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Red Hill

Protected forever: one of the world’s last privately owned ancient giant sequoia forests

A hidden world lies about a four-hour drive northeast of metropolitan Los Angeles, a world of pristine rivers, lush forests, meadows spangled with wildflowers and ancient giant sequoia so immense and majestic that they take your breath away. This is Red Hill, a 160-acre property that contains 110 magnificent ancient giant sequoia. This forest was one of the world’s last unprotected giant sequoia properties. Now, thanks to our dedicated donors and partners, Save the Redwoods League has purchased Red Hill to ensure that it is permanently protected and accessible to the public in the near future.

The League raised $4 million for the project, meeting its goal, thanks to a generous challenge issued by an anonymous donor to match all gifts made to Red Hill dollar for dollar. The $4 million goal included the $3.3 million purchase price and an estimated $700,000 for project costs and stewardship activities to enhance forest conditions and climate and fire resilience on the property. Over 3,100 League members from across the country contributed to the effort along with significant grants from local and regional foundations including The Joseph & Vera Long Foundation, Ted Martin Legacy Fund at the Central Valley Community Foundation, The Conservation Alliance, the Flora L. Thornton Foundation and the Summer Hill Foundation. The project has also garnered wide support from conservationists, local communities, and public officials, including the US Forest Service, Sierra Nevada Conservancy, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Sequoia Riverlands Trust.

“Red Hill is one of the great natural gems of the Sierra Nevada, and this purchase and ultimate transfer will ensure its protection forever,” said Sam Hodder, president and CEO of Save the Redwoods League. “We’re thankful to the many individuals and foundation partners who care passionately about redwoods and donated to help us protect this important grove. We also acknowledge the commitment of the Nicholas family, which has carefully managed the property since the 1970s to ensure the health and safety of the giant sequoia and other mature conifers. This is a project of tremendous significance, bringing us closer to fulfilling the League’s Centennial Vision to protect the remaining viable old-growth giant sequoia and coast redwood forests.”

Former owner and conservationist Michael Nicholas and his family managed the Red Hill property like a reserve for nearly 50 years.

“Save the Redwoods League shares a lot of our same interests as far as protecting the land and ensuring this resource is going to carry on and be a treasure not only for this generation but for future generations,” said Nicholas. “I feel like the League’s purchase is a real win-win situation for all of us. The trees protected by my mother, Isabelle Nicholas, will live on.”


Red Hill’s rugged forest is magnificent.
Red Hill’s rugged forest is magnificent. Photo by Paolo Vescia.

A Rare Sierra Treasure

Under the Nicholas family’s ownership, Red Hill was never logged commercially, and removal of non-sequoia trees was only undertaken to reduce wildfire risks and assure the vitality and security of the ancient trees. The grove is in spectacular condition as a consequence, with a number of young giant sequoia trees and critical habitat for many imperiled species, including the Pacific fisher, Sierra marten, California spotted owl, northern goshawk, and mountain yellow-legged frog.

Red Hill is private property within Giant Sequoia National Monument and Sequoia National Forest that is currently closed to public. This area is the heartland for giant sequoia, the biggest trees on the planet. At 328,000 acres, the national monument is a scenic, recreational and scientific treasure of incalculable value, and a key component in the long-term conservation strategy for all giant sequoia and the suite of associated imperiled species that coexist with them.

Completion of the Red Hill project is among the key goals in the League’s recently released Centennial Vision for Redwoods Conservation. The Vision describes plans to address the findings of the League’s first-ever State of the Redwoods Conservation Report, which details today’s most pressing challenges for these iconic forests.

Among the findings in the report: The overall state of giant sequoia conservation warrants caution. In contrast to coast redwoods, giant sequoia groves in the rural Sierra region were largely spared the magnitude of the destructive, early logging. However, logging did impact approximately one-third of the total forest footprint and was acutely destructive to several sequoia groves, including one of the largest, Converse Basin. The vast majority of remaining giant sequoia groves are held in public or tribal ownership, with only 1,200 acres privately owned today. The long-term climate change trend of Sierra snowpack reduction, in combination with warmer temperatures and widespread pine, fir, and cedar tree mortality from drought and pests, is greatly increasing the risk of severe fire and threatening the giant sequoia ecosystem.


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Click to view larger map.

