As Last Chance Grade Crumbles, Caltrans Considers Two Solutions

Save the Redwoods League

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Robin Carr, Landis Communications Inc
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Save the Redwoods League calls for mitigating loss of old-growth forest

Last Chance Grade overlooking highway

San Francisco, Calif. (February 13, 2024) — In Northern California, the famed coastal Highway 101 winds through some of the world’s last ancient coast redwood forest. For decades, a 3.5-mile section of the highway between Eureka and Crescent City, known as Last Chance Grade, has been plagued by landslides and frequent closures, with no viable alternate routes for the local community, commerce or tourism. The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) has been working with local stakeholders for 10 years on a solution. Tragically, their final two roadway alternatives will have substantial impacts on nearby old-growth redwood forest. 

The remaining alternatives are 1) an end-to-end re-engineering of the section of 101 crossing the Last Chance Grade slide, or 2) building a 1.1-mile tunnel under Redwood National and State Parks to bypass the landslide zone. These roadway alternatives are among the least environmentally harmful solutions for the long-term restoration of Last Chance Grade, and Caltrans published a detailed assessment of each in its draft Environmental Impact Report in December 2023.

While other route alternatives could have resulted in far more destructive impacts, both remaining plans will still involve removing 129 to 144 large, old trees, including dozens of old-growth redwood trees up to 8.9 feet in diameter. Regrettably, land that will be affected or removed includes parkland that Save the Redwoods League helped protect, the Traditional Cultural Landscape, recreational trails, habitat for marbled murrelets and northern spotted owls and wetland habitat. 

With scarcely 5% of California’s original old-growth redwoods still surviving, Save the Redwoods League is deeply saddened by any further loss of ancient redwood forest, especially in areas that the League, our supporters and partners fought hard to protect. Old-growth redwoods are irreplaceable, and it is difficult to imagine what mitigation efforts would be adequate to make up for any further loss of this globally unique ancient forest. 

Caltrans has indicated that it is committed to mitigate the environmental impacts of the highway construction project. As they proceed with either alternative, we must ensure that meaningful actions and significant investments are made toward redwood forest land protection, restoration and stewardship.

Save the Redwoods League has been engaged in Congressman Huffman’s Stakeholder Working Group for Last Chance Grade since 2015 to assess roadway alternatives, environmental impacts and mitigation. We remain committed to making science-based recommendations to Caltrans to define and secure a solution and maximal mitigation outcome. 

Learn more about Last Chance Grade



Save the Redwoods League

One of the nation’s longest-running conservation organizations, Save the Redwoods League has been protecting and restoring redwood forests since 1918. The League has connected generations of visitors with the beauty and serenity of the redwood forests. Our 400,000 supporters have enabled the League to protect more than 220,000 acres of irreplaceable forests in 66 state, national, and local parks and reserves. For information, please visit

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