Save the Redwoods League releases stunning book on 100th anniversary
They are among the most awe-inspiring natural wonders of the world. As Mother Nature’s skyscrapers, redwoods are among the tallest living things on the planet — the most gargantuan approaching 400 feet. And although not the oldest — the bristlecone pine has a longer lifespan by a good measure — the most senior denizens of the redwood forests were alive during the lifetime of Julius Caesar.
Today, less than five percent of the original 2.2 million acres of coast redwood forests that once covered the Northern California and Southern Oregon coast for more than 200 million years, still survive.
It took a scant 150 years for loggers and then major timber companies to fell California’s primeval forests. But one organization, the Save the Redwoods League, can be credited with helping to preserve what was left of these titans that had flourished since the days of the dinosaurs.
The conservation organization, which claims credit for helping to preserve 212,000 acres of coast redwoods and their cousins, the giant sequoias that inhabit the western slope of the Sierra, is celebrating its centennial, and marking the event with publication of a new book, “The Once and Future Forest: California’s Iconic Redwoods.” A fitting giant of a book measuring 15 inches long and weighing 4 1/2 pounds, it rises to the majesty of its subject with breathtaking photography — including a four-page panoramic pullout shot by Max Forster — and essays by five major writers who collectively explore the mythology, botany and science of these amazing trees. The book also traces the history of redwoods, from their antediluvian roots to their relationship with native civilizations, to their exploitation by loggers and timber companies and ultimately to the century-long campaign to save what is left. The commemorative book that comes in a heavy sleeve is published by Heyday and retails for $100 at savetherewoods.org.
“This 100th anniversary is as much an opportunity to look backward at our legacy as a chance to rally together for a future and focus on a vision for our second century,” said Sam Hodder, the president and CEO of the San Francisco-based League.
Writer and Sonoma State Professor Greg Sarris, Tribal Chairman of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, contributed an essay, “The Ancient Ones,” exploring among other things, the relationship of indigenous people to the redwoods, told through stories.
“It’s a gorgeous representation of a gorgeous and important tree. Perhaps it will give readers and viewers of the pictures a greater sense of urgency to love and protect these trees,” he said.
The 20th century challenge was logging, a threat that diminished in 1999 when the state and federal governments pulled together $460 million to purchase The Headwaters Forest. The 7,472 acres at the headwaters of Salmon Creek and the South Fork Elk River near Fortuna, were targeted for a frenzied level of cutting by financier and Pacific Lumber owner Charles Hurwitz. It contained the last unprotected and intact old growth redwood forest ecosystem , comprising 3,088 acres.
But California’s state tree is not out of the woods. More than a million acres of redwood forests remain unprotected, managed for timber. And even the protected forests’ health is threatened by the degraded land surrounding them, Hodder said. Some forests have been logged multiple times. Among the league’s current initiatives is to help existing forests regenerate, a difficult task considering the complexity of the old growth ecosystems that developed over millennia.