Help us serve families and individuals in Oregon and restore the sanctuary with your donation toward the land purchase!

Based on two long term studies from Oregon State University and local experts, we have become more fully educated about the decline of “native” conifers, such that our goal as of 2023 is to acquire land suitable for a native oak savannah restoration. This means we won’t be able to plant Douglas Firs, (and probably numerous other evergreen species) which require twice the amount of rainfall available in our area.Our focus will be on native, drought-tolerant trees like Oregon white oak, black oak, and their essential nitrogen-fixing meadow perennials. (see “Douglas-fir in Klamath Mountains are in ‘decline spiral’ OSU Newsroom, 3-20-23. And Jercke et al. Carbon Uptake by Douglas Fir is More Sensitive to Increased Temperature…” Ag and Forest Meteorology, Vol. 329 (Feb.2023)

We honor the ancestors, spirits, and tribal nations who inhabited this land and those Native peoples who continue to inhabit the Rogue Valley, namely the Shasta, Takelma and Athabaskan members. In particular, we wish to honor the memory of Grandmother Agnes Baker Pilgrim (1924-2019), Takelma tribal leader, who co-founded the International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers, an alliance of female elders who promote protection of the earth and awareness of Native cultures. She is known to have been a model for many of courage, wisdom, and compassion.

Cathedral Trees Sanctuary is one of a dozen Preserves nationwide that will offer a Green Burial Council-certified conservation burial ground, qualifying for the GBC’s strictest category of certification. Similar projects are located at Larkspur Preserve in Tennessee (privately owned by the Nature Conservancy) and White Eagle Memorial Preserve Cemetery in eastern Washington state. Cathedral Trees Sanctuary will be one of a very few certified conservation cemeteries that offer native tree plantings in accordance with sustainable practices to restore groves, forests, and native wildflower meadows.

Through careful ecological management of the forest, it will eventually become a mature woodland and then an ancient forest. The meadow will be preserved legally into perpetuity to conserve viewpoints looking south to a spectacular mountain view of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument. This highest standard of certification permits only biodegradable caskets or shrouds, with no embalming, concrete or steel burial vaults, or headstones.< p>

Manual or natural management practices are used instead of hazardous lawn maintenance sprays such as RoundUp, which are a known cause of lymphomas and other cancers. Instead of a wasteland of lawn care chemicals and embalming fluids, the living soil can grow native trees, wildflower meadows, and pollinator gardens. For less than the cost of an average cremation, a conservation burial allows your body to nourish the soil, creating new life in a tree and grove.

Financial donors may donate for one to four trees, or even an entire Grove, with choices from a selection of hardy natives that grow well together in the wild. Additions of native mycelium, certified organic soil amendments, and other soil preparations are used to ensure sustainability and longevity of the trees or grove. This long-term project is the only certified conservation/restoration burial ground in the West where a specified native tree or trees of choice can be planted, part of an international movement to restore forests that double as “ecologically-sensitive” burial grounds while supporting greater human, ecological, and planetary health worldwide.

Cathedral Trees Sanctuary will have many environmental benefits and also bring unity and tolerance with its Groves representing a variety of environmental organizations, religious and spiritual groups, and civic groves. Other Groves on the acreage may include an Indigenous Peoples Grove, a Jewish Shalom Grove, Non-denominational Christian Peace Grove, Muslim Suhl (Peace) Grove, Veteran’s Serenity Grove, Lovingkindness (Buddhist) Grove, Namaste Grove, Pantheist (religion) Grove, and Ancient Forest Grove.

A Founder’s Walk will meander along all the various groves, connecting them to a Viewpoint at the hilltop. Additional groves may be developed as the region’s public is educated about the national conservation burial movement. As always, there is a sensitive balance maintained between human death care needs and the needs of a restoring ecosystem.

The Green Burial Council standardizes and certifies all Conservation cemeteries, which require a legal easement with a land trust so the land is held in perpetuity as both a conservation preserve and a state-licensed burial ground. Cathedral Trees Sanctuary adds an even higher level of practice – Restoration – of trees and restoring groves that will naturally grow over centuries into a mature woodland and over a thousand years into an ancient forest.

