Ag Today April 18, 2018

Environmentalists plan logging to restore California’s redwood forests

By PAUL ROGERS | progers@bayareanewsgroup.com | Bay Area News Group
PUBLISHED: April 17, 2018 at 4:05 pm | UPDATED: April 18, 2018 at 2:05 pm

Environmentalists who have fought loggers for generations have a surprising new strategy to save California’s storied old-growth redwood forests: Logging.

Save the Redwoods League, a venerable San Francisco organization that has preserved more than 214,000 acres of redwood forest since it was founded in 1918, is embarking on a $5 million plan to thin out 10,000 acres of redwoods, Douglas fir, tan oaks and other trees. The logging will begin at Redwood National Park and Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park near the Oregon border over the next five years. After that, the group plans to thin forests in nearby Jedediah Smith and Prairie Creek Redwoods state parks.

Many of the spots under consideration were heavily logged decades ago before they were purchased and added to the parks, the league says. And cutting down the thinner trees — including those planted by loggers too densely as part of commercial reseeding operations in the 1960s — will restore more natural conditions, and reduce competition for sunlight and water, helping regular-sized redwoods grow faster into majestic old-growth giants.

But chainsaws in beloved redwood parks? Will the public go for it?

“It’s about allowing the younger forests to grow more effectively,” said Sam Hodder, president of Save the Redwoods League. “Right now in some of these places all the trees are crowding each other out.”

Many of California’s old-growth redwoods — the world’s tallest living things that can grow to more than 300 feet high and live 2,000 years — were cut down between the 1800s and the 1970s for decks, paneling, and even fence posts and railroad ties. Modern environmental laws and the creation of public parks ended it. Today, nearly all redwood lumber sold in stores is from second-and-third growth younger trees. Only about 5 percent of the original old-growth acreage remains, and nearly all of that is preserved in parks.

The new task for this century, Hodder said, is to restore landscapes that were logged but now exist in parks in a damaged, unnatural state.

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