Stewardship and Public Access

Now that Save the Redwoods League owns Red Hill, the next steps are to enhance its forest conditions and its climate and fire resilience. Eventually, the League will transfer Red Hill to the US Forest Service for permanent protection as part of Giant Sequoia National Monument and Sequoia National Forest.

By eventually transferring the property to the Forest Service, the League will ensure that they can manage the property for its long-term survival in coordination with the monument’s general plan, which prioritizes protection of giant sequoia, wildfire risk reduction, watershed protection, habitat enhancement for threatened species, and recreational opportunities. These goals also conform to the priorities of the Tule River tribe, which owns adjacent lands.

After the League transfers Red Hill to the Forest Service, we estimate that the public will be able to enjoy this wonderland by 2021. The eventual transfer will allow for expanded public recreational opportunities in the Tule River watershed, such as hiking trails.


Frequently Asked Questions

Forest Ecologist Stephen Sillett studies how a Red Hill giant sequoia is adapting to climate change.
Forest Ecologist Stephen Sillett studies how a Red Hill giant sequoia is adapting to climate change. Photo by Paolo Vescia.
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Why is the Red Hill project so important?
Red Hill was one of the two largest unprotected giant sequoia properties in the world, and it contains approximately 10 percent of the world’s privately owned old-growth giant sequoia. It is also an inholding in Giant Sequoia National Monument. This acquisition will allow coordinated management of the Red Hill and the monument, which is the heartland for giant sequoia, the biggest trees on the planet. At 328,000 acres, the monument is a scenic, recreational and scientific treasure of incalculable value, and a key component in the long-term conservation strategy for all giant sequoia and the suite of associated imperiled species that coexist with them. The eventual transfer of Red Hill to the Forest Service will allow this forest to be managed to promote its long-term survival, maximize other environmental benefits and offer recreational opportunities.
Who owned Red Hill before the League purchased the property?
Michael Nicholas. The Nicholas family owned Red Hill since the early 1970s, and managed it like a reserve. There is no development on the property, and a light thinning of non-sequoia trees occurred only to reduce wildfire risk and ensure the health and safety of the giant sequoia and other mature conifers.
What is an inholding?
Privately owned land inside the boundary of a national park, national forest, state park, or similar publicly owned, protected area. In this case, Red Hill was an inholding within the Giant Sequoia National Monument and Sequoia National Forest.
How large is the property?
The Red Hill parcel is 160.43 acres, the same size as Exposition Park in Los Angeles.
How many ancient giant sequoia are on the property?
There are 110 ancient giant sequoia on the Red Hill property.
What are the direct benefits to the public?
Red Hill is fewer than 200 miles from the 17 million residents of the Los Angeles metropolitan area. We expect this forest will be transferred to the US Forest Service for permanent protection by 2021, and will be open to the public at that time.
What are some other benefits of this project?
The property will benefit from a rigorous fuels management plan, improving wildfire resistance within Giant Sequoia National Monument and surrounding lands. The project also will assure habitat protection for multiple species of concern, including the Pacific fisher, California spotted owl, northern goshawk, mountain yellow-legged frog, and Sierra marten. Additionally, the permanent protection of Red Hill helps ensure the integrity of the Tule River watershed, a critical source of water for local people and the farms and families of the San Joaquin Valley. From a larger perspective, the acquisition will be a critical step in achieving the League’s goal of a landscape-scale management plan for giant sequoia in an era of accelerating climate change and its related threats.
Did Save the Redwoods League have any partners in this agreement?
Yes. In addition to League members, the Red Hill project is supported by conservationists, local communities, and public officials, including the US Forest Service, Sierra Nevada Conservancy, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Sequoia Riverlands Trust.
What will the project cost?
Purchase price: $3.3 million
Total stewardship and project costs: $700,000

The League The raised $4 million for the project, meeting its goal, thanks to a generous challenge issued by an anonymous donor to match all gifts made to Red Hill dollar for dollar. The $4 million goal included the $3.3 million purchase price and an estimated $700,000 for project costs and stewardship activities to enhance forest conditions and climate and fire resilience on the property. Over 3,100 League members from across the country contributed to the effort along with significant grants from local and regional foundations including The Joseph & Vera Long Foundation, Ted Martin Legacy Fund at the Central Valley Community Foundation, The Conservation Alliance, the Flora L. Thornton Foundation and the Summer Hill Foundation. The purchase price is based on an independent analysis of land and merchantable timber values, even though timber sales are not part of the long-term plan for this property.