Photo showing an approximation of our hillside wildflower meadow surrounded by
mixed native hardwood and evergreen woodlands.

A graphic from the Green Burial Council International shows the biologically-appropriate design of the categories of a natural, conservation burial (and restorative burial).

The conservation burial plot is 3-1/2 feet deep, within the biologically active, fertile “living soil” layer, allowing a carefully chosen tree to thrive nearby. The tree can receive nutrients and develop shallow feeder and deep roots into the living soil. Any body burdens of mercury or heavy metals will naturally percolate down through the soil, avoiding contamination of feeder roots.

In contrast, conventional graves are located below the biological layer of soil. Vaults impede plant and tree roots and inhibit the natural decomposition of the body that is necessary for soil restoration and tree planting. Vaults are only used for ease of lawn mowing in conventional cemeteries. With a conservation burial, a mound over the buried body is created to allow natural settling of the body. With each tree planting at the grave, we will be enlivening the soil with a natural soil additive. Certain local additives also neutralize mercury and other heavy metals in the soil.

Tree roots are significantly increased with soil amendments (see supplemented tree at right); all trees will benefit from this sustainable restoration practice. (Photo courtesy M. Applications)

The Groves

Cathedral Trees Sanctuary is an inclusive burial ground dedicated to unity, care, and tolerance for all beliefs and walks of life. Throughout the beautiful 100-acre gently graduated hill we have located areas for different groves, depending on the specific needs of a variety of naturally-occurring tree groupings.

An approximate view toward the south of the Siskiyou mountain range at moonrise.

Native Tree Choices

At one time, Cathedral Trees Sanctuary considered that each individual could choose any tree of their choice, including exotic favorites. However, after extensive research and environmental consultation, we were have a plan for a person to choose a native tree based on recommendations from a regional forest restoration consultant who will advise on which varieties are suitable for the local soil, microclimate, and long-term restoration needs.

For each tree planted, a number of factors must be taken into account, including irrigation; soil suitability for the tree species (moist or dry); and compatibility with tree “families.” For example, ancient Douglas Fir and Western Hemlock groves actually support each other in a masterful underground mycelium network, providing sugars, chemical “messages,” water, and immune support to each other. Families of trees in a given grove should be compatible in this way, as they are in nature.

For inspirational reading, the local library has a copy of The Hidden Life of Trees (illustrated edition) by Dr. Peter Wohlleben, a tree scientist with an ancient beech grove cemetery in Germany. In consultation with state-of-the-art research on tree groupings in the ecology literature such as Dr. Suzan Simard’s book, The Mother Tree, the following groups for a Grove will grow very well together on the lower parcel and eastern and northern edge of the upper parcel:

    Oak Family includes a choice of
   Black Oak (80 ft tall, 30′ wide canopy)
   Oregon White Oak (80 ft. tall, 65′ wide canopy)
   Golden Chinquapin (100 ft. tall, 30′ wide canopy)

   Mixed Evergreen Family that co-habits well

   Sugar Pine (200 ft. tall)
   Noble Fir (200 ft. tall)
   White Fir (200 ft. tall)

   Hardwood Tree Choices
   Oregon White Oak (80 ft. tall; 65 ft. canopy at maturity)
   Oregon Black Oak (80 ft. tall, 30 ft. canopy)
   Mountain Willow (40 ft. tall; thrives in dry soils)

   Founder’s Walk Choices
   Giant Sequoia (Sequoia giganteum, a “migrant species” that grows to 300 feet tall)
   Oregon Sugar Pine (a rare species that grows naturally with regional groves)

Depending on the final choice of land and its microclimate, the following trees may be considered, given the special needs of each species: Ponderosa Pine, Red Alder, Big Leaf Maple, Pacific Dogwood, Oregon Ash, White Alder, Madrone, Klamath Plum, Buckthorn, Bitter Cherry, Pacific Yew, Chokecherry, Vine Maple, Hawthorne, and Elderberry.

In accordance with Conservation cemetery requirements, all trees used must be native to the local climate; that is, hardy enough to be long-lived. A maintenance fund is required by the Green Burial Council for ongoing tree purchase, care, replacement and management.

