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Alder Creek

A Conservation Opportunity Like No Other

A person between two giant sequoia trees
Everywhere one looks at Alder Creek, one finds giants. Photo by Max Forster.
Superlatives somehow seem lacking when describing the 530-acre Alder Creek forest, the largest remaining giant sequoia property in private ownership. Ancient sequoia soar to the sky, as do magnificent old ponderosa pine and white fir. Native bees and other pollinators swarm the blossoms of elderberry and gooseberry bushes, the soft fluttering of their wings providing a subdued counterpoint to the extravagant birdsong resounding from the trees. The air is rich with the resinous perfume of ceanothus and manzanita warming in the Sierra sun.

The forest of Alder Creek is so palpably ancient that it seems timeless. Black bear, mountain lion, and mule deer are present, but a visitor might almost expect to see a mammoth plodding through the understory.

You’re constantly looking skyward when exploring Alder Creek; the trees demand it. The Alder Creek property encompasses nearly 50 percent of the world’s contiguous old-growth giant sequoia left in private ownership. It supports hundreds of old-growth giant sequoia – including 483 with diameters of six feet or greater – making Alder Creek comparable in size and significance to Yosemite National Park’s famous Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. Among its giant sequoia is what is believed to be the fifth largest tree in the world: the Stagg Tree, a mighty behemoth more than 25 feet wide and 250 feet tall, likely thousands of years old. It’s the largest tree in the Giant Sequoia National Monument, wider than a two-lane street and as tall as a 25-story skyscraper. Of the world’s five largest trees, only the Stagg Tree remains unprotected in private ownership. But arguably the most important aspect of the property is its ancient landscape – a snapshot of a wild California that is rarely seen these days.

Because leaving such a natural treasure in private hands carries great inherent risk, Save the Redwoods League has announced its intent to purchase and protect it. The cost to acquire this property is $15.65 million, and the League must raise that amount from private sources by December 31, 2019, to permanently protect the property. If we don’t purchase this property, we don’t know who will, or what their intentions will be. We will also need to raise $4.35 million for ongoing stewardship. Our plan is to eventually transfer it to the Giant Sequoia National Monument so that this place will belong to all of us – for recreation, education, and inspiration.

Urgent Need

Save the Redwoods League is currently seeking support from conservation philanthropists and foundations toward the total project costs of $20 million (including the acquisition cost of $15.65 million), and invites the public to support this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with tax-deductible donations. Donate today to help purchase, protect, and restore the world’s largest remaining unprotected giant sequoia forest.

“Alder Creek is the most consequential giant sequoia conservation project of our lifetime. It’s the largest remaining giant sequoia property in private ownership, and the opportunity to protect it has been decades in the making,” said Sam Hodder, President and CEO of Save the Redwoods League. “Old growth of any species, let alone the world’s largest trees, is extraordinarily rare. There is precious little left of the natural world as we found it before the industrial revolution, Alder Creek is the natural world at its most extraordinary.

“Giant sequoia catalyzed the national conservation movement more than 150 years ago beginning with the protection of Mariposa, and today, Save the Redwoods League has the opportunity to continue this conservation legacy by permanently protecting Alder Creek and its hundreds of giant sequoia trees.”

Giant sequoia forests are one of the rarest ecosystems on the planet, encompassing merely 48,000 acres. Although most of it is in conservation ownership, it is vital to secure as much as we can, because every inch of this ancient, resilient, carbon sequestering, and inspiring forest is irreplaceable. We simply cannot fail to secure the funding that will protect Alder Creek—and with the support of our members and donors, we won’t fail.

Owned by the Rouch family since the end of World War II, the Alder Creek property is bordered on three sides by the Giant Sequoia National Monument, the heartland for giant sequoia, the biggest trees on the planet. At 328,000 acres, the national monument is a scenic, recreational and scientific treasure of incalculable value, containing more than 45 percent of the world’s Giant Sequoia trees, and a key component in the long-term conservation strategy for all giant sequoia and the suite of associated imperiled species that coexist with them. Alder Creek can provide habitat for a myriad of these rare and imperiled animals including Pacific fisher, American marten, and California spotted owl.