What will Red Hill gain from protection by the League and US Forest Service?
Giant sequoia forests have faced pervasive fire exclusion over the past century and suffer from the lack of frequent low-intensity fires that are necessary for giant sequoia reproduction. This project will help provide a model for progressive management of fuels (buildup of combustible vegetation) throughout Giant Sequoia National Monument, improving forest resistance to devastating wildfire. The project will also conform to the monument’s management plan, which emphasizes the consolidation of key inholdings, implementation of priority actions, including the California spotted owl federal recovery plan and the State of California’s comprehensive outdoor recreation plan, climate change scoping plan and the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s recovery plans for special status plant and animal species. Moreover, the project also aligns with the master plan, forest management program and water quality management program of the Tule River tribe, which owns adjacent lands.
How does the work to protect Red Hill align with the new goals in the League's Centennial Vision?
Red Hill’s acquisition is a capstone achievement for the League and an essential component in our Centennial Vision for Redwoods Conservation strategy to conserve all giant sequoia ecosystems during an era of accelerating climate change.
How does Red Hill meet the conservation goals in the League’s State of Redwoods Conservation Report?
Among the findings in the report for the giant sequoia: the overall state of giant sequoia conservation warrants caution. Giant sequoia forests have faced pervasive fire exclusion over the past century and suffer from the lack of frequent low-intensity fires that are necessary for giant sequoia reproduction. The long-term trend of Sierra snowpack reduction, in combination with warmer temperatures and widespread pine, fir, and cedar tree mortality from drought and pests, is greatly increasing the risk of severe fire and threatening the giant sequoia ecosystem.

The League’s stewardship activities at Red Hill will enhance forest conditions, climate and fire resilience, and provide a model for progressive fuels management throughout Giant Sequoia National Monument.

How can I help this project or others like it?

Donate to the Redwood Land Fund. Give a gift today to help purchase and protect threatened redwood forests. Your generous support gives us the financial resources to compete in a complex and fast-paced market, enabling us to purchase coast redwoods and giant sequoia for all to enjoy.

Fun Facts

  • The Red Hill property contains almost 10 percent of the world’s privately owned giant sequoia.
  • Transfer of the Red Hill property into Giant Sequoia National Monument will ultimately provide public access to 110 giant sequoia, by most assessments, some of the largest, oldest and most magnificent trees in the local forest complex.
  • Red Hill is about a four-hour drive northeast of metropolitan Los Angeles, a convenient destination for most Southern California urbanites.
  • The Red Hill project will close a key inholding within Giant Sequoia National Monument.
  • Careful management of the Red Hill property has resulted in a vibrant, healthy, resilient giant sequoia ecosystem, further justifying the grove’s inclusion in Giant Sequoia National Monument
  • The Red Hill property is prime habitat for numerous imperiled animal species, including the Pacific fisher, Sierra marten, California spotted owl, northern goshawk, mountain yellow-legged frog and Greenhorn Mountain slender salamander.
  • Red Hill also supports numerous rare flora, including purple mountain parsley, unexpected larkspur, Kaweah Lakes fawn lily and Twisselman’s buckwheat.
  • While giant sequoia is the signature species of the Red Hill complex, it also is home to a biologically diverse mixed-conifer ecosystem that includes red fir, white fir, ponderosa pine, sugar pine, and incense cedar.
  • Healthy forests protect water supplies. Protection of the Red Hill assures high-quality water for downstream municipalities, agriculture, and tribal and environmental uses.
  • By including prescribed fires, management plans for the Red Hill property complement efforts by the adjacent Tule River Indian Reservation to reduce wildfire hazards on tribal lands.
  • The Red Hill property will be available as a living laboratory to study how giant sequoia are responding to climate change.
  • The League plans to develop and implement a fuels reduction and restoration plan for the property, which can serve as a model for future such activities elsewhere in this grove and other groves in Giant Sequoia National Monument. Managing these groves is important to ensure that they are more resilient to climate change and the threat of catastrophic wildfire that can result from historical exclusion of natural fires on the landscape.
  • We estimate that Red Hill will open for public recreation by 2021. A significant portion of the Tule River’s South Fork will be accessible.


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