Skip to main content

Redwoods Rising

Residual old-growth redwoods rise above a second-growth stand in Redwood National and State Parks. Photo by Mike Shoys
Residual old-growth redwoods rise above a second-growth stand in Redwood National and State Parks. Photo by Mike Shoys

Regaining the Magnificence of the Coast Redwood Heartland

At Save the Redwoods League, we hold the future of redwood forests in our hands. Together with our conservation partners, we are taking action to put the redwood homeland back on the path to vibrance and vitality. We call this collaboration Redwoods Rising, and we are focusing our efforts in Redwood National and State Parks. We will acquire land near established parks, connect preserves, heal damaged forests, and expand opportunities for visitors to the redwoods. We have the opportunity to create the redwood forest of the future, a forest of giants rising from the coastal mists of the historic range of Sequoia sempervirens.

Reclaiming the Redwood Forest

Redwood National & State Parks map
Click to view larger map.
Redwood National and State Parks, a unique collaborative including Redwood National Park and Del Norte, Jedediah Smith and Prairie Creek State Parks, protect 45 percent of the remaining old-growth redwoods and half of the world’s tallest trees. This is a region of steep mountains cloaked with redwoods, Douglas-fir and spruce. Rivers and creeks cut deep gorges on their way to the nearby Pacific Ocean. The climate is cool, and the fog that rolls in from the sea provides life-sustaining moisture to coastal woodlands. The parks support all the life associated with the redwood forest, including Roosevelt elks and imperiled salmon and northern spotted owls. These incomparable places also provide vast amounts of carbon storage, clean water, fresh air and inspiration.

Until the mid-20th century, most of the vast coastal region from Southern Oregon to Big Sur was covered by primeval redwood forest. Even today, about 80 percent of the land once dominated by old-growth redwoods remains undeveloped; and while most of the ancient redwood trees are gone, the terrain remains forested. Redwoods quickly reclaim land, reproducing both by seeds and stump sprouts. Moreover, young trees grow rapidly; many second-growth and third-growth trees already approach 200 feet in height. These young woodlands, however, hold neither the “magic” of an ancient forest, nor the other qualities associated with a mature forest — stable watersheds, clean rivers, abundant fisheries and wildlife, and ample sequestered carbon.

“When you look across the landscape at the old clear-cuts, the eroding roads, the impaired waterways, the invasive plants — it can be frustrating,” says Leonel Arguello, the Chief of Vegetation Management for Redwood National Park. “But we have a legal and moral obligation to turn things around. Is it challenging? Yes. But it’s also incredibly exciting. We’re learning how to thin young forests, retire eroding roads and rehabilitate degraded streams. In many ways, we’re writing the textbook for this kind of work. The national and state redwood parks aren’t just parks — they’re laboratories for forest restoration. Thanks to Save the Redwoods League, we’re developing the methods that will bring the great trees back.”

A Vibrant Forest Plan

Our strategy for the creation of the future redwood forest involves acquiring properties that connect and protect established preserves and employing management techniques — such as ecological tree thinning, removal of logging roads and invasive species, restoration of waterways and watersheds— that fast-track the development of healthy redwood forests. Our guide is the Vibrant Forest Plan, an evolving mapping tool that uses our ever-expanding database to help us evaluate the conditions of the redwood forest and identify threats and opportunities.

Redwood National and State Parks embrace 40,000 acres of primeval redwood stands and 80,000 acres of forest that were once heavily harvested. These young forests need restoration, including the 25,000-acre Mill Creek forest. Immediately upstream of the spectacular primeval forests of Jedediah Smith, most of the trees in Mill Creek are fewer than 30 years old. Before its protection, much of the Mill Creek watershed was seeded with Douglas-fir at densities reaching more than 10 times as many trees per acre than in ancient forests, dramatically altering the forest’s health and species composition. Crumbling roads continue to dump sediment into the creek that is a major spawning stream for coho salmon and steelhead trout, substantially altering the water for the old-growth groves just downstream. While the League and our partners have made significant progress in restoring Mill Creek since we protected the property in 2002 — thinning more than 4,000 acres of forest, retiring 69 miles of roads, removing 344 stream crossings and installing 90 in-stream log structures — it is just the beginning.

With further restoration, the payoff for our investment will be immense. Redwoods Rising will coordinate, integrate and increase the pace, scale and effectiveness of existing efforts to bring back the vast and primeval redwood forest. We can restore the health of the parks’ streams, and in Mill Creek, provide additional protection for the magnificent trees downstream in Jedediah Smith. Redwoods Rising also will restore other critical wildlife habitat, and create landscapes that will be resilient in the face of future climate change.

Our Vision for the New Century

As one of the nation’s first conservation organizations with thousands of loyal supporters from throughout the country, Save the Redwoods League has protected more than 200,000 acres of forest forever. Through our efforts, Redwood National and State Parks contain the planet’s greatest concentration of ancient redwoods, inspiring visitors from around the world. Together, we can reverse our inheritance of forest destruction and fragmentation. We can give future generations the opportunity to experience a forest that we can only imagine. And we can make Redwood National and State Parks a place where giants rise again.

“Our first priority must be our best places, the places where we have the most extensive stands of old trees,” says Emily Burns, the Director of Science for Save the Redwoods League. “Redwood National and State Parks are our greatest remaining reservoirs of redwood forest biodiversity. Our goal is to expand the inviolate redwood forest from these core areas, to work outward from their edges. They contain the precious and irreplaceable components of the healthy redwood ecosystem. It is our job to spread the ecological wealth of these ancient stands into surrounding lands, enriching and restoring them.”

You Can Protect the Forests of the Future. Join Us!

Redwoods Rising was inspired by visionary gifts for the League’s restoration work on the North Coast. Thanks to a $500,000 matching gift offered by League Councilor John Scharffenberger at the end of 2016, League supporters have given over $1 million in support of forest restoration in Redwood National
and State Parks. “We have the tools and the will to restore the forest’s grandeur, and as a
community who loves these special places, we’re well on our way,” Scharffenberger said.

It’s time to undo the damage, and restore the redwood range’s original and vast grandeur.   It all starts with your gift to Redwoods Rising. Together, we can save the redwoods of tomorrow.

Your Support Will Help Fund:

    • Purchasing and protecting redwood property within Redwood National and State Parks
    • Removing failing logging roads and invasive species; ecological tree thinning and tree planting
    • Improving water quality and stream crossings; providing shelter for salmon fisheries
    • Creating and studying best practices for forest restoration; tracking forest health
    • Mentoring the next generation of conservation foresters
    • Telling the story of forest recovery to inspire park visitors

Donate today

Ways to Give

Contributions to Save the Redwoods League designated to Redwoods Rising are tax-deductible, and can be made as outright gifts of cash or stock and through a donor-advised fund, IRA, or family foundation. You also can give by phone at 888-836-0005 or on our secure online donation page.

If you have questions or wish to learn more, please contact Georgia Young at (415) 820-5849 or

Tags: ,