Alder Creek, the waterway for which the property was named, runs through the northern portion of the property, offering an abundant water source and rich habitat for local fish and wildlife. In addition to sequoia, Alder Creek also contains robust stands of mature red fir, white fir, ponderosa pine, and sugar pine, as well as several other habitats, including meadows, wetlands, and riparian woodlands. Each sustains its unique suite of associated species; together, they form a vital and resilient ecosystem emblematic of the southern Sierra Nevada and California.

“The Rouch family has always been loggers, and they did harvest trees from the Alder Creek property over the decades. Because wildfires have been suppressed for over 100 years, this selective logging actually helped to emulate the effect wildfire would have had. The result is a more diverse and healthy forest than groves that have had no fire or thinning in a century,” said Jess Inwood, Parks Program Manager for Save the Redwoods League. “But they left the giant sequoia alone, contributing directly to the stellar quality of this property.”

Family member Mike Rouch said the land always was central to their identity and sense of well-being.

Snow on the ground at Alder Creek creates an otherworldly landscape. Photo by Victoria Reeder, Save the Redwoods League
Snow on the ground at Alder Creek creates an otherworldly landscape. Photo by Victoria Reeder, Save the Redwoods League

A Crucial Project

The protection of critical landscapes like Alder Creek is among the key goals in the League’s recently released Centennial Vision for Redwoods Conservation. The vision describes plans to address the findings of the League’s first-ever State of Redwoods Conservation Report, which details today’s most pressing challenges for these iconic forests.

Among the findings in the report: The overall state of giant sequoia conservation warrants caution. In contrast to coast redwoods, giant sequoia groves in the rural Sierra region were largely spared the magnitude of the destructive, early logging. However, logging did impact approximately one-third of the total forest footprint and was acutely destructive to several sequoia groves, including one of the largest, Converse Basin.

Of the 1,200 acres of giant sequoia groves held in private ownership, Alder Creek is by far the biggest prize, nearly four times the size of other private parcels.

Minimizing the Risk of Destructive Wildfire

After the League acquires the Alder Creek property, we will begin work to reduce the risk of severe fires. Although many parts of the property are healthy due to maintenance by the current landowners, some parts of the property have not had any fire or thinning in over a hundred years, resulting in unnaturally dense understory that can contribute to severe fires. “We will conduct forest thinning where it’s needed,” said Kristen Shive, director of science for the League.

“This fuels reduction work also will open the forest canopy, providing giant sequoia with the sunlight and bare forest floor they require to thrive,” said Shive. “Unlike many giant sequoia groves, Alder Creek has giant sequoia in all age classes. It’s just one more element that makes this property so spectacular. By removing some of the smaller non-sequoia trees we can both reduce fire risk and help perpetuate the next generation.”

Permanent Protection & Public Access

Museums procure the finest examples of art to ensure that the public can be afforded a chance to experience works in a protected and secure environment – and this is based on the idea that our greatest treasures belong to us all. As Americans, we’ve similarly created our national parks and monument systems to ensure that our natural treasures are protected and shared. This is why Save the Redwoods League believes that a landscape as important as Alder Creek should be both safeguarded and made available for public access – as we have done with a number of other significant acquisitions over the years.

The League intends to own and manage the property for five to 10 years. During this time the League will develop and implement forest restoration and stewardship activities and develop public access plans. Ultimately, the League will transfer the land to U.S. Forest Service for permanent protection as part of Giant Sequoia National Monument.

By transferring the property to the Forest Service, the League will ensure that it can manage the property for the long-term health of the giant sequoia in coordination with the monument’s general plan, which prioritizes protection of giant sequoia, wildfire risk reduction, watershed protection, habitat enhancement for threatened species, and recreational opportunities. Alder Creek’s inclusion with the monument assures greater protection and stability for the larger giant sequoia forest.

A visit to an ancient sequoia grove is transformational. These forests are life changing in their beauty, longevity, and almost spiritual presence. With a public road leading directly to the one of the most extraordinary sequoia groves in existence, Alder Creek offers a truly unique opportunity to share one of nature’s great wonders with the world. Access also brings the opportunity to enrich the value of the larger Giant Sequoia National Monument with additional trails and amenities.

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