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
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.
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
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.
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
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 LEGACYThe 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 biodiversitysupporting 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 areassuch 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 CNCBfor the last 3% of primary forests we cannot afford to
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 dealbased 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
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.
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 contrastsextreme
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 Riverimpacting 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.