It’s the beginning of a new generation of redwood trees within San Vicente Redwoods (SVR) near Davenport. In January, we planted 23,000 redwoods and 900 Douglas fir trees across 4,000 acres of this vast conservation area. In the wake of the CZU Lightening Complex Fire (CZU Fire), one of the most destructive fires in state history, a fresh start for this ancient redwood forest is now underway.
Standing at 8,852 acres, SVR is one of the largest contiguous protected areas in the region. Because of this tremendous size, its influence extends well beyond its borders as it offers refuge for all life moving within, across and past its boundaries. The health of this landscape is critically important for our region’s ecological wellbeing — it’s a cornerstone for local conservation. Each tree planted here this winter was a small step towards greater resilience for all life within the greater Bay Area and beyond.
Step by step, we are healing this redwood forest and building a greater natural resilience for our region and beyond. Video by CAL FIRE
Like so much of the world’s forests, SVR has a storied history and looks very different than it did 150 years ago. In the early 1900s, most of the property was clear cut for timber profit, back before we knew just how ecologically devastating such a practice was. And ever since, the forest has been struggling to recover.
What grew back after the massive redwood and Douglas fir were cut down — historically the dominant species in this forest — was a thicket of fast-growing species like tanoak. Interspersed with this new growth, redwood and Douglas fir struggled to come back, competing for available sunlight. The full recovery of this ancient redwood forest, if left untended, would take centuries.
A railroad trestle within San Vicente Redwoods from the early part of the 20th century, the route used to haul logs to nearby mills for processing.
As this land’s stewards, we need to adapt to its needs. The recent CZU Fire, which burned through almost the entirety of SVR, presented an important opportunity to give the redwoods a leg up. Young redwood plants don’t yet have the thick insulating bark that protects the mature redwood trees on the property, so the youngest generation of redwoods at SVR were the most impacted by the fire.
To help propel the redwood forest toward its long-term recovery, we want to create a healthier age class distribution (a diversity of trees at different ages) by planting young seedlings to help these trees reclaim their rightful place over the faster growing scrubby plants that tend to dominate the post-fire forest floor, such as ceanothus and tanoak. Future work in these planted areas will focus on clearing the less desirable, more flammable, scrubby vegetation.
We haven’t been wasting any time tackling this need; we planted our first round of seedlings a year ago. By planting redwood trees post-fire, we are helping propel the forest’s recovery by reestablishing this key species — one that is more resilient to drought, infestations and future wildfires — all of which are more likely as the climate continues to change.
Walking through the CZU Fire burn area, it’s impressive to see that redwood trees are almost the only living trees, impatiently sending new shoots and leaves to capture the abundance of available light. Simply put, redwoods are incredibly well-adapted to living with wildfire, and it’s clear that to withstand the stresses of an unstable climate in the future, redwood trees need to once again dominate the forest of SVR.
But it’s more than just their natural resilience to fire, drought and infestations. These redwood tree seedlings may live for 2,000 years and come close to being among the tallest trees on the planet. And as each of these trees grow, it will capture huge amounts of planet-warming carbon dioxide, more than any other species of tree on the planet, as well as provide critical habitat for a cornucopia of life.
Each tree planted, lovingly tucked into the bare earth, will have a tremendous impact for this forest, for our region and for the planet.
This project was completed in partnership with CAL FIRE, Resource Conservation District of Santa Cruz County, Save the Redwoods League, Sempervirens Fund and the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County.
Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) protects open space on the Peninsula and in the South Bay for the benefit of all. Since its founding in 1977, POST has been responsible for saving more than 87,000 acres as permanently protected land in San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties. Learn more