We can get our redwoods back on track
Under the right conditions, a coast redwood or giant sequoia forest will last forever. Nutrients will be available in the soil due to complex relationships with earth and wildlife. Sunlight and warmth will be perfectly timed. Water will plentiful. Coast redwoods will grow tall and live for thousands of years, and when they eventually fall, new trees will spring from their root structure even as the log benefits the ecosystem for hundreds of years more. Giant sequoia, too, will grow for thousands of years until they eventually fall, but not until they’ve dropped cones filled with thousands of seeds which, released by normal low-intensity fire, will grow tall and replace the monarchs that stood before.
I’m dramatically simplifying these processes, but you get the idea. And if you follow the work of Save the Redwoods League, you also probably understand that in the last 100 years, humans have greatly disrupted this ecological system. We heavily logged all but about 5 percent of our old-growth coast redwoods, and intensely replanted new redwoods and other trees in their place. We launched a massive fire suppression campaign in the Sierra Nevada that has allowed the forests to grow so unnaturally dense around the giant sequoia that fire has turned from being a friend to an enemy. And we’ve allowed climate change to run unchecked.
To put it simply, we broke these forests. Left to themselves, they will not grow back to the lush, magical places they once were.
But here’s the thing: Using proven science and the latest forestry techniques, we can fix these forests, and set them on the right course.
Accomplishing this goal will require a major shift in perspective. For 100 years, Save the Redwoods League and its supporters have stood between California’s iconic redwood trees and the axe. Since 1918, the League has protected more than 216,000 acres of California’s redwood forests, either creating or adding to 66 redwood parks. In all, just over 400,000 acres are protected in redwood parks and reserves, but those are surrounded by more than 1 million acres of industrial redwood timberland.
Now we have an opportunity to pivot from slowing degradation to advancing regeneration and restoration of the redwood forest ecosystem. It’s a move from defense to offense. Our vision for the next 100 years of redwoods conservation called for doubling the amount of coast redwood forest in protection to 800,000 acres.
Donations to the Forever Forest Campaign have already been used to protect spectacular coast redwood and giant sequoia properties such as Alder Creek, Cascade Creek, Harold Richardson Redwoods Reserve, and Red Hill. We’ve launched Redwoods Rising, the most ambitious redwood restoration project across the redwood range. And with our increased capacity, we just protected Andersonia West, a magnificent coast redwood property along California’s Lost Coast.
What does forever mean when we talk about redwoods? Do we mean our own lifetime, a few generations, or until the end of time itself?
Let me answer it this way: Old-growth redwoods living today are “ambassadors from another time,” as John Steinbeck said. Many living old-growth redwoods hail from thousands of years ago, and their ancestors go far beyond that. Some petrified remains of redwoods go back as many as 50 million years. In other words, redwoods were on the path to last forever until they reached our modern times, when their trip was interrupted. But with your help, we can put them back on that path. By joining the Forever Forest campaign, you can put these forests back on track for another 50 million years.
And that’s about as close to forever as there is.