Exploring the remnant old-growth of the Humboldt County Headwaters
In late 1985, a family company in Humboldt County was over taken by a large corporation from Texas. Within a few months, the profit-driven Maxxam Corporation submitted (under the name Pacific Lumber) a furtive timber harvest plan with a rush order to log some of the last, largest swaths of remaining old-growth redwoods in the world. Thankfully, a small group of concerned environmentalists were watching. Leading the guard was Greg King who, along with others, organized and Headwaters Forest Campaign which soon became the largest forest protection civil disobedience demonstration in America’s history.
When I moved to Humboldt County in 2002, the battle in the Headwaters was waning. Some of the old-growth was saved by the efforts of many and for this we should all be thankful. 2002 was also the year Maxxam filed for bankruptcy symbolizing their withdrawal. This is also when I picked up Joan Dunning‘s From the Redwood Forest. I quickly read it cover to cover, learning about the timber wars along with the old-growth that was saved. These old-growth stands have lived in my dreams ever since.
In February 2020, Lucy Kerhoulas organized a visit the Headwaters with Mike Miles and Sal Chinnici, foresters from Humboldt Redwood Company (HRC). Humboldt Redwood Company was created in 2008 through the reorganization of the former Pacific Lumber Company (PALCO) and related entities after the Maxxam fiasco. HRC now actively manages almost 210,000 acres in the Headwaters–consisting of Yager Creek and adjacent watersheds. A mere 2,100 acres of old-growth (aka un-entered forest) remains across this vast landscape. Yep…that is 1%.
In 1999 deals were made that protected the Headwaters Forest Reserve and the Owl Creek Ecological Reserve in perpetuity. Headwaters is open to the public via the BLM at two access points while Owl Creek is managed by the state and closed to the public. The other remaining old-growth stands on HRC land have a 50 year designation as Marbled Murrelet Conservation Areas (MMCA). While well managed now, time will tell if these 2100 acres remain protected as old-growth forever–the agreement is done in 2049. On this trip we visited two of the remaining old-growth stands on HRC land including the ~150 acre All Species Grove (also known as the Bell-Lawrence Grove) and the ~300 acre Shaw Creek Grove.