Every summer, millions of people from around the world descend on California’s redwood country, the central and northern coast redwood forests, as well as the giant sequoia groves in the Sierra. But with the continuing COVID-19 crisis, summer 2020 is shaping up to be a travel season like no other before it.
This strange little thing is called a snowflower or snow plant, and it is found fairly commonly in giant sequoia forests and other coniferous montane areas of California, Oregon, and Nevada. These common names are far friendlier than its scientific name, Sarcodes sanguinea, which translates roughly to “bloody flesh-like thing," in reference to the bright red color of the entire plant.
Everyone at Save the Redwoods League is so excited about the new giant sequoia curriculum for K-12 classrooms offered by the California State Parks PORTS® program, which stands for Parks Online Resources for Teachers and Students. This distance learning program features the giant sequoia of Calaveras Big Trees State Park in its new unit and uses an innovative system incorporating interactive media and virtual reality platforms to teach about the ecosystems, wildlife, and history of California State Parks.
Tom Stapleton’s research on albino redwoods started with searching for these rare trees in the wild and has led to the patent of three albino redwood varieties, named “Mosaic Delight”, “Grand Mosaic,” and “Early Snow,” which are albino redwood chimeras. Stapleton hopes to shed more light on understanding why these mutations exist.
In February, Oregon’s Fish and Wildlife Commission voted to reclassify the marbled murrelet from threatened to endangered. The vote is good news, considering that murrelets have lost an estimated 78,600 acres of nesting habitat in Oregon since 1993. By some models cited by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the species risks an 80 percent chance of extinction by 2060 in certain parts of the state.
California condors have been absent from the Pacific Northwest for over a century. But the Yurok tribe — whose ancestors lived along the Klamath River in Northern California — still revere and celebrate them. The sight of a condor flying over the redwoods has been erased from living memory, and, as tribe chairman Thomas P. O’Rourke told Audubon last March, “His absence is a hole in our hearts.”
The Orick Mill Site, a 125-acre property in the Prairie Creek Scenic Corridor, was a top priority for acquisition by the League for a long time. It’s not hard to see why: the property is nestled between the most iconic redwood groves in the world — the groves of Redwood National and State Parks. But land acquisitions — and the resulting changes in land management — are complicated affairs, especially if you happen to be a herd of Roosevelt elk.
We are sequencing the coast redwood and giant sequoia genomes. While the first steps in this project will happen in the laboratory, the goal is to rapidly put this new understanding of redwood DNA to work for conservation. To support vigorous coast redwood and giant sequoia forests in the decades ahead, we will need to protect not only the remarkable structure of the forest, but also protect the genetic diversity that underlies it.
The sword fern, one of the most common redwood forest plants, has become prominent in my life over the past few years. This is mostly due to the League’s Fern Watch project, which monitors the health of sword ferns throughout the redwood range. Even though these ferns are common, little is known about their ecology and how they respond to climatic change.
This summer proved to be momentous for the recovery of the California condor. Joe Burnett and Amy List, biologists at Ventana Wildlife Society, located the nest of two condors, #538 and #574, inside a hollowed-out coast redwood in Big Sur. Over the years Burnett watched these two birds, nicknamed Miracle and Nomad, as they fledged and grew up in the wild. Now, they’re raising their own chick — the first chick, since the 1980s, born to parents who were not raised in captivity.