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In April 1963 the National Geographic Society made a grant to the National Park Service to finance a special study of the California Coast Redwoods. The study involved an analysis of the remaining redwoods forests, the preservation already accomplished, and whether additional preservation was needed.

On June 25, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson was briefed on the study. He requested Secretary of the Interior Stewart L. Udall to submit recommendations.

A preliminary report, The Redwoods, was distributed in the fall of 1964. Its conclusions were: (1) The redwoods are a significant part of our heritage and they need preservation. (2) There is an urgent need to preserve additional acreage of virgin growth in a major redwoods park. (3) It is essential to do this to offset continuing attrition and encroachments and to provide opportunity for future generations to see and enjoy these magnificent forests. (4) Of the original redwoods forest comprising some 1,941,000 acres, about 750,000 acres of old growth redwoods remain. About 300,000 acres are essentially untouched virgin growth of which approximately 50,000 acres or 2-1/2 percent of the original redwood forests are protected in California State Parks. (5) At the present annual rate of redwoods harvesting, about nine hundred million board feet, all old growth redwoods not protected in parks will be gone by the year 2000, and probably in 20 to 30 years. [9]

The report also suggested certain alternate possibilities for additional preservation and solicited comments and suggestions of interested parties. Nearly 4,000 comments were received in response to the report and nationwide interest has continued. Comments came from members of the California Congressional Delegation, State, County, and City officials in California, forest products industries, schools, conservation organizations, Chambers of Commerce and other interested groups, and many private individuals.

Nationwide, the general public was overwhelmingly in favor of a Redwood National Park to assure further preservation of there source. Main opposition came from the forest products industry, and from local authorities in the three northern California counties involved, who feared adverse economic effects, if redwood harvesting were reduced. All agreed, however, that an early decision was needed to end the economic uncertainty over the change.

Opinions varied on the appropriate size and proper location of the park. Alternative plans were put forward by the redwood industry, the State, the American Forestry Association, the Sierra Club, the Save-the-Redwoods League, Representative Don Clausen, and others. Some conservation organizations and individuals urged acquisition of a much larger area than that proposed by the National Park Service. Others contended that adequate protection required adding only minor additional redwood tracts to existing State Parks.

Secretary Udall called a meeting for November 22, 1965. Those invited included members of Congress, State and County officials, and representatives of the redwood lumber industry, of conservation and civic organizations, and interested citizens. At the meeting, three plans for a national park were presented by the Park Service. Secretary Udall told the meeting that redwoods preservation was the most important conservation issue before his Department. [10]

He called a second meeting, for December 17, 1965. Representatives of several major foundations were invited and the Secretary attempted to find out how much foundation money could be used to buy redwoods. [11]

On February 23, 1966, President Johnson's special message to Congress on conservation matters included support for the creation of a Redwood National Park. Secretary Udall, on the same date, forwarded the Administration plan for the proposed park, and it was introduced as S. 2962 by Senator Thomas Kuchel of California and H.R. 13011 by Representative Don Clausen. Numerous other bills, dating back to October 1965, would authorize a Redwood National Park of different size and location. The Senate Subcommittee on National Parks and Recreation conducted field hearings in the redwood country in June 1966, and hearings in Washington in August, but no final action was taken by the 89th Congress. [12]

The continued cutting of virgin redwood stands in the areas proposed for a national park aroused grave concern. On August 17, 1966, Secretary Udall met with officials of the Rellium Redwood Company in an attempt to halt timber harvesting in the area proposed for the park. In a letter of August 18, Harold Miller, president of the company, refused the request to halt cutting. [13] But subsequently, and following a Presidential appeal, the five lumber companies involved—Rellium, Georgia-Pacific, Simpson, Arcata, and Pacific—agreed to restrict harvesting operations in the involved areas. [14]

In another conservation message to Congress on January 30, 1967, President Johnson again called for establishment of a Redwood National Park. About the same time he asked Laurance Rockefeller, Chairman of the Citizens' Advisory Committee on Recreation and Natural Beauty, to go to California to discuss the redwoods issue with the newly elected Governor of California, Ronald Reagan. State redwoods parks had become embroiled in the National Park issue. During the period April through June 1967, a series of meetings were held between representatives of the State, the Interior Department, and other Departments, with Mr. Rockefeller serving as intermediary. [15]

Secretary Udall sent the Administration's plan for a Redwood National Park to the 90th Congress on March 11, 1967. It was the plan sent to the 89th Congress, except that certain possible additions were suggested if they could be added without spending Federal funds. Senator Thomas Kuchel and Representative Wayne Aspinall introduced the legislation but deleted the possible-additions language. As in the 89th Congress, many other bills were introduced, some of which would authorize a park of much larger size than the Administration's plan. H. R. 7742 introduced by Representative Clausen called for a Redwoods-to-the-Sea concept in which redwood acreage in the proposed park would be curtailed. [16]

On November 1, 1967, the Senate passed S. 2515 which called for the establishment of a Redwood National Park of different size and location from the Administration's plan. The House Subcommittee on Parks and Recreation had conducted redwoods hearings in Washington June 27, 1967, field hearings in the redwoods country on April 16 and 18, 1968, and additional hearings in Washington on May 20-21, 1968. The House then passed an amended S. 2515 on July 15, 1968, calling for a park of some 28,500 acres instead of the 64,000-acre park in the Senate bill. A joint Conference Committee met in August and September 1968, and on September 9 agreement was announced that fixed the park at 58,000 acres to cost an estimated $92,000,000 for land acquisition. The park was authorized to include three State parks—Jedediah Smith, Del Norte Coast, and Prairie Creek—lands in the Mill Creek, Prairie Creek, Lost Man Creek, Little Lost Man Creek, and Redwood Creek drainages, and approximately 40 miles of scenic Pacific Ocean coastline. Approximately 10,900 acres of virgin old growth redwood would be set aside in addition to the groves already preserved in the California State Parks.

The House of Representatives passed this bill on September 12 and the Senate concurred on September 19. President Johnson signed the Act creating the Redwood National Park on October 2, 1968. [17]

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Last Updated: 15-Jan-2004