Members of the new green conservation workforce reflect on the pride and meaning in making the world better.
California’s coast redwood and giant sequoia forests attract millions of visitors from around the world each year, all of them seeking to take in the timeless beauty of the giant trees. Particularly now, a walk through the shaded trails offers peaceful respite from the tension we’re all experiencing.
But the redwood forests can go way beyond offering recreation and solace—they can offer a real solution to our economic challenges, as well. This year is a reminder that there’s plenty of work to be done in our redwoods to manage fire risk, protect endangered species, and enhance carbon storage. Perhaps most of all, we have an opportunity to rebuild the majestic old-growth forests of California’s past for future generations to enjoy.
A recent partnership was announced between the State of California and the U.S. Forest Service, which will work together on state and federal forests and rangelands to reduce wildfire risks, restore watersheds, protect habitat and biological diversity, and help the state meet its climate objectives. The result of the partnership if fully implemented could be up to 50,000 new green jobs—many of them in our redwood forests.
But who will hold these jobs? Who makes up the new green conservation workforce? It will be people from all walks of life, women and men of different ages and racial and economic backgrounds. And the vanguards of this new workforce are already in our redwoods today working on a variety of conservation and restoration projects. In this feature, we visit the coast redwoods of the north coast to meet a few of them and hear what they have to say about the work they’re doing.
“My favorite part of this work is to walk in on the site. We see this road, landing, or unhealthy strip of land. When we return the next day, it’s been returned to a hillside that can be repopulated by redwoods. Getting to see the transformation from rocks and road to a whole hillside that can be used by plants, animals—everything—it gives me a feeling of pride, and I feel at peace. Making up for past actions and making amends for the harmful actions of the past. I feel like it’s ethical work.”
SKYLR LOPEZ, FORESTRY AIDE, NORTH COAST REDWOODS DISTRICT, CALIFORNIA STATE PARKS
“We’re doing an unusual thing in that we’re restoring the redwood forest. The improvement over the state it was left in, after it was used for logging practices, will be immense. I feel like I’ve been training for this job my entire life. Some days are hard, but it’s really great to be able to be a part of this. Not very many people have the opportunity to do road removal in a national park.”
ANSON CALL, GREATER PRAIRIE CREEK LEAD PHYSICAL SCIENCE TECHNICIAN, SHN
“My perspective of what I thought a good forest looks like has definitely changed. From all of the forestry classes I’ve taken, this job gave me the ability to see the concepts I was learning about firsthand. I’ve learned so much from each person that was part of my crew. Physically and mentally, this is not an easy job.”
STACY GIRALDO, REDWOODS RISING WILDLIFE APPRENTICE, HUMBOLDT STATE UNIVERSITY
“Yeah, I guess this is the start to a career for me, I hope. It’s great, a varied group of people, outdoors, and a lot of hours of hard work. I think that’s what made this job come alive for me is the idea of creating a habitat corridor, connecting remaining old growth. This piece of land in the surrounding old growth will create a lot of room for a lot of species to inhabit. We’re reverse mining, putting a mountain back together. The scale of it is large and surprising.”
CLARK SIMPSON, FORESTRY AIDE, NORTH COAST REDWOODS DISTRICT, CALIFORNIA STATE PARKS
“For me, getting to do this, working with wildlife, has been a lifelong goal. I’ve done 10+ years in the service industry, and I’ve gone through so many steps to get to a place where I’m doing what I want to do. It’s a really beautiful thing, and I feel like I’m part of something larger than myself that lends itself to the betterment of the world. Working so many years towards being in a meaningful position doing something that I want to do is incredible. I’ve been hustling to get to a job where it’s not just about paying my bills, and that’s huge.”
ALANNA GARCIA, REDWOODS RISING WILDLIFE APPRENTICE, HUMBOLDT STATE UNIVERSITY
“I love working for the Yurok Fisheries Department because it affords me the opportunity to restore the Lower Klamath River watershed, which is where my people have lived since the beginning of time. I am particularly proud of the fact that this work will continue to provide ecological value long after I’m gone. I am also proud of my tribe for reclaiming its role as a steward of the Klamath River. We are deeply committed to ensuring that the Klamath will be in a far better condition for each generation to follow.”
DWAYNE DAVIS, YUROK FISHERIES DEPARTMENT TECHNICIAN
“It is hard to comprehend how large of a privilege it is to have a job like this in these times. I’m very thankful that these opportunities still exist, and I hope to see more of them created for people like me, and for people in underrepresented and underfunded groups because their voices are so important to the future of coexistence with the land and with each other. It is amazing to think that we could be part of a story that is centuries old. Through ecological restoration, we can help create resilient forests that will inspire growth and exploration for years to come.”
TONI MAGGI-BROWN, REDWOODS RISING WILDLIFE APPRENTICE, HUMBOLDT STATE UNIVERSITY
All photos by Will Goldenberg, except for the photo of Dwayne Davis by Matt Mais, Yurok Tribe.
This feature appears in the beautiful printed edition of Redwoods magazine, a showcase of redwoods conservation stories by leading scientists and writers, as well as breathtaking photos, answers to readers’ questions, and how you can help the forest.
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