Victory for Richardson Grove

EPIC: Environmental Protection Information Center

The California Court of Appeal today ordered Caltrans to reevaluate the environmental impacts of a controversial highway-widening project in Humboldt County that would harm irreplaceable old-growth redwood trees in Richardson Grove State Park. The appeals court unanimously found that Caltrans failed to follow the law in assessing impacts to ancient redwoods and providing mitigation measures to reduce potentially severe harm to the trees. Caltrans’ project—intended to allow bigger trucks to travel Highway 101 through the park—would require excavation, fill, and paving within the fragile root zones of Richardson Grove’s ancient trees.

“This is a victory for Richardson Grove’s ancient trees and for the generations of travelers, hikers and campers who have enjoyed their magnificence,” said Center for Biological Diversity attorney Kevin Bundy. “Caltrans owes the public a full and honest account of how its highway-widening plans could damage this irreplaceable state park.”

“The significance of this ruling cannot be overstated,” said Gary Graham Hughes, executive director at the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC). “Our ancient redwoods are invaluable, and we hope Caltrans gets the message that their survival cannot be put at risk by a careless highway development proposal.”

“This illustrates how important the California Environmental Quality Act is for ensuring that major projects are subject to a thorough environmental review,” said Patty Clary of CATs. “The court has made an important decision that respects our responsibility to protect Richardson Grove as a natural treasure for future generations.”

Read more at: Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) » EPIC Victory for Richardson Grove

Restoration efforts to the Willow Creek Habitat help bring back coho salmon

On Sept 8, 2013 the Press Democrat reported that biologists found hundreds of young coho salmon in the Willow Creek tributary of the Russian River.

Forest Unlimited’s Executive Director Rick Coates reports on the backstory:

For years Forest Unlimited opposed logging in Willow Creek by Louisiana Pacific (LP). After Harry Merlo drove LP into the ground and pulled out of California, LP sold its Willow Creek Valley holdings to Mendocino Redwoods Company (MRC). We began opposing MRC logging plans.

While working on saving the Grove of the Old Trees on Fitzpatrick Lane west of Occidental, we convinced the Open Space District to declare the area from Bodega to Jenner west of Occidental to the ocean as an “Area of Interest” for acquisitions. That area included Willow Creek Valley.

Forest Unlimited sent a letter to MRC suggesting that it would be more profitable for them to sell their holdings to the State Park than fight us on every logging plan. With the help of Caryl Hart, who was at the time serving on the State Parks Advisory Board, we were able to get the State Parks talking with Mendocino Redwood Company and the Open Space District. MRC agreed to sell and Land Paths agreed to manage Willow Creek for the State Parks. Restoration work began on the Creek even before the sale but workers communicated privately that ongoing logging was hampering recovery.

So restoration plus an end to logging in the Valley has resulted in coho salmon! Thank you Forest Unlimited members who supported our efforts during those many years!

Redwoods thriving as climate changes

by Matt Brown, The Press Democrat

There is finally some good news from environmental scientists studying climate change: as the earth gets warmer, ancient redwood trees are thriving.

redwood
Photo by Christopher Chung, The Press Democrat.

The huge trees that dot the California coast and the Sierra Nevada mountains soak up carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels, keeping the potentially harmful greenhouse gas out of the atmosphere.

Despite the warming climate, redwood trees are growing faster than at anytime over the last century, according to a report issued today by the Redwoods and Climate Change Initiative.

“That’s a wonderful, happy surprise for us,” said Emily Burns, director of science for Save the Redwoods League, a San Francisco-based advocacy group.

California summers have warmed, but rainfall has remained steady. The hotter climate also burns off fog that normally shrouds the world’s tallest trees, providing more access to nourishing sunlight, according to the report.

“The fact that redwoods grow faster rather than slower as fog decreases, that surprised us,” said Bill Libby, a UC Berkeley forestry professor who was involved in the study.

Read more at: Report: Redwoods thriving as climate changes | The Press Democrat

Trains: Forest friend or foe?

In 1873 the forests of Sonoma and Marin Counties were lush and verdant. Giant redwoods grew to enormous heights and age in the Russian River Valley and filled the watersheds of Dutch Bill and Austin Creeks. Mount Tamalpais hosted stands of huge redwoods.

But 1873 was a fateful year. Austin Moore (who later owned the Kings River Lumber Company that decimated the Sierra sequoias) and mill owner Samuel P. Taylor joined forces with banker and former U.S. Senator and Governor of California, Milton Slocum Latham and potato farmer Warren Dutton to form the North Pacific Coast Railroad. By 1875 tracks had been laid to Tomales through what is now Samuel P. Taylor State Park. By 1877 the line extended to Duncans Mills and by 1889 to Cazadero. Forest destruction followed in its wake. Sawmills buzzed and ripped all along the rail line: at Bodega, Camp Meeker, Tyrone, Moscow and Cazadero. Korbel (then a sawmill) provided ties for the rail lines.

Then in 1906, the San Andreas Fault ruptured and left San Francisco in flames. Shortly after, the Cityʼs rebuilding campaign began importing massive amounts of redwood from the north coast. In the rush to meet the demand, there was little thought for environmental damage and the forests were severely over-cut changing the mix of species (more brush, fewer conifers) and setting up the conditions for several catastrophic fires. One burned from Guerneville to the sea!

Eventually and ironically the presence of rail transportation and the depletion of trees led the railroads to promote the tourist industry to make up for falling revenues. The Northwestern Pacific Railroad which absorbed the NPCRR publicized its “Triangle Trip” from San Francisco to Monte Rio, Monte Rio to Fulton, then Fulton back to San Francisco. The railroad owned the ferry boats needed to make the connections. Even Samuel P. Taylor opened a resort called Camp Taylor. The growth of the tourist industry has, in turn, provided an economic incentive to preserve forest lands.

Railroads soon lost their subsidies as the money was transferred to auto roads and oil production. We didn’t see what was coming: huge numbers of autos, air and water pollution, mega-parking lots, highway carnage, sprawl development, gridlock and, finally, global climate change.

With the groundbreaking for the Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit on February 24 the old rail line from Larkfield to Cloverdale is back in business. This time the train may actually help the forests. The SMART commuter train will provide an alternative to lugging around those steel cages with wheels we all use for transport, thereby reducing greenhouses gases that contribute to global climate change. Trains are part of the solution to climate change, the single greatest threat to forests. But this can only help if we all resolve to use SMART rather than our polluting cars. So, save a tree, ride a train!