexperienced. We were sitting on the runway, and he said, “OK, folks, we’re gonna be taking off in a just few—whoa! Here we go.”

Kevin Nealon

“I can’t wait until your vacation is over.” 
—Everyone following you on Instagram


A man knocked on my door and asked for a donation toward the local swimming pool. So I gave him a glass of water.

Comedian Greg Davies

Funny Jokes

Just found the worst page in the entire dictionary. What I saw was disgraceful, disgusting, dishonest, and disingenuous.


Funny Jokes

Client: We need you to log in to the YouTube and make all our company videos viral.


Funny Jokes

My cat just walked up to the paper shredder and said, “Teach me 
everything you know.”


Funny Jokes

“Just because you can’t dance doesn’t mean you shouldn’t dance.” 

@yoyoha (Josh Hara)

Funny Jokes

My parents didn’t want to move to Florida, but they turned 60 and that’s the law.

—Jerry Seinfeld

Funny Jokes

Q: What do you call an Amish guy with his hand in a horse’s mouth?

A: A mechanic.

Fields marked with an * are required
Foods That Harm Foods That HealWant a Free eBook?
FOODS THAT HARM, FOODS THAT HEAL offers important information about the role diet plays in the struggle against heart disease, cancer, diabetes and other serious illnesses. Answer the question below to receive your FREE digital eBook.

Someone in my household experiences the following conditions:

Send me a link to download FOODS THAT HARM, FOODS THAT HEAL:
By clicking below, I agree to the Trusted Media Brands Privacy Policy