Save the Redwoods League buys world's largest privately owned giant sequoia forest for $15 million
A Bay Area conservation group has signed a deal to purchase the world’s largest privately owned giant sequoia forest, a primeval landscape in California’s Southern Sierra Nevada with massive trees that soar 250 feet tall, span up to 80 feet around at their trunks and live for more than 2,000 years.
The 530-acre property, known as the Alder Creek, is roughly the same size as Muir Woods National Monument in Marin County. Located in Tulare County 10 miles south of Sequoia National Park, it is home to 483 massive trees that are larger than six feet in diameter — four more trees than the famed Mariposa Grove at Yosemite National Park.
“This is probably the most-coveted sequoia conservation opportunity in a generation,” said Sam Hodder, president of Save the Redwoods League, a non-profit group based in San Francisco that has agreed to pay $15.6 million to purchase the property.
“It’s not any single tree,” he said of the landscape, which eventually will be open to the public. “This is an alpine landscape covered with iconic, breathtaking, cinnamon-barked trees that are surrounded by pastures. It is such a superlative representation of nature. This is the prize. This is the best of what’s left. It’s a very special place.”
The league, founded in 1918, signed a purchase agreement with the Rouch family, who has owned it since the 1940s. The family’s patriarch, Claude Albert, bought the land for its logging potential just before World War II, said his grandson, Mike Rouch, of Fresno.
“When they bought the property there was not even a road to it,” he said. “They had to ride horses.”
Over the generations, the family cut down sugar pine, white fir, red fir and other trees to make framing lumber for houses and other products. But they left the massive sequoias largely untouched.
“Less than a dozen were ever taken,” said Rouch. “I’m 62, and there’s never been one cut down in my lifetime. They could have gotten fence posts or roof shakes out of them. But I think my dad deep down recognized how beautiful they were and he didn’t want to take them.”
A cousin of the coast redwood, which is the world’s tallest tree, giant sequoias are the largest living tree by volume on Earth, a prehistoric species that lives up to 3,000 years. Giant sequoias exist today only in 73 groves from the Tahoe National Forest to the Sequoia National Forest east of Bakersfield. Nearly all of the remaining groves are preserved on public land within Yosemite National Park, Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park, Calaveras Big Trees State Park, and Sequoia National Forest.
Conservation groups have worked for generations to secure permanent protections, acre-by-acre, for each grove.
Last year, Save the Redwoods League spent $3.3 million to buy the world’s second-largest privately owned grove of ancient sequoias. Known as the Red Hill property, that 160-acre forest is located about eight miles south of the Alder Creek property. The league plans to transfer both parcels to the U.S. Forest Service over the next decade, so they can be included in the Giant Sequoia National Monument, a part of Sequoia National Forest set aside for special protection in 2000 by President Bill Clinton.
Most of the land in the area is owned by the federal government.
The Alder Creek property, which is located between 5,800 and 7,800 feet in elevation, not far from Golden Trout Wilderness, is an unusual exception.