Colorful protest of tunnels under ancient trees

Forest Unlimited

Many friends of the ancient trees and their ecosystem visited Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve on Sunday, May 4 to protest the California Department of Parks and Recreation’s proposed water system developments there. After they learned of threats to the redwoods from new water wells, surface trenching, and underground tunneling among the trees in the natural reserve, local citizens joined together and visited the woods to express their concerns.

The weather was beautiful, the trees were majestic and the park employees were very helpful making sure everyone found the correct trails. Everyone was enthusiastic about having an opportunity to do something to protect the forest and people exchanged stories with each other about how the woods were part of their lives.

Guerneville resident, Linda Lucey stated, “The regulations posted at the entrance to this grove state, natural scenery, plants, and animal life are the principal attractions of most state parks. They are integral parts of the ecosystem and natural community. As such, they are protected by Federal, State and Park laws. Disturbance or destruction of these resources is strictly forbidden.”

“We respectfully refrain from disturbing even a twig in this reserve,”Lucey further stated. “Why doesn’t State Parks follow the same Federal, State, and Park laws that we follow? Do the benefits of more water for visitors outweigh the risks of harm to the old growth ecosystem the visitors come to see? How much is this project going to cost us taxpayers? Why won’t State Parks hold a scoping session so we can understand exactly what is going on?”

Protesters handed out informational flyers at the visitors center and then, walked quietly through the beautiful redwood grove, some dressed as large trees. Their object was to draw attention to what until recently some say have been the very closely held development plans of State Parks.

Many people from the local community, including members of Forest Unlimited, participated in the event. Everyone shared serious concerns about the impacts that State Park’s plans will have on this delicate and now rare ecosystem. All the park visitors encountered by the participants in the protest expressed interest in learning more about the state’s plans and were very supportive of protecting the Natural Reserve.

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California State Parks postpones Waterline Improvement Project at Armstrong Woods

Press release, California Department of Parks and Recreation

Guerneville, Calif.—California State Parks announces that the proposed Waterline Improvement Project at Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve will be postponed. The department determined that a long-term planning document, referred to as a general plan, will be prepared and approved before moving forward with improving the existing antiquated and failing water system in a portion of the reserve, so as to ensure that the Reserve is properly planned.

This will allow public input and a cohesive vision assessing the framework for interpretation, resource stewardship, facilities, visitor use and operations of the Reserve.

Contract negotiations for consultant work on the General Plan are expected to be completed this month. Until the General Plan is completed and approved, California State Parks will continue maintaining the existing waterline system at the Reserve.

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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