Posted on Categories Forests, HabitatsTags , , ,

Sonoma County Forests, Part One: The history of Sonoma County's woodlands

Arthur Dawson, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The 2017 North Coast Forest Conservation Conference, “Growing Resilience,” will take place June 7-9 at Santa Rosa Junior College’s Shone Farm, 7450 Steve Olson Lane, Forestville.
More info: Sonoma County Forest Conservation Working Group, sonomaforests.org.

Sonoma County’s early chronicles are full of praise for the trees and forests. In 1877, one writer described looking over “a sweep of majestic forests unsurpassed on the continent — tier upon tier, range upon range of redwoods.”
About half the county’s vegetation was forest and open woodland at that time according to estimates; the rest was a mix of grasslands, chaparral and wetlands. The dense redwood forests on the Russian River floodplain, where Guerneville now stands, were considered “the finest body of timber in the state.” One tree was 23 feet in diameter; another measured 368 feet high and, at the time, was “the tallest tree yet discovered in America.” These are just shy of modern records; we’ll never know if even bigger trees went unrecorded.
Jose Altimira was impressed by the huge valley oaks near the Sonoma Mission, which he founded in 1823. They grew in a roblar covering dozens of square miles. Not exactly a forest, roblar is Spanish for a place where oaks are prominent within a mosaic of grasslands and wetlands.
Englishman Frank Marryat later described traveling through Sonoma Valley like this: “It seems ever as if we were about to enter a forest which we never reach, for in the distance the oaks, though really far apart, appear to grow in dark and heavy masses.”
Because they were desirable places to settle — flat with some shade and water, but not too wet — most of our towns grew up in roblars.
The Wappo name for the Santa Rosa area is wici-lo-holma-noma, or “meadowlark woods,” suggesting both grassland and trees. Windsor was named for its resemblance to the oak-studded grounds of England’s Windsor Castle. Even today, 200-year-old oaks can be found in Santa Rosa and other areas, adding habitat and character to many neighborhoods.
Of course, the county is home to more than just redwoods and roblars. Altimira “fell in love” with the riparian forest of “alder, cottonwood and bay” along Sonoma Creek, and he mentioned “madrone, bay and Douglas fir in the hills.” As he noticed, our forests are complex and diverse. We have 10 native oaks, numerous other hardwoods and 19 conifers, nearly as many as the “Evergreen State” of Washington.
Read more at: The history of Sonoma County’s woodlands | The Press Democrat

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, ForestsTags , ,

Can California redwoods help solve global warming? 

Paul Rogers, EAST BAY TIMES
California’s ancient redwood forests aren’t just majestic and among the oldest living things on Earth — a new study finds they are a particularly potent weapon against global warming.
The towering trees remove and store more carbon from the atmosphere per acre than any other forests on the planet, including tropical rain forests, researchers found in a discovery that could influence everything from logging rules to how parks are preserved as the state grapples with climate change.
“The story of the carbon is huge,” said Robert Van Pelt, a scientist at Humboldt State University who helped lead the research. “The carbon part of a redwood may be more important than the lumber part in the coming decades.”
Scientists have long known that redwood trees, because they can live more than 1,000 years and grow to immense heights, are able to capture significant amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. They do it with photosynthesis, the natural process in which plants use energy from sunlight to convert carbon dioxide and water to sugars that help them grow, while also releasing oxygen.
But a team of researchers from Humboldt State and the University of Washington painstakingly set out to measure exactly how much carbon the massive trees, some of which tower more than 300 feet high and were growing during the Roman Empire, are sucking out of the atmosphere.
Starting in 2009, the team, working with researchers from UC Berkeley and Save the Redwoods League, chose 11 forested areas between Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park near the Oregon border, and UC’s Landels-Hill Big Creek Reserve in Big Sur, about 500 miles away.
Forests in the northern part of Jedediah Smith Redwoods park stored 2,600 metric tons of carbon per hectare, an area of about 2.5 acres, the study found. That’s more than twice the 1,000 metric tons estimated for ancient conifer forests in the Pacific Northwest and the towering eucalyptus forests in Australia and Tasmania.
Read more at: Can California redwoods help solve global warming? – EastBayTimes.com

Posted on Categories Air, Climate Change & Energy, Forests, Land UseTags , , , , ,

Under California cap-and-trade program, North Coast forests turn carbon uptake into cash

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
They say money doesn’t grow on trees, but a nearly 75,000-acre swath of redwood and fir forests blanketing the wildlands of Sonoma and Mendocino counties is generating millions of dollars as it contributes to California’s ambitious campaign to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
In a reversal of forest profiteering that dates back to the mid-1800s, the trees are making landowners money by staying upright and growing fast on damp coastal hills where vegetation thrives and few humans set foot.
The Conservation Fund, a Virginia-based nonprofit, has since 2008 sold more than $36 million worth of a new forest commodity called carbon credits, also known as carbon offsets, which represent 4 million metric tons of greenhouse gases sequestered, or stored, by forests that in turn must be sustained for 100 years.
The Conservation Fund’s forests are among the top two or three producers of forest-based carbon offsets in California’s carbon cap-and-trade program, said Chris Kelly, California program director for the group.
More than $2 million in credits have already sold for the former Preservation Ranch, a 19,645-acre property in northwestern Sonoma County that once was the focus of an intense environmental controversy.
Purchased by the fund for $24.5 million in public and private funding in 2013 — in the largest conservation deal by acreage in county history — the ranch, renamed Buckeye Forest, is forever protected against a future that once included a proposed 1,800 acre forest-to-vineyard conversion. Those plans aroused environmentalists’ anger and would have eliminated more than 300,000 trees.
Read more at: Under California cap-and-trade program, North Coast forests turn | The Press Democrat

Posted on Categories Forests, Land Use, Local Organizations, Sonoma CoastTags , , , , Leave a comment on Gualala Redwoods Inc. puts 30,000-acre property up for sale

Gualala Redwoods Inc. puts 30,000-acre property up for sale

Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
mapNearly 30,000 acres timberland straddling the Sonoma-Mendocino county border and stretching across the mouth of the Gualala River have been put on the auction block, creating what conservationists are calling a prime opportunity for a landmark preservation deal that could permanently protect and restore a giant swath of forest, allow for potential park development and consolidate a protected area larger than Point Reyes National Seashore.
Gualala Redwoods Inc. has put its entire timber holdings out to bid, offering an expanse of mixed redwood and Douglas fir, nearly 20 miles of river frontage and a developable 58-acre bluff-top parcel in town.
The 47-square-mile property abuts several others acquired over the past decade or so for conservation, including the nearly 20,000-acre Buckeye Forest, once known as Preservation Ranch, near Annapolis.
The outcome of any sale won’t be known for months— offers aren’t due until early next year — but a coalition of conservation groups is assessing the Gualala Redwoods property and exploring options for a deal that could permit lighter forestry practices, watershed reclamation and recreation.
“It’s a pretty amazing opportunity — just the scale of it,” said Ralph Benson, executive director of the Sonoma Land Trust, which has assembled a group of potential conservation partners to evaluate options. Those involved include the Save the Redwoods League, the Mendocino Land Trust, the Redwood Coast Land Conservancy, the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District, Sonoma County Regional Parks, the Sonoma Land Trust and the Conservation Fund, a national non-profit that manages the adjoining Buckeye, Garcia River and Gualala River forests, totalling more than 57,000 acres.
Read more via Gualala Redwoods Inc. puts 30,000-acre property up for | The Press Democrat.