Largest deal to protect old-growth redwood trees in California in 20 years

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A San Francisco-based nonprofit announced on Tuesday it has acquired a 730-acre redwoods reserve in Sonoma County, marking the largest deal to protect old-growth redwood trees in California in the last two decades.

The Harold Richardson Redwoods Reserve along the Sonoma coastline 100 miles north of San Francisco will be turned into a public park, thanks to a $18.1 million purchase by Save the Redwoods League.

In about three years, the public will be able to walk amongst trees that are more than 250- and 300-feet tall – as tall as the Statue of Liberty – and enjoy the nature and wildlife along the Gualala River.

This property has some rare and ancient beauties. The oldest known coast redwood south of Mendocino County and the widest coast redwood south of Humboldt have been found on the property. The tree in question is estimated to be 1,640 years old with a trunk diameter that’s 19 feet wide – as wide as a two-lane street. 

The Richardson Reserve had been largest old-growth redwood forest in the United States that had been owned privately by the Richardson family for generations. 

The reserve is actually a slice of the larger, 8,000-acre Richardson Ranch established by Harold Richardson’s grandfather in 1876, according to Save the Redwood League. He was a logger who had refused to cut down the trees. He died in 2016.

Now, the reserve will “honor the legacy of the family’s patriarch,” and be the “newest gem on California’s crown of redwood parks, providing inspiration, recreation and clean air and water,” Save the Redwood CEO Sam Hodder said.

The property, which used to be part of the Kashia Band of Pomo Indians’ territory, is actually 30 percent larger than Marin County’s well-traveled and well-known Muir Woods National Monument and has 47 percent more old-growth redwoods, Hodder said.

Under the deal, Save the Redwoods League is paying $9.6 million to the Richardson family, and also transferring to them a nearby 870-acre parcel the League owned known as Stewarts Point Ranch.

Funding for the deal comes from donations and matching grants from an anonymous donor as well as The Mattson Family Conservation Foundation and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. 

The purchase is the second major acquisition that the