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Family timber firm buys Gualala Redwoods lands

Gualala Redwoods, Inc. (GRI) said Tuesday it signed a definitive purchase and sale agreement to transfer the majority of its timberland holdings in Mendocino and Sonoma Counties to the Burch family of San Jose.

According to Henry Alden, senior vice president of GRI, under the terms of the agreement, GRI will sell approximately 29,000 acres to the Burch family, representing the core timberland holdings of the company.

GRI will retain ownership of select “higher and better use” parcels, including the Gualala Village (Lower Mill) and Mill Bend parcels at the mouth of the Gualala River. Alden said GRI will continue to evaluate strategic alternatives for these parcels, including sale, development and conservation strategies.

The Burch family, which owns Pacific States Industries, has a long relationship with the GRI property, dating back over three decades, Alden said.

Headed by Robert Burch, Pacific States Industries also owns other timberlands and the Redwood Empire Mill in Cloverdale, where timber from Gualala Redwoods lands has been milled over the years.

Gualala Redwoods, Inc., was founded in 1948 by J. Ollie Edmunds, Sr., and has remained in family ownership since the original acquisition. The retained assets of the company will continue to be overseen by its president, J. Ollie Edmunds, Jr., M.D., Alden said.

An unsuccessful bid for the 29,500-acre timber parcel had been made by a group headed by The Conservation Fund, on behalf of the Sonoma Land Trust, the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District, Sonoma County Regional Parks, the Save the Redwoods League, Mendocino Land Trust, Redwood Coast Land Conservancy and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. The Conservation Fund owns extensive sustainable forests adjacent north and south of the Gualala Redwoods lands.

“The coalition will stay together,” said Amy Chestnut of the Sonoma Land Trust. “We’re disappointed, of course, but we hope there will be an opportunity to talk with the new owners about conservation options.” She noted that the Burch family has local connections and is “already familiar with our work and goals.”

Chris Poehlmann, president of Friends of the Gualala River, said he was disappointed the winning bid was not that of the conservation consortium that would have had a “lighter-touch management style.”

Poehlmann said, “If this watershed is to be managed as a tree farm, then the chances of it recovering anytime soon are slim,” but, he added, “We look forward to conversations with the new owners over the prospect of parklands that extend along the main stem of the Gualala River from the Twin Bridges to Gualala Point Park.”

by J. Stephen McLaughlin
April 17, 2015
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Independent Coast Observer
reprinted with permission