On June 31, 1999, Ancient Forest International and Save-the-Redwoods League exercised a purchase option on 3,800 industrially owned acres in southern Humboldt County, California; this action protects the Gilham Butte wildlands and links the Humboldt Redwoods State Park to the King Range National Conservation Area. (Please see maps.) This action will help preserve the old-growth ecosystem along northern California's wild Lost Coast and will bridge two major watersheds: the Mattole and the Eel rivers.
On the southern edge of the Pacific Northwest's temperate rainforest, redwood and Douglas fir forests stand taller than any other living beings. Old-growth Douglas firs in the Redwoods to the Sea acquisition have six-foot average diameters. Many old, multi-trunked madrone and live oaks with ten-foot diameters are also present. Other tree species in lower densities include the California Bay Laurel, Chinquapin, and Black Oak. There is a notable presence of decaying trees; the resulting snags, large tree cavities, and downed woody debris provide nesting for many forest-dependant species, such as the northern spotted owl, small carnivores, and, potentially, marbled murrelets.
The 55,000-acre Humboldt Redwoods State Park contains the largest stand of intact ancient redwood forest on Earth, the Rockefeller Forest. About five miles south and west of the park lies the Bureau of Land Management's 60,000-acre King Range National Conservation Area, which, along with the 7,367-acre Sinkyone Wilderness State Park even farther south, protects the wild mountains of the Lost Coast--the longest roadless coastline in the lower 48 states. The valley separating the Humboldt Redwoods State Park from the King Range is heavily forested private land containing critical stands of old-growth Douglas fir, mixed hardwood forests, and salmon-bearing creeks.
The five parcels acquired by Redwoods to the Sea will connect the Humboldt Redwoods State Park to the 2,550-acre Bureau of Land Management Gilham Butte Late Seral Reserve. The purchase will also save the headwaters of five salmonid-spawning creeks originating from the Gilham Butte area that otherwise would be logged. (The Gilham Butte area is a mixture of public wilderness and well-managed private lands and is one of the largest remaining virgin--roadless, unharvested--forest stands in the Mattole River watershed.) The acquisition continues west down a valley to the Mattole River and is finished by a large parcel on the King Range side of the river.
Most of the old-growth Douglas fir and hardwood forest in the acquisition is found in the two parcels on the east side of the Mattole River. These parcels spread over ridgetops, steep draws, and other large scattered tracts in the Westlund Creek drainage. The forest structure is dominated by an old-growth hardwood forest overstory (madrone, tanoak, and live oak); it is penetrated by emergent stands of ancient Douglas fir and widely scattered meadows.
The third parcel, a 1,400-acre Four-Mile Creek piece to the west of the Mattole River, bridges the east-to-west gap. This parcel, the largest of the five, includes mixed hardwood trees and two small stands of old-growth Douglas fir; it lies near Honeydew Creek, which contains the largest stand of protected old-growth forest in the King Range. A small 40-acre tract was purchased contiguous with the southern edge of Humboldt Redwoods State Park to the west of the ridgetop. The final parcel acquired is an 80-acre piece on the southern flanks of the Gilham Butte Reserve, which protects the headwaters of the Grindstone Creek drainage.