Save the Redwoods League is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to protect and restore California redwoods and connect people to the peace and beauty of redwood forests. The League protects redwoods by purchasing redwood forests and the surrounding land needed to nurture them. We restore redwood forests by innovating science and technology that can improve stewardship and accelerate forest regeneration. And by protecting more than 200,000 acres and helping to create 66 redwood parks and reserves, the League builds connections among people and the redwood forests. The League’s work is grounded in the principles of conservation biology, research and improving our collective understanding and appreciation of the redwoods.
Save the Redwoods League was founded after a life-changing road trip. In 1917, urged by then National Parks director Stephen Mather, three prominent conservationists drove north on California’s newly constructed Redwood Highway to investigate the status of the tallest trees on Earth. What John C. Merriam, Madison Grant and Fairfield Osborn found was both inspiring and appalling. The beauty and tranquility of the primeval redwood forest filled them with awe, but the accelerating rate of its destruction horrified them.
From the Eel River drainage north through Humboldt and Del Norte Counties, they found vast tracts of virgin redwoods—some of which exceeded 300 feet tall—being felled to make vineyard stakes, shingles and railroad ties. Worse still, the Mendocino County coast, had been reduced to a smoldering slash, where the great trees once stood. The redwood forest, the three men agreed, would have no future unless “people of good will acted”. They thus committed to protecting the coast redwood and giant sequoia forests by purchasing multiple ancient groves and establishing a state or national park to protect them. The next year, in the spring of 1918, the three friends and allied conservationists channeled their sense of urgency and organized the League to ensure the permanent survival of the ancient redwoods.
Bolstered by donations totaling $100, the three prominent conservationists established Save the Redwoods League in 1918. In the following year, inspired by a visit from League leadership, the Women’s Save-the-Redwoods League of Humboldt County was formed. They were later joined by the California Federation of Women’s Clubs and other groups committed to protecting coast redwoods in northern California. In 1920, the League incorporated as a California nonprofit organization, and the first memorial grove was established on the South Fork Eel River in 1921. Richardson Grove was established in Southern Humboldt County in 1922, and the first acquisitions for Del Norte Coast Redwood Park were made in 1924.
The League was a leader in establishing the California State Parks Committee in 1925; in 1927, the committee successfully lobbied for legislation that unified the various state park commissions into a single entity and provided for a survey of potential state park sites. The following year, the committee campaigned for approval of a $6 million bond to fund the acquisition of park land. California voters approved the measure by nearly a three-to-one margin.
Multiple redwood preserves were established through the subsequent decades, and in 1968 Congress authorized the creation of Redwood National Park, due in no small part to the ongoing advocacy and activism of the League, its members and volunteers. The League continued with its acquisition and preservation work through the early 21st Century, collaborating with local, state and federal agencies and private landowners to protect existing old-growth stands forever.
During its first hundred years, the League saved more than 200,000 acres of redwood forest and helped establish more than 66 redwood parks and preserves, protecting most of the old-growth redwoods that remain on Earth.