North Coast Range Project
Redwoods to the Sea
Hike Calendar
Over the last 150 years, 95% of northern California's coniferous forestlands have been cut. AFI is committed to protecting what is left and to restoring the rest. To do so, AFI works cooperatively with other nonprofits, industrial and non-industrial landowners, concerned individuals, and government agencies. AFI is advocating for the acquisition of several local forest areas critical to regional conservation planning.

California North Coast Wildlands Program

Ancient Forest International works across a fragmented yet still-viablelandscape. As the southwest portion of the globally unique Klamath-Siskiyou ecoregion, California's North Coast is a World Wildlife Fund-prioritized, sparselypopulated bioregion of abounding diversity, ecological significance, andmajestic beauty. Here there is potential for conservation of true wildlands, and not just of "open space."

AFI is pivotal in helping to fund and coordinate efforts of place-basedgroups representing thousands of square miles of arguably the most extensive,wild, and abundant habitat remaining in the contiguous USA. From Ukiah toEureka and from the ocean east to the Coast Range AFI seeks, through collaborative process, to identify specific core habitat priorities --their respective linkages and appropriate conservation strategies -- and tocoalesce citizen support around threatened public lands. On private, industrial forestlands we build funding coalitions for fee-title

North Coast Range Project

Redwoods to Sea

One of AFI's most important recent contributions to ancient forest protection was helping to facilitate the Gilham Butte acquisitions on Northern California's Lost Coast. These old- and second-growth forestlands are critical stepping stones between two of California's most spectacular protected reserves.

AFI is now coordinating the Redwoods to Sea Stewardship Project: a group of nonprofits and neighbors coming together to implement a new, landscape-based conservation model for the area. (See “Project Partners.”) This project creates connectivity among nearly 140,000 acres of public and private lands. AFI is also continuing a program of ongoing acquisitions.

In 1998-99, AFI and Save-the-Redwoods League (SRL) cooperatively raised more than $7 million to buy 3,800 acres of second- and old-growth forest. If not protected, these lands would have been logged or sold to Maxxam/Pacific Lumber Company for logging. These lands were part of a 20-year struggle to protect the area's forests and streams. Working closely with the Environmental Protection Information Center, the local watershed group Friends of Gilham Butte had litigated on many timber plans and successfully advocated to remove the existing Gilham Butte/Bureau of Land Management (BLM) holding from the timber base and redesignate it as an Area of Critical Environmental Concern/Research Natural Area and Late Successional Reserve.

On September 30, 1999, SRL officially received fee-title from Eel River Sawmills and on February 7, 2000, officially transferred title for most of the property to the BLM. Involved groups are working closely to develop a Cooperative Management Agreement leading to a Cooperative Management Plan.

Overall project goals are:

  • To empower the people living on private parcels near the acquisitions to steward the area long into the future. The goal is to augment conservation momentum by incorporating private lands surrounding the core public forests. Landowners are learning about stewardship and will be gaining technical conservation skills and access to forestry, wildlife, and fisheries restoration professionals. State and federal land management agencies are also involved.
  • To protect and recruit wildlife habitat in the largely intact Gilham Butte wildlands area, linking private parcels, the 55,000-acre Humboldt Redwoods State Park and Rockefeller Forest (the largest coastal ancient redwood forest on Earth) and the 60,000-acre King Range National Conservation Area (the longest unroaded coastline in the continental U.S.).
  • To enhance ecological functions and processes at the landscape level.

Gilham Butte is stunning, lying thirty miles upstream from where the Mattole River meets the sea. Forest structure on the acquired lands is dominated by an old-growth hardwood forest overstory (madrone, tanoak, and live oak), penetrated by stands of ancient Douglas-fir and widely scattered small meadows. The land surrounding the BLM reserve and the acquired tracts is largely comprised of cut-over industrial and non-industrial forestland parcels ranging from 40 to 300 acres.

The Gilham Butte area receives some of the heaviest rainfall in the lower 48 states and is in an extremely seismically active area, a fact that when combined with the steep young slopes makes for an extremely high erosion rate, which is only accelerated by logging (some historic and some recent.)

Most mature forests on the North Coast are now found on non-industrial private lands. The timber industry puts heavy pressure on those landowners to cut their trees and sell their logs. Without training in conservation options such as non-industrial timber management plans, ecological forestry, and restoration methods, many may succumb. The Redwoods to Sea Stewardship Project provides support so that instead they can stay true to their individual and collective visions for the region.

Click here for more information and pictures of Redwoods to Sea

California Wild Heritage Campaign/Wildlands Project

AFI is participating in the California Wild Heritage Campaign (formerly called Wildlands 2000), a citizens' inventory of the state's remaining unprotected wild areas on federal lands in order to include them in upcoming legislation as legally recognized wilderness.

