The original coast redwood forest covered over two million acres of northern California, from Santa Cruz to the Oregon border. As Julian discovers in OPERATION REDWOOD, over 95% of this forest has been logged. While much of this land has been replanted or has regenerated, these "second growth" or "third growth" redwood forests are generally less than 100 years old (redwood trees can live up to 2,000 years).
Only about 100,000 acres of the original or "old-growth" redwood forest remain today. Much of this old-growth exists because it was protected early on in parks and preserves throughout northern California. However, scattered pockets of old-growth (about 20,000 acres) do remain unprotected today on private lands.
Old-growth redwood forests contain a unique ecosystem, home to rare animals such as coho salmon, spotted owls, and marbled murrelets.
For a beautiful, interactive map about the plants and animals you can find in redwood forests, click here. For more information about redwood ecology, click here (California Academy of Sciences) or here.
The most significant recent effort to protect redwoods was the 1999 Headwaters Agreement, which resulted in the permanent protection of the largest stands of old-growth redwood then on private lands.
The author's note in OPERATION REDWOOD contains a brief history of the Headwaters story, or read a San Francisco Chronicle article announcing the signing of this historic agreement. One of the activists involved in the Headwaters controversy (and one of the inspirations for Julian and Robin in OPERATION REDWOOD) was Julia Butterfly Hill. She lived in an old-growth redwood for over two years to protest the logging of the HeadwatersForest.
|There are several biographies (see below) and articles about Hill (see below) or you can read her own words in her letter to children. Click here to learn more about John Muir and Gifford Pinchot, both important American conservationists mentioned in OPERATION REDWOOD, as well as other significant environmental leaders from around the world.
Would you like to learn more about redwoods? Save the Redwoods League and the Sempervirens Fund were influential in the creation of many of the existing redwood preserves and are still working to save California redwoods. Or follow conservationist Michael Fay on his journey through the entire redwood eco-system.
Can you find San Francisco (Julian's home) and Willits (Robin's home) on a California map? Compare it to the map published by Save the Redwoods League, which shows the extent of the original old-growth forest, and the tiny amount of old-growth redwood that remains today. Their website also provides other interesting redwood statistics and other information.
The National Park Service has also published a brief summary of the history of an important redwood area: Redwood National and State Park. And old photographs of redwood logging are available in books and online.
New discoveries are still being made about redwoods. One of the newest areas of research is the study of redwood tree canopies (the top branches of redwood trees). Canopy scientists have discovered an entire new world up there -- places where soil has collected several feet deep and nurtured miniature oak trees and rhododenron bushes 200 feet up in the air. Scientists have also found albino redwoods in the forest. Hyperion, the world's tallest redwood tree was discovered very recently, in 2006. Of course, getting to the top of a redwood tree is a challenge in itself! You can watch a fascinating video of Jim Spickler, a redwood canopy scientist, climbing Hyperion. Or check out National Geographic's special Explorer: Climbing Redwood Giants.
If you live in California, or are planning a visit, some of the best places to see an old-growth redwood forest are:
Muir Woods National Monument (just north of San Francisco)
Big Basin Redwoods State Park (near Santa Cruz)
Humboldt Redwoods State Park (in Humboldt County in northern California)
Redwood National and State Parks (along the most northern stretch of the California coast)
You can even see redwoods in the middle of the city! The San Francisco Botanical Garden in Golden Gate Park has a very small but beautiful redwood grove.
Click below for links to redwoods in the news:
For more information about redwoods, try reading:
Click and follow the leads to find a National Forest or National Park near you!
- The Ever-Living Tree: The Life and Times of a Coast Redwood by Linda Vieira and Christopher Canyon
- Coast Redwood: A Natural and Cultural History by Michael G. Barber, John Evarts, and Marjorie Popper
- Julia Butterfly Hill: Saving the Redwoods by Dawn Fitzgerald.