Thanks to our donors’ generous gifts, Save the Redwoods League has forever protected the scenic 77-acre Westfall Ranch and buffered the famous Headwaters Forest Reserve just south of Eureka, California. The League recently purchased the $1.1 million property from Andy and Sandy Westfall, preventing other potential owners from developing or logging the land. More than 3,000 League members donated to this project.
Westfall Ranch offers a remarkable opportunity for the League to advance the three core elements of its mission: to protect, restore and connect people to California’s cherished redwood ecosystem.
Protection from Development
First, the League’s purchase protects the ranch’s stunning second-growth redwood forest, idyllic meadows and a mile of the South Fork Elk River. The League will continue to follow best practices in managing the ranch to buffer Headwaters. In addition, the League will manage the ranch’s second-growth redwood forest to accelerate development of old-growth forest characteristics, on which the ecosystem’s plants and animals depend. Ultimately, the League plans to transfer the property to the Bureau of Land Management, depending on public funding. Given the extent of active management on the property, Westfall Ranch is not currently open to the public.
Restoration of Salmon Habitat
Second, the League plans to restore the Elk River’s salmon habitat on the Westfall property. Decades of large-scale industrial clear-cut logging in the region resulted in sediment flowing into the once free-running Elk River, which originates in Headwaters. Gone are the deep, clear pools and side channels that coho salmon need to survive. Now, the river is choked with silt. A habitat assessment will be conducted to determine the best approach to restoring the watershed. Recommended actions likely will include removal of sediment to improve water quality and strategic placement of large fallen trees back into the stream system to help re-establish pools, shade and cover for coho and other imperiled fish in the salmon family.
Opportunity to Add Trails
Third, the League plans to connect more people to the beauty of this majestic place. Public access to Headwaters Forest Reserve is limited. Westfall Ranch offers the opportunity to create a more accessible entry point into Headwaters, along with new hiking trails to attract more visitors and greatly enhance their experience. The Bureau of Land Management will solicit the public’s comments on trail construction and other management decisions in the future after the property is transferred into federal ownership.
“The purchase of Westfall Ranch builds on our work to protect, restore and connect people to some of the world’s most magnificent ancient redwood forest in Headwaters Forest Reserve,” said Christine Aralia, a Land Project Manager at Save the Redwoods League. “Because only 5 percent of the world’s ancient redwood forest is still standing, this project is critical.”
Ben Blom, manager of Headwaters Forest Reserve, said Save the Redwoods’ acquisition of this land will provide great opportunities for river restoration.
“Together we will build on the legacy of Andy Westfall’s land ethic that has already improved the property in countless ways,” Blom said. “The project also will provide new opportunities for recreation and environmental education. Headwaters is an increasingly popular recreation site, and many members of the public have expressed a desire for more trails.”
For the latest on this project and others, sign up for the League’s free enewsletter at SaveTheRedwoods.org/signup.
While we’re working on Westfall Ranch, you can visit Headwaters Forest Reserve today! Learn about trails, guided hikes and more.