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I’m standing in the redwood forest at San Vicente.
From the stump I’m standing on I can see a good patch of forest. I’m on the lookout for signs of distress – signs that the forest isn’t responding well to our management. But I see nothing that causes concern. This area of the forest was selectively logged 2 years ago, and it’s already coming back to life.
In 2013, POST partnered with Sempervirens Fund, Save the Redwoods League and the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County to acquire the 8,500-acre San Vicente Redwoods. We protected the property with a perpetual conservation easement, which designates some areas as working forest, some as restoration reserves and some as preserve areas where no management is allowed.
The four conservation partners are collaborating in a unique way to bring the forest back to full strength. Active management for timber, as well as restoration treatments, allow us to enhance wildlife habitat, decrease fire threat, sequester more carbon and create old growth conditions sooner. We’re trying to help the forest, but to know how to get there we need to acknowledge where it’s been.
(Click and scroll through the pictures below)
For thousands of years, native populations managed the forests in a sustainable way, through controlled burns and harvesting of acorns and timber. The ecological processes functioned and generations of redwoods sprouted, grew, thrived, then died, only to be replaced by other redwoods.
But in the past century, humans have altered the status quo. This isn’t to say it was always malicious. People have always done what they think is right in the moment. But we learn, slowly, how to be better stewards of our land.
In the early 1900s, the magnificent trees in this stand were clear cut. Around the same time, humans started a concerted effort to suppress wildfire. These actions threw the forest out of ecological balance.
Today almost everyone involved in forest management– conservationists or timber companies alike – agree there’s a better way to sustainably manage these magnificent forests. And on this property, new partnerships are popping up, bridging divides once thought irreconcilable.
When I stand among the redwood forest on San Vicente Redwoods, I am hopeful. I can begin to see the forest recovering. I know we can get these forests back on track, to create a resilient forest that provides us with wood, while also giving habitat to the wildlife, water to the streams and clean air to all of us.
As I jump down from the perch I had been sitting on, I think myself, “We’ve got this.”
Justin Garland has worked for POST since 2015. As the Redwoods Program Manager, he oversees all aspects of our redwood-related work, from the acquisition of new properties to stewardship of lands that have already been protected. He graduated from the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University with a Master of Environmental Management.
Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) protects and cares for open space, farms and parkland in and around Silicon Valley. Since its founding in 1977, POST has been responsible for saving more than 75,000 acres as permanently protected land in San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties.