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A new and mysterious disease was ravaging California’s oak trees, and the plane was surveying the forest to establish a set of baseline images—a moment in time scientists could refer back to in case the disease did show up in Oregon.
The scientists invoked a state law allowing them to quarantine nine square miles of forest near Brookings, where the Chetco meets the Pacific, and launched a scorched-earth campaign to eradicate the disease. They chopped the diseased trees down, along with a hundred-foot buffer of healthy trees and other plants that might harbor the disease. Then they burned everything.