The League is protecting nature and history at this charming seaside property.
Along the rugged Sonoma County coast, the magnificent 870-acre Stewarts Point Ranch property is blanketed with redwood and Douglas-fir forest, with a fringe of beautiful grasslands along its half-mile of coastline. Steelhead swim in the sparkling South Fork of the Gualala River, which runs the length of the eastern border.
For nearly 100 years, Save the Redwoods League has protected and restored redwood forests and connected people with their peace and beauty so these wonders of the natural world flourish. In 2010, the League purchased Stewarts Point for $11.25 million as the first step to protect this majestic landscape from potential subdivision and extensive logging and to provide future public access.
We do this work because our redwood forests are an American treasure. They clean our water, provide space to wander and explore, support diverse plants and animals, and boost our economy. Even more, redwoods help mitigate climate change by storing more than twice the carbon of any other forest on Earth. These forests make our lives, our communities, our economies and our country better.
Next Steps Toward Permanent Protection and StewardshipTo steward this property forever, we rely on partners such as the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District (the District), the State of California Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB), the State of California Coastal Conservancy and many others.
By late fall 2016, the League is expected to convey to the District a conservation easement and trail easement on Stewarts Point. The District’s Board on August 16, 2016, voted to acquire the easements and contribute $2 million. On August 30, 2016, the Wildlife Conservation Board granted $3 million for the conservation easement. Last, the League and the District will request $1 million from the Coastal Conservancy on September 29. If the Coastal Conservancy approves the funding request, the League will be able to transfer the conservation easement and trail easement to the District by late fall.
The conservation easement will protect the property’s 700-acre redwood and Douglas-fir forest in two ways. First, one-fourth of the forest will be protected as an old-growth Restoration Reserve along the Gualala River. This Reserve will protect the old-growth trees while allowing other trees in that area to grow older and the habitat to support more species of plants and animals. The Reserve also will help stabilize the banks of the river. Secondly, the conservation easement requires enhanced creek protection in the remaining forest and limits the amount of timber that can be harvested there. The easement also requires land managers to increase the average tree size through the decades to accelerate the development of old-growth forest characteristics, on which imperiled plants and animals depend.
We’ve also worked with staff from the District, the Coastal Conservancy, and Sonoma County Regional Parks to design the newest segment of the California Coastal Trail, which will run along the Stewarts Point coastal bluff. This three-quarter-mile trail will provide visitors with a gorgeous view of the coastline and Big Sand Beach.
Finally, the League is working with the Kashia Band of Pomo Indians to grant them access to the culturally important coastal bluff.
Eventually, the League plans to sell or exchange the property to a buyer who will conserve it.
“With the generous contributions from Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District and the Wildlife Conservation Board, Save the Redwoods League is ensuring that the Stewarts Point redwoods and natural and cultural treasures are protected and accessible to the public and the local Kashia Band of Pomo Indians through these easements,” said Paul Ringgold, the League’s Chief Programs Officer. “With our partners and donors, we’ve made a special commitment to this place because the area’s redwoods have relatively limited protection. We all do this work because we care deeply about the redwoods and the special places that truly define California’s unique landscape. It is our responsibility to carefully and intentionally protect these magical places — the places we call home.”
Local history is ubiquitous at Stewarts Point, where little has changed in 150 years. In the 1860s, Herbert Archer (“H.A.”) Richardson came to San Francisco with just “a bride and two dollars.” They found work in Sonoma County — Richardson at a sawmill, and his wife at the Stewarts Point hotel.
Richardson went on to establish various enterprises out of Stewarts Point, including a timber operation. Those businesses would support his family and the small town of Stewarts Point for generations to come. Locals and visitors still patronize the Stewarts Point General Store, which has been owned and operated by Richardsons since its founding in 1868 and is now a designated historical landmark.
Today, the Richardson family still works and resides at Stewarts Point. The family is working with the League to ensure a sustainable future for the land, while preserving its rich history.
The League leases the property’s grassland to one family member who grazes his flock of sheep here. Sheep are a stewardship win-win: They help to prevent fires by keeping the grass down, while providing an economic benefit to the shepherd and the community.
You can help with the administrative costs for managing this unique property by donating to the League.