Restoration at Redwood

The environment of Redwood National and State Parks is not "pristine". It has been shaped by thousands of years of Native American use of fire, traditional hunting, and harvesting. However, it was industrial logging of last century that had disasterous impacts on the forests, rivers and wildlife of the area.

Nowadays, we are very active in restoring park habitats that range from prairies, coast-lines, waterways, hillsides, and forests. Whether it's dune restoration, removing invasive plants, thinning second-growth forests, stopping old logging roads from catastrophic failure, rebuilding rivers, or removing legacy logging roads entirely - these restoration efforts take time, partnerships, skills, science, and money to achieve.

The three California State Parks in our partnership (Jedediah Smith Redwoods, Del Norte Coast Redwoods and Prairie Creek Redwoods) were established in the 1920s and 1930s. The land for these state parks came from citizen groups like Save the Redwoods League and the state government that purchased sections of old-growth forests from private logging companies. These pockets of preserved forests were an oasis of protected land during the next half century of logging.

Redwood National and State Parks is unusual in that many of the park ecosystems were not in a healthy condition when the parks were established or expanded. More than 38,000 acres (70%) of the Redwood Creek watershed lands included in the national park's 1978 expansion were heavily disturbed timberlands. This aquisition included 415 miles of failing and abandoned logging roads. Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park expanded in 2002 with the addition of twenty-five thousand acres in the Mill Creek watershed. This aquisition of logged-over lands included 329 miles of logging roads (not including skid roads or fire breaks). Both these parks' lands were purchased from logging companies and private land-owners.

Those hundreds of miles of logging roads create more than scars on the landscape. When these roads fail, they cause landslides that can, and have, destroyed hillsides of old-growth redwoods. During the decades of logging, miles and miles of creeks and streams were also buried by debris and fill - causing a collapse of natural river systems, and the decimation of trout and salmon habitats.

Today, only a third (40,000 acres) of Redwood National and State Parks' land is old-growth redwoods. These jig-saw like sections of healthy old-growth redwood forests are now surrounded by densly choked, second-growth forests. After the old-growth redwoods were logged in the 1960s, much of land was then sewn by helicopters and planes with Douglas-fir seeds.

We are seen as a world leader in efforts to restore of a variety of habitats and ecosystems. Since the 1990s, great leaps forward in science, forestry, state and private partnerships, and park management have occurred to make these innovative restoration programs occur. At Redwood National and State Parks, more than 300 miles of logging roads have been removed, and hundreds of unnatural stream crossings and barriers have also been repaired or removed. But, there still is a lot more to do.

Redwoods Rising is an exciting and new massive landscape-scale restoration program. Its focus is on places like the Lost Man Creek, Mill Creek and Prairie Creek watersheds. These are important riparian areas where old-growth redwoods had been logged. These watersheds make up tens of thousands of acres of second-growth forests which we are slowly treating. The goal is that centuries from now, these once-logged areas will once again have healthy steams, rivers, and old-growth forests.

We invite you find out what is going on behind the scenes. These are your parks.

Old-Growth Forests compared to Second-Growth Forests
Old-growth forest Second-growth forest
Old-growth forest with a complex understory, open spaces, and a few massive trees per acre. NPS: John Chao
Second-growth forest with no understory, little light with crowded and skinny trees. NPS: Jason Teraoka
Examples at Redwood National and State Parks of the very different kind of forests we have. Only a third (40,000 acres) of the parks' forests are old-growth redwood forests. A similar amount of forest in the parks are second-growth (logged once) forests.

Last updated: April 12, 2018

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Crescent City, CA 95531


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