How To Make This Happen

We are raising $200,000 for the down payment on the land. The Friends of Cathedral Trees Sanctuary (EN 84-3169866) is registered with the Internal Revenue Service as a 501(c)(3) organization and donations are tax-deductible. So far, we have a $10,000 pledge and an anonymous gift from a generous donor. We are asking the community for five donations of $20,000 each or ten donations of $10,000 each, but we would be interested in talking with you about larger or smaller sums.

We can offer a couple’s burial with up to two trees for each $10,000 donation, or up to four trees as a family plot for a $20,000 donation. All donors of $10,000 or more will be recognized in perpetuity as Founding Donors on a plaque in our proposed Celebration of Life Hall and in our literature. Trees will be chosen and planted in advance of time of need or as needed. Once we acquire the cemetery license (usually within two months of application) we can then sell specific plots.

Donations can be made with a:

1. Check to Friends of Cathedral Trees Sanctuary (FOCTS), 1467 Siskiyou Blvd., Ste. 313, Ashland 97520
2. Bank wire to the FOCTS account at Rogue Credit Union, Routing #323274775, Account #6001035989
3. Appreciated securities to the FOCTS account at TDAmeritrade, DTC #0188, Account #252673679

Note: If you have a Required Minimum Distribution from a 401(k) account that normally would be taxable, you can turn that into a tax deduction by donating cash, or securities to the TDAmeritrade account for Friends of Cathedral Trees Sanctuary. We will be glad to talk to your tax adviser or accountant about this.

Once we have prepared the land, we can apply for an Oregon state cemetery license, which takes about two months. Then we can begin to sell individual or family plots with or without a tree. Meadow plots will be available for a lower fee. We expect to be offering burials in a year or less, with preparation of the land and ongoing fundraising for a Celebration of Life Community Hall.

We will hold tree planting weekends during the spring and autumn planting seasons to plant trees and various Groves. Native wildflower seed planting will take place in the spring.

Memorial benches will provide an experience of relaxation, peace and contemplation at the Grove.

Part of our purpose is to provide a cemetery that can be experienced as places of joy and beauty in nature, with a feeling of hope for this world and for the planet. Children can learn that death can be a supported experience, within community, and is natural for our bodies.

Regarding looking ahead to our own deathcare and death, the grandfather of conservation movement, John Muir said:

“Let children walk with Nature, let them see the beautiful blendings and communions of death and life…and they will learn that death is stingless indeed, and as beautiful as life.”

* * * * *

Additional information regarding conventional deathcare statistics…

Additional educational information is available from https://Conservation Burial Alliance.org, or the Green Burial Council International at https://www.greenburialcouncil.org/media_packet.html. Up-to-date medical research from the International Academy of Oral and Medical Toxicology library is available at https://library.iaomt.org/ on the effects of pollutants such as heavy metals on human health.

Other research on the medical consequences of herbicides, embalming fluids, and so on can be found in the NIH website archives library.

Nearly twenty years ago, the Green Burial Council International acquired data from Cornell University professor Mary Woodsen showing the enormous pollution and waste of resources from conventional cemetery practices nationwide:

Each year over 22,000 cemeteries across the U.S. waste:

  • 4.3 million gallons embalming fluid, 827,060 gallons of which is formaldehyde, methanol, benzene. These cause high rates of cancer in workers and destroy the natural ecology of the body. Embalming fluids and other chemicals leach into the watershed, contributing to the slow poisoning of our waterways
  • 20 million board feet of hardwoods, including rainforest trees
  • 1.6 million tons of concrete (enough to re-pave the continent across and back); concrete production also uses the heavy metal mercury in its manufacturing process
  • 17,000 tons of copper and bronze in caskets
  • 64,500 tons of steel (enough to build a new Golden Gate bridge every year)
  • Caskets and vaults leach heavy metals of iron, copper, lead, zinc, cobalt into the soil

In addition to resource wastefulness and soil contamination from embalming fluids:

Herbicides used for cemetery lawn care kill the very microbes found in nature that are essential to transform the deceased into new life. 800 million gallons of RoundUp herbicide and pesticides – or “biocides,” to use a term from Rachel Carson, the mother of American environmentalism – are used every year in cemeteries across America. The once-living soil in cemeteries is now essentially void of any capacity to sustain long-term, healthy plant life.

