Conservation group buys largest, privately held sequoia forest

The Sun-Gazette

Save the Redwoods League raises $15 million in four months to purchase 530-acre Alder Creek near Giant Sequoia Monument

The Sun-Gazette

TULARE COUNTY – In just four months, a California conservation group was able to raise more than $15 million to protect the largest remaining giant sequoia forest in the world.

Earlier this month, the Save the Redwoods League announced its purchase of Alder Creek, a spectacular 530-acre giant sequoia forest in eastern Tulare County surrounding the Giant Sequoia National Monument. Sam Hodder, president and CEO of Save the Redwoods League, said his organization received more than 8,500 contributions from individuals and foundations across the U.S. and 30 other countries total $15.65 million. 

“Giant sequoia are among the largest and among the oldest living things and grow nowhere else in the world outside of the western slopes of California’s Sierra Nevada. With the purchase of Alder Creek, we have protected the best of what’s left,” Hodder said. “We are amazed by and grateful for the generosity of people from all over the world who stepped up to help save this special forest. At a moment when good news is hard to find, we are thrilled to begin the new year celebrating the generosity and sense of stewardship reflected in this successful effort.”

In addition to acquiring the property, the League will develop plans for restoration and stewardship activities during its ownership. Hodder said the League intends to work with Giant Sequoia National Monument and the local and regional community to plan and implement long-term public access to the property that both inspires visitors with the beauty and power of nature and ensures the health and resilience of this rare forest ecosystem.

Nearly all of Alder Creek contains giant sequoias that are more than 6 feet in diameter including the Stagg Tree, the fifth largest tree in the world. Within 10 years, the League intends to transfer the property to the U.S. Forest Service for inclusion in Giant Sequoia National Monument, ensuring its future management in accordance with the monument’s long-term restoration, resource protection, and public access program. 

Becky Bremser, director of land protection for Save the Redwoods League, said the conservation group has been working on a deal to purchase the property from the Rouch family for more than 20 years and characterized its purchase as one of California’s greatest conservation achievements.

“This is perhaps the most significant sequoia conservation opportunity in the last 65 years,” said Becky Bremser, the director of land protection for Save the Redwoods League. “By protecting this property, we will safeguard the biological richness and ecological resilience of a forest unlike any other on Earth — with giant sequoia trees that are thousands of years old, and nearly 500 with diameters 6 feet or larger. We also will create the opportunity for this extraordinary mountain forest to inspire the public in a truly special way.”

The last giant sequoias on Earth are located on and around the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada in approximately 73 isolated and scattered groves. Giant sequoia forests are one of the rarest ecosystems on the planet, encompassing 48,000 acres. Because giant sequoias occupy a small native range, Hodder says it is vital to seize every opportunity to protect them. In addition to giant sequoia, Alder Creek also contains robust stands of mature red fir, white fir, ponderosa pine, and sugar pine, as well as several other habitats, including meadows, wetlands, and riparian woodlands. Each sustains its unique suite of associated species; together, they form a vital and resilient ecosystem emblematic of the southern Sierra Nevada and California.

The vast majority of remaining giant sequoia groves are held in public or tribal ownership, with only 1,200 acres privately owned today. The long-term climate change trend of Sierra Nevada snowpack reduction, in combination with warmer temperatures and widespread tree mortality from drought and pests, is greatly increasing the risk of severe fire and threatening the giant sequoia ecosystem. The eventual transfer of Alder Creek to Giant Sequoia National Monument under U.S. Forest Service stewardship will allow this forest to be managed for its longterm survival.

Save the Redwoods League is one of the nation’s oldest conservation organizations and has been protecting and restoring redwood forests since 1918, connecting generations of visitors with the beauty and serenity of the redwood forest. Its 24,000 supporters have enabled the League to protect more than 216,000 acres of irreplaceable forest in 66 state, national and local parks and reserves. For more information, go to SaveTheRedwoods.org.

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