Protecting redwood forests is a big job. It takes years, sometimes decades, of thoughtful, science-based planning and patient relationship-building with landowners for it all to come together. I love this work largely because of the latter. I’ve had the pleasure of working closely with families that have generational connections to their own private forestlands. Inevitably, they wish to see these rare places safeguarded forever.
Seven years ago, the Holmes family called me up, as they have in the past, and said to me, “Catherine, let’s save some redwoods.” And that was the beginning of the work to protect a lustrous green gem we call Cascade Creek.
Protection of this 564-acre property of young and old redwoods is crucial—not just for the rich natural assets of the property, but also for the biodiversity and ecological health of the surrounding lands. This regional ecological keystone connects Big Basin Redwoods State Park with the coastal prairies, wetland marshes, dune fields, and ocean bluffs of Año Nuevo State Park, providing contiguous habitat for myriad species that traverse this landscape.
While the property’s forests and wildlife have thrived under the rigorous, decades-long stewardship of the Holmes family, there is no certainty that future owners will have the same ethic—particularly with several spots on the property suitable for development of private home sites with ocean views.
With the goal of creating continuous protected redwood habitat from the Santa Cruz Mountains to the Pacific Ocean, Save the Redwoods League, in partnership with Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST), has announced an agreement to purchase Cascade Creek for $9 million. An additional $600,000 will be needed to steward the property during the League’s ownership.
To finalize the deal, the League needs to raise the $9.6 million by May 30, 2020.
A Stronghold for Redwoods
Protecting Cascade Creek will strengthen Santa Cruz Mountains as the heartland for the southern redwood range, which contains numerous groves of ancient trees and robust stands of younger redwoods that are manifesting old-growth characteristics with the passing of each year. The beauty and ecological significance of this region moved California’s earliest conservationists to action. California’s first state park, now called Big Basin Redwoods State Park, was dedicated in 1902 and has since expanded to 18,000 acres. Over the last century, a network of parks and preserves has flourished in these mountains, many of them founded with the aid of Save the Redwoods League. As a result, wild expanses of magnificent redwoods are a car ride away from the bustle of San Francisco.
If we succeed in purchasing Cascade Creek, our work in the Santa Cruz Mountains still won’t be finished. Ongoing management of the region’s redwoods is essential to ensure they will all achieve the cathedral-like grandeur that is the hallmark of existing primeval groves.
Moreover, there are still critical parcels that must be protected. Portions of the range are still vulnerable to development and habitat fragmentation.
After the purchase and thoroughly assessing Cascade Creek’s natural inventories and management options, the League plans to transfer it to California State Parks or another permanent steward. Public access is a League priority, and we anticipate a number of enhanced recreational opportunities growing out of this agreement, including a trail along the namesake creek.
League scientists and staffers can only accomplish our work through the goodwill and direct support of our partners: members, government agencies, and landowners. We’re indebted to the Holmeses for this opportunity. The family has long held interests in milling operations in Humboldt and Santa Cruz counties, generally processing second-growth and third-growth timber. At the same time, family members are also ardent advocates for protecting and restoring the redwood forests, especially those containing ancient redwoods. The League has worked with the Holmeses to protect two other spectacular redwoods properties in the nearby Peters Creek and Boulder Creek watersheds.
The price tag for Cascade Creek—$9 million—is well below market value, and that speaks eloquently to the family’s commitment to redwoods conservation. It has been an honor to work with them to protect this special piece of land in the Santa Cruz Mountains.