Skip to main content
Go to the Homepage
“These magnificent redwoods far exceed anything I had imagined. I had long heard of the wonderful redwood forests, but before this trip, I had never seen them,” exclaimed David’s father, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., after touring the redwoods with his wife and three sons in 1926. Photo by Tim Christoffersen
“These magnificent redwoods far exceed anything I had imagined. I had long heard of the wonderful redwood forests, but before this trip, I had never seen them,” exclaimed David’s father, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., after touring the redwoods with his wife and three sons in 1926. Photo by Tim Christoffersen
Much can be said about David Rockefeller regarding his impact on the global financial industry, about his vigorous advocacy abroad for the United States, for his deep philanthropic engagement in his beloved New York City, and of the remarkable and iconic family legacy that has left such an indelible mark on the country and the world. But there is one element of David Rockefeller’s story that you will likely only read here: that he was there, standing among the redwoods with early Save the Redwoods League leaders when their conservation story began nearly 100 years ago.

Until his passing at the age of 101 on Monday morning, David Rockefeller was the last surviving grandson of John D. Rockefeller (Sr.), a founder of the Standard Oil Company and one of the most impactful American philanthropists of all time. Like his grandfather and father before him, and other exceedingly generous members of his family, David was committed to supporting many charities, giving away almost $2 billion throughout his lifetime.

In 1926, when David was only 11 years old, he traveled to California with his parents and older brothers to see the redwoods for the first time as part of a larger tour to introduce the boys to the nation’s incredible natural wonders. It was on this trip that David’s father instilled in him and his brothers a drive to protect the world around them — a sensibility that began with their grandfather.

In 1926, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. discusses redwoods conservation with Save the Redwoods League leader Newton Drury. David Rockefeller is pictured on the front, right side.
In 1926, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. discusses redwoods conservation with Save the Redwoods League leader Newton Drury. David Rockefeller is pictured on the front, right side.
“As Father traveled, if he saw things that needed to be done, he took steps and did something about them,” David would later recall. This trip to the redwoods was no exception. During a picnic-style meeting in the heart of the old-growth redwoods in what is now Humboldt Redwoods State Park, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and Newton Drury, Save the Redwoods League’s first Executive Director, discussed the direction of the conservation movement in the region and what it would take to save the ancient trees.

Not only did this visit inspire the Rockefellers’ first gift to protect these forests, but they later went on to help the League purchase over 9,000 acres of timberland, with matching contributions from the state. By 1931, this grove, the largest contiguous stand of old-growth coast redwoods in the world, was saved from an impending harvest and, in 1952, it was named the “Rockefeller Forest” in honor of the family’s dedication to protecting it. You can see this forest in Humboldt Redwoods State Park. By the 1960s, the Rockefellers also made significant contributions to save groves in Prairie Creek Redwoods and Calaveras Big Trees State Parks as well as Yosemite and Redwood National Parks.

“To have a part in the preservation of these majestic trees was a privilege and gave me great satisfaction, which is only heightened by the receipt of the resolution which your organization conveys,” said John D. Rockefeller, Jr. in a letter to the League. “This resolution is especially meaningful, coming as it does from the organization which has so faithfully guarded these forests for many years.”

Nearly 80 years after their first trip to the redwoods, in an interview with the New York Times (external link), David reminisced about that trip to see California’s giant redwood trees for the first time. It was this trip that inspired so many of the family’s greatest conservation efforts. And David was there, bearing witness to the start of a long-term partnership with his family that helped create some of our most treasured and spectacular public parks — a legacy that endures as the Rockefeller family leads by example, saving the redwoods and more through their philanthropic efforts.

From the Grand Tetons in Wyoming, to Acadia National Park in Maine, to the Virgin Islands of the Caribbean, to the coast redwoods and giant sequoia forests of California, the Rockefeller’s conservation legacy is far-reaching. As we remember David Rockefeller and say “goodbye” to the last living attendant of that transformational meeting in the redwoods, we’re thankful for his family’s remarkable leadership that saved so many of our ancient redwood groves and in so doing, helped to catalyze the conservation movement of the last century.


Tags: , , ,


About Sam Hodder

Chief Enthusiast for the Outdoors (CEO) and Prez of Save the Redwoods League, Sam brings more than 20 years of experience in overseeing land conservation programs from the remote wilderness to the inner city.


Share this Article


Many of the most magnificent redwood parks and reserves you and generations of Americans have enjoyed, including Redwood National Park pictured above, have been partially funded by the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Photo by Max Forster President’s Budget Threatens Land and Water

President Trump released his first budget blueprint, offering a glimpse into the Administration’s priorities. Sadly, if enacted by Congress, LWCF and many of the federal agencies that we work with face dramatic cuts, jeopardizing millions of jobs associated with our public lands and undermining protections that would otherwise support a safe and healthy future for Americans.


Bill holds a seedling at the Mill Creek nursery in Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park. Photo by Mark Bult Bill Libby: League Honors a Scientist and Leader

Forest geneticist Dr. William Libby, a longtime volunteer leader for Save the Redwoods League, recalls the night in 1951 when he chose the path for his life’s work.


Leave a Reply