COPEMISH, Mich. — Giant sequoia trees generally grow on the western slopes of California's Sierra Nevada Mountains.
But, for the past 73 years, three sequoias have survived and thrived along a bluff overlooking Lake Michigan in Manistee.
That's not supposed to happen, but it is.
The genetics that make up the Manistee sequoias have become an obsession for a northern Michigan man who believes with conviction the trees' DNA is the solution to global climate change, and the cutting-edge work and research he's doing will eventually prove it.
The story begins in 1948 when Manistee, Mich. residents Gertrude and Edward Gray were vacationing in California. They decided to bring six sequoia seedlings back with them to their Michigan home which, today, is known as the Lake Bluff Farms.
Only three of the sequoias survived, but one of them is truly thriving and continues to grow, which many experts say is a marvel of nature.
"For [over] 70 Michigan winters, that tree has somehow survived on that high-bank property in extreme wind," said David Milarch, who is the co-founder of Archangel Ancient Tree Archive, a Michigan 501c3 nonprofit that preserves the genetics of old-growth trees. "That one tree may be the most important giant sequoia on the planet."
Based in Copemish, Mich., which is located roughly 30 minutes northwest of Cadillac, Archangel's mission is to archive the genetics of ancient trees, breed them and replant them. Milarch believes the oldest trees have superior genes that allowed them to live through drought, disease and fire.
"Reforesting the planet with clones of old-growth trees like sequoias and redwoods will go a long way in the effort to reverse climate change," Milarch said. "98% of the old-growth forest in the United States has been cut down and the aerosols those ancient trees absorbed copious amounts of CO2 and toxins from the air and created more oxygen, which the planet needs.
"If we don't go after climate change right now, chances are good within 50 years, this planet won't be inhabitable for human beings."
For the past few years, Milarch has taken DNA from the Manistee sequoia, as well as from California redwoods, and has been cloning, then growing them inside the Archangel lab using a cutting-edge process called micropropagation.
"We put seedlings from 3,000-year-old trees inside a sealed jar, and in two months, roots will form," Milarch said, while giving 13 ON YOUR SIDE an exclusive demonstration. "They're soaking in Agar, which is a special solution we create here at Archangel.
"In two years, through micropropagation, we can make 2 million copies of 3,000-year-old giant sequoias and redwoods and their clocks have been set back to zero."
Milarch strongly believes that by planting his cloned trees today, climate change can be reversed back to 1968 levels within the next 20 years.
"The whole world is on fire," Milarch said, referring to the continuing droughts and rising of sea levels due to glaciers melting. "We need to reforest this planet; every single person; every man, woman and child can literally pay it forward environmentally 2 to 3,000 years by planting one of these cloned trees."
Milarch has cloned the Manistee sequoia countless times and has shipped the trees to countries all over the world, including, but not limited to England, France, Australia, New Zealand and British Columbia.
He's also sending them to other parts of the United States. Many of the redwoods he's cloning are being used in California to rebuild the forests after the devastating wildfires that have perpetually swept through the state in recent years.
"We were told 10 years ago that what we're doing was impossible," said Milarch. "Well, that's obviously not true.
"Our motto around here is, 'The impossible just takes longer.'"
If you're interested in learning more about David Milarch, Archangel Ancient Tree Archive, how to donate to help the project and/or possibly get trees to plant, click here and you'll immediately be redirected to their website, and here to access their Facebook page.
►Make it easy to keep up to date with more stories like this. Download the 13 ON YOUR SIDE app now.
Have a news tip? Email email@example.com, visit our Facebook page or Twitter. Subscribe to our YouTube channel.