Updated September 27, 2022
Save the Redwoods League has protected 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.
Buffering an ancient forest
Sharing a 0.75-mile boundary with the northern end of Montgomery Woods, Atkins Place is a second-growth coast redwood forest that had been managed for timber production for decades. In the good hands of the previous landowners, the forest had been under a Non-Industrial Timber Management Plan since 2002, which aimed to help the forest recover from heavier logging in the past. Timber harvests under that management plan focused on removing small, unhealthy trees to promote the growth of the larger, more vigorous trees. This brought 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 partnered with the previous owners to permanently protect this place. The League acquired Atkins Place in August 2022 and will 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 connects 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.
Better access to a beloved grove
Atkins Place provides an 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 is grateful to our members for helping us raise $562,000 in private donations toward the $1.18 million purchase price and $120,000 in stewardship and project costs. The California Natural Resources Agency awarded the League $550,000 in acquisition funding for this project through its Environmental Enhancement & Mitigation Program. Google also 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. Nearly 3,000 individual donors gave to the campaign, and the League particularly acknowledges generous contributions from the Clark Family, the Pitzer Family Foundation, the Daniel Ross Gallie Trust, and John McCabe.
This feature appears in the beautiful printed edition of Redwoods magazine, a showcase of redwoods conservation stories by leading scientists and writers, as well as breathtaking photos, and ways you can help the forest. Only a selection of these stories are available online.
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