Alta Asks Live: Obi Kaufmann

The author and artist joins us to discuss the connections we share with California’s forests, how their maintenance impacts the state’s wildfire crisis, and more.

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Author and artist Obi Kaufmann’s new field guide captures the majesty, history, and wonder of the Golden State’s woodlands. The Forests of California also offers a road map to safeguarding their future. Kaufmann sits down with Alta Asks Live and journalist and Alta contributor Matt Jaffe to discuss the connections we share with California’s forests, how their maintenance impacts the state’s wildfire crisis, and where we might go next.


About the book and the author

Inspired by decades of exploring the backcountry, Obi Kaufmann takes readers off the beaten path and challenges their conceptions of California by blending science with art. The Forests of California is the latest from artist-naturalist Kaufmann, the author of The California Field Atlas. The first volume of his ambitious new California Lands Trilogy, The Forests of California features hundreds of Kaufmannʼs signature watercolor maps, diagrams, and trail paintings. He weaves them into a poetic and scientific exploration of the extraordinary beauty and biodiversity that define the Golden State, which has been threatened by the climate crisis, wildfires, and extinction.


The Forests of California tells an epic story that spans millions of years, nearly 100species of trees, and an astonishing richness of ecosystems to create nothing less than a new understanding of the more-than-human world. It invites readers to consider a larger context for the story of life itself—not only our place within it, but just like in any family, our responsibility to keep it together.

In addition to The Forests of California, Kaufmann’s California Lands Trilogy includes The Coasts of California and The Deserts of California, which will follow in the spring and fall of 2021. The State of Fire, Understanding Why, Where and How California Burns will be published by Heyday in 2022 as a bookend to the series.

About the moderator

Matt Jaffe is an award-winning journalist and author who has spent much of his career writing and reporting on the environment and culture of California, the Southwest, Mexico, and Hawaii. He worked as a senior writer at Sunset magazine and has been honored for articles on subjects from aerospace to food, and on locations from Alaska to Mexico’s Sea of Cortez. The common thread is an ability to get inside a story in a way that makes readers feel that they are right there on the ground, whether it’s the streets of Los Angeles or a Hawaiian cloud forest trail. Jaffe is a frequent contributor to Alta.

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