Synthetic fertilizers only allow the growth of cemetery grass to create a green lawn effect and cause excess synthetic nitrogen to leach into the surrounding soil and local watershed. Although some older or historic cemeteries have trees that are healthy and have reached maturity with deep roots, those trees planted in cemeteries within the past 80-100 years will have a limited lifespan and health problems to contend with.

Financial Savings: There are enormous financial savings with conservation burials. In 2021, during the COVID-19 pandemic, conventional cemeteries and funeral homes increased their prices to an average of $15,000 per funeral, from about $8,000 prior to 2020. Surveys of Americans in 2021 showed that 56% of families were unable to pay for funeral or burial costs and had used up their savings during the pandemic.

In contrast to conventional burials and funerals, conservation burials typically cost an average of $3,000. A meadow burial costs as little as $1,000 (not including a sewn or purchased biodegradable shroud). Payment arrangements can be made for those in need and unable to afford a conservation burial.

Cremation remains burials: A number of people have asked if Cathedral Trees Sanctuary can bury the cremated remains of other family members that have been given to them. Conservation certification allows this on a limited basis only, because of the over-alkaline effect on the soil by the cremains. See the report of the Green Burial Council, “The Environmental Impact and Potential Human Health Effects of Cremation”.

However, on a very limited basis, Cathedral Trees Sanctuary can offer a covering of soil over the cremains on top of mounded soil at the base of a purchased tree, along with cremains soil acidifiers and conditioners. Since cremains have no heavy metals other than possibly lead in some areas of the country, we expect that there will be minimal impact on tree growth and soil fertility. For more information about the environmental and health impacts of cremation, see below. Please contact us for specific needs and costs for cremation remains burials.

Cremation, mistakenly thought by many Americans to be “green” (and avoided by Baha’is and numerous other religious groups) is even more polluting than conventional cemeteries. Cremation:

Uses fossil fuels to reach & maintain 1900° to 2400° F for 2+ hours, or 92 cubic meters of natural gas for each cremation. The pandemic of 2020 brought cremation numbers up to about 2 million Americans. 92 cubic meters gas x 2,000,000 cremations = 184 million cubic meters of natural gas per year used in U.S. cremations.

Releases 0.8 to 5.9 grams of mercury per cremation into global air and water (Britain study estimated cremations cause 16% of their total greenhouse gas emissions; MN study estimates 14% of U.S. greenhouse gases).

Produces 139 lbs. Of CO2 per person = 1.74 billion pounds of CO2 emissions annually in the U.S.

Crematory emissions include significantly toxic levels of mercury, dioxins, furans, plastics and other persistent organic pollutants (POPS). Once mercury is breathed in, it bioaccumulates and biomagnifies in human and mammal bodies and is difficult to eliminate, according to biologists and medical researchers of the past forty years.

An EPA study (2012) showed mercury was the most dangerous of 12 pollutants released in crematory vapors, including plastics (body bags), dioxins (wood caskets), furans, PCBs, and other persistent organic pollutants.

To date, over 30,000 freshwater lakes have been closed by the USGS due to mercury contamination. Only 20 grams of mercury is required to close a waterway and make it unusable. References can be found in the archives at the USGS.

According to Professor emeritus Boyd Haley, PhD, of the International Academy of Oral and Medical Toxicology, our mercury body burdens are increasing significantly every year. As an NIH scientist, he produced 30 years of studies showing that mercury is a significant cause of Alzheimer’s disease. Other diseases linked with the neurotoxin are MS, Parkinson’s, learning disabilities, and certain types of autism. References to these can be found in the Archives for the NIH, the EPA, and at https://library.iaomt.org/

A September 2021 policy release by the FDA said that there are seven groups of Americans that should avoid the use of mercury amalgam dental fillings. See the FDA website for more info.

Of the 1.4 million and 1.3 million deceased who underwent cremation and conventional burial, respectively, in the USA in 2017, assuming each person weighed an average of 110 lbs., 55 million pounds of carbon were prevented from decomposing naturally into the earth, causing a loss of our soil ecosystems.