Conservation group buys grove of old-growth redwoods

Redwood Trees

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A San Francisco conservation group has reached an agreement to buy a canyon in the Santa Cruz Mountains that includes 100 acres of ancient redwood trees, a purchase that will help create a continuous corridor of protected redwood habitat stretching to the Pacific Ocean.

Save the Redwoods League reached an agreement Thursday to buy the 564-acre Cascade Creek, nestled between Big Basin Redwoods and Año Nuevo state parks, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

The towering redwoods have never felt the blade of a saw, the kind conservationists reverently refer to as “old-growth.”

“We got here just in time,” said Sam Hodder, president and CEO of Save the Redwoods League, gesturing toward blue paint marks, which indicate they were once the target of loggers.

The league has so far raised $8.6 million of the $9.6 million needed to complete the transaction, which is expected to close May 30.

The plan is to make Cascade Creek an integral part of a larger effort to preserve second-growth trees, which are the conifers that grew up after the originals were cut down.

These fast-growing descendant trees — often found growing in a circle, called a fairy ring, around the original stumps — make up 95% of the redwood acreage across the state. Ecologists believe the reconstruction of California’s once mighty forest ecosystem is dependent on the regrowth of the previously logged giants which, at their full height and density, provide unique, valuable habitat for many rare birds, insects, reptiles, mice and other mammals.

Cascade Creek, which also contains woodlands filled with knobcone pine and madrone, was already a study plot for the league, which plans to do further research on forest growth, wildlife and the carbon-capturing properties of redwoods. The ultimate goal throughout California is to build ecological bridges connecting old-growth and second-growth stands.

Old-growth trees, which can live up to 3,000 years, once covered huge swaths of land along the California coast all the way to the Oregon border.

The preservation of coast redwood forests is important because they are facing many challenges, including warming temperatures, increased fire danger, destruction of redwood and wildlife habitat, and the encroachment of roads, development, agriculture and illegal marijuana plantations.