With other regional environmental organizations, we are preparing a Wildlands Vision map of federal and private forests to support the acquisition and establishment of biological reserves; this mapping effort will help prevent the fragmentation of critical habitat. Given an anticipated doubling of the California population in the next few decades, identifying and preserving core areas of wildness and connectivity is essential for the long-term viability of native ecosystems.

Local areas of more than 5,000 acres suitable for federal wilderness designation include Gilham Butte, King Range National Conservation Area, Blue Creek, Board Camp Mountain, South Fork Mountain, Lassic Peaks, Gilham Butte, and South Fork Eel Riversource. Many smaller areas are currently being field-checked for wilderness qualities and manageability, especially those contiguous to or already in public ownership.

The California conservation community has been working without an up-to-date, overall plan for prioritizing its ancient forest protection efforts. AFI (along with LEGACY—The Landscape Connection) is responding to this need and the opportunity presented by the California Wild Heritage Campaign. We are gathering relevant information to create a series of regional Wildlands Vision maps that will demonstrate the limited distribution of remaining old-growth forests in the California North Coastal Basin (CNCB). AFI and the other involved groups will provide oversight and advocacy to develop criteria while LEGACY provides scientific and technical support.

This project will develop scientific justifications to prioritize protection efforts for native biodiversity—supporting wildlands philanthropy, acquisitions, cumulative effects analysis, wilderness advocacy, resource planning, and protection of watersheds on federal lands. Preliminary maps should be available by summer 2000.

"Change detection" analysis of current vegetation satellite data will be particularly important. When compared with historic images, this data will identify the scope and impact of recent large-scale industrial activity and identify the current distribution of conservation targets.

Wildlands Vision maps are needed in particular for threatened old-growth areas on industrial lands and public interface areas—such as the "Hole in the Headwaters" and Rainbow Ridge. These maps will also help produce the written and graphic documentation needed to utilize an anticipated $327 million from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund; AFI will help direct any available funding to primary forest acquisitions in the CNCB—for the last 3% of primary forests we cannot afford to lose.

Hole in the Headwaters

AFI is fighting to protect what is now known as the “Hole in the Headwaters.” This land is the only intact forested area adjacent to the now famous Headwaters Grove in Humboldt County. It also rests above one of the state's best coho salmon spawning streams, the South Fork Elk River. Through the flawed 1998 Headwaters “deal,” Maxxam/Pacific Lumber received this land with an already-approved timber harvest plan for 705 acres (THP 520). AFI is working to pressure government agencies and Maxxam to prevent the destruction of this critical habitat.

AFI was indispensable in securing the inclusion of second-growth forest along the Elk River in the “deal”—based on the land's importance as an intact and contiguous watershed-based wild reserve. Yet the shortsighted and politically motivated deal actually paid for the neighboring Hole in the Headwaters and gave it to Maxxam. This decision flagrantly ignored the importance of the Elk River fishery as well as the area's potential for rounding out a management unit for recreation and endangered species population recovery.

The recently approved amendments to the THP, which allow logging to go forward, clearly violate state law. AFI and other groups are using all the tools at their disposal to oppose this shameful plan.

Rainbow Ridge

Nonprofits, concerned individuals, and funders are coming together to oppose the logging threat to Rainbow Ridge, an area of rare unentered virgin Douglas-fir habitat in northern California.

Forming the northeast boundary of the Mattole watershed, along the North Fork of the Mattole River, Rainbow Ridge is a place of enormous contrasts—extreme beauty and intense erosion, magnificent remnant forests interspersed with eroding clearcuts, and fabulous vistas of a coastal paradise broken by deep road cuts and gullies. Rainbow Ridge is the largest unprotected stand of lowland old-growth Douglas-fir in California and also contains critical stands of Douglas-fir mixed with hardwoods.

Rainbow Ridge's ancient forests provide habitat for many old-growth-dependent species, such as the northern spotted owl, the northern goshawk, the golden eagle, the Pacific fisher, the purple martin, and the torrent salamander.
Yet Maxxam/Pacific Lumber has several timber harvest plans filed, or about to be filed, on its 12,000 acres of land on and along Rainbow Ridge. It intends to cut 85% of the unentered old growth of Rainbow Ridge in the next few years. Since 1985, Maxxam has logged, mostly by clearcutting, almost 1,700 acres of that land. Resulting landslides, gullying, and debris torrents have sent hundreds of thousands of yards of sediment into the North Fork Mattole River—impacting chinook and Coho salmon and stripping productive agricultural land and dense riparian forests, among other effects. This destruction must stop.

We are entering a critical phase in the preservation of this wildland treasure. AFI is helping to orchestrate the protection of Rainbow Ridge and is searching for sources of acquisition and potentially of conservation easement funding, while helping to prepare the ground for negotiations.

Also underway is the development of a regional land trust to hold and monitor conservation easements and to keep title to lands of Rainbow Ridge's magnitude for nonprofit management.