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 an initial project of Forever Forest: The Campaign for the Redwoods, a comprehensive campaign launched by Save the Redwoods League in January 2020 to garner support for the organization’s ambitious vision for the next century of redwoods conservation. The League’s goal is to raise $120 million by 2022 to fund the first years of this centennial vision, which includes protecting entire landscapes through large-scale, strategic land acquisitions; restoring young redwood forests to become the old-growth forests of the future; and connecting all people with the beauty and power of the redwoods through transformational park experiences
“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.”
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.
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
- 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.