Overview

Save the Redwoods League is raising $1.3 million to protect a critical redwood habitat corridor bordering Montgomery Woods within the Big River watershed

Getting to Montgomery Woods State Natural Reserve is a scenic journey. Winding 13 miles down Orr Springs Road from the town of Ukiah, the lush, forested mountains appear vast and distant at first. Gradually the descent into the valley envelops visitors in the forest’s cool shade, its serene silence, and its otherworldly magic.

Montgomery Woods feels unlike any other redwood grove. If fairies and gnomes existed, one could imagine this might be the place they dwell—among the cathedral of towering ancient redwoods, colossal ferns, and the jade-colored waters of Montgomery Creek. Home to some of the tallest trees on Earth, including one that was once considered the world’s tallest, the reserve’s old-growth grove is a beloved destination and one of the region’s hidden treasures.

A creek running through a redwood forest
Atkins Place is adjacent to the pictured Montgomery Woods State Natural Reserve. Photo: Max Forster, @maxforsterphotography

Buffering an ancient forest

Sharing a 0.75-mile boundary with the northern end of Montgomery Woods, Atkins Place is a private second-growth coast redwood forest that has been managed for timber production for decades. In the good hands of the current landowners, the forest has been under a Non-Industrial Timber Management Plan since 2002, which aims to help the forest recover from heavier logging in the past. Recent timber harvests under the current management plan focus on removing small, unhealthy trees to promote the growth of the larger, more vigorous trees. This brings back diversity in tree sizes and age classes, which are characteristics of a healthy forest.

Atkins Place features 335 acres of mixed coast redwood and Douglas-fir forest and 1.25 miles of high-quality streams for imperiled fish in the salmon family. Well-stewarded second-growth forests like Atkins Place, where the trees range in age from about 50 to 90 years, are key puzzle pieces that can help bolster the health of old-growth groves, watersheds, and entire landscapes.

To secure the property from future potential subdivision, development, and aggressive logging, Save the Redwoods League has partnered with the owners to permanently protect this place. The League intends to acquire Atkins Place in 2022 and steward it before ultimately donating it to California State Parks for inclusion in Montgomery Woods State Natural Reserve. This project supports the League’s centennial vision to double the size of coast redwood forests in parks and reserves and secure the redwood forests’ footprints and ecological condition.

Acquisition of Atkins Place will connect habitats across a landscape of more than 11,500 protected acres, including Bureau of Land Management lands. This protected corridor will facilitate species migration and adaptation to climate change and buffer the old growth of Montgomery Woods. The corridor is important habitat for endangered foothill yellow-legged frogs, northern spotted owls, northern goshawks, white-tailed kites, and other raptors.

The property is in the Big River watershed, with the river’s mouth at the seaside town of Mendocino. This watershed is rated as high-priority core habitat for coho salmon, which are known to spawn on the property in addition to steelhead trout. Because of its good ecological condition and relatively small size, the watershed is more resilient to climate change threats than some of the neighboring watersheds. Thus, the more protections we secure around it, the bigger the benefits to the landscape.

Forest landscape
The view to the west from Atkins Place. Photo: Max Forster, @maxforsterphotography

Better access to a beloved grove

Atkins Place provides a future opportunity for the League to enhance public access to Montgomery Woods. An established trail along a ridgeline features breathtaking panoramic views of the lush, forested hillsides and can provide a new public access point to the northern part of the reserve. Conservation of this property creates opportunities for a future expanded trail network, camping, and additional parking facilities that could enable more visitors to experience the beauty and tranquility of Montgomery Woods.

Save the Redwoods League has a long history of protecting Montgomery Woods. After an initial 9-acre donation by Robert Orr in 1945 to create the reserve, the League has completed numerous transactions since 1947 to expand the reserve to 2,743 acres. In partnership with California State Parks, the League constructed an ADA-accessible restroom, parking, and interpretive signage at the main trailhead. We continue to explore opportunities to buffer and improve access to this stunning ancient forest.

The League must raise $1.18 million for the purchase, plus $120,000 in stewardship and project costs by June 30, 2022.  The California Natural Resources Agency has awarded the League $550,000 in acquisition funding for this project through its Environmental Enhancement & Mitigation Program. Google also has made a $188,000 gift through its partnership with the International Living Future Institute and its pursuit of the Living Building Challenge, a certification program that requires new projects to meet certain environmental metrics and directs funding to environmental initiatives. The League seeks to raise the remaining $562,000 through private donations.