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Forest for the Trees: Coastal redwoods battle heats up along the Gualala River

by Will Parrish, North Bay Bohemian, October 21, 2015

[excerpt:]

The fight to save majestic coastal redwood groves in California has been waged for more than a century, starting with the campaign that created Big Basin State Park in 1902.

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This year, a new redwood battle has emerged, this time in northwestern Sonoma County. Gualala Redwoods Timber (GRT), owner of 29,500 acres in northwestern Sonoma and southwestern Mendocino counties, plans to log hundreds of large second-growth redwoods in the Gualala River’s sensitive floodplain. The “Dogwood” plan encompasses 320 acres, making it the largest Gualala River floodplain logging plans in the modern regulatory era, while the “Apple” plan features 121 acres of adjacent logging and 89 acres of clear-cuts.

Project critic Peter Baye, a coastal ecologist affiliated with Friends of the Gualala River and a former California Department of Fish & Wildlife regulator, says the style of logging GRT has planned is liable to batter the watershed’s badly impaired “off-channel” salmon and steelhead habitat. He also fears it will jeopardize endangered species such as the marbled murrelet and northern spotted owl, and set a dangerous precedent that erodes the intent of modern environmental statutes that are supposed to protect floodplains.

“This is basically the last mature riparian forest refuge in the watershed,” Baye says. “All of the 80- to 100-year-old trees in the watershed are gone, except these. And it’s in the critical part, next to the river and in the floodplain. Nothing else impacts salmon like this does.”

. . .

“GRT is looking to clean the last meat off the bones of this watershed,” [Friends of the Gualala River president Chris Poehlmann] says. “But if this community is smart, they’ll realize this is their big chance. With some help we can set this land aside and economically uplift this entire region by creating a truly remarkable park.”

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To read the entire article, visit the North Bay Bohemian: Forest for the Trees: Coastal redwoods battle heats up along the Gualala River.

Gualala River floodplain
Gualala River floodplain, upstream from the existing County Park