Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
MENDOCINO COAST — Even in the fading light of dusk, a 200-foot-tall redwood known as the “Mama Tree” is an exalted presence.
Her imposing height and girth show she has been on earth far longer than anyone who might find comfort in her shade.
Near her base, a downed log serves as an altar, displaying stones, a seashell, pictures, a pink crystal triangle and a bird’s lost feather — talismans left by visitors who travel along a well-used trail nearby.
In Mama Tree’s branches, 65 feet above ground, a tented wooden platform occupied by a variety of committed protesters last year is vacant, waiting, a long banner hanging just below it.
“Save and Protect Jackson State,” it says. “The Forest of the People.”
For more than a year, this spot in the sprawling Jackson Demonstration State Forest has become a rallying point in an intensifying battle over the future of the nearly 50,000-acre expanse of public land, an area nearly twice as large as the city of San Francisco.
The forest, which extends east from the central Mendocino Coast about 100 miles northwest of Santa Rosa, was set aside seven decades ago to extol the virtues of responsible logging.
Now, however, activists say it’s time to rethink its purpose. Each massive redwood that is cut down can no longer absorb and store carbon from the atmosphere and becomes one less weapon in the battle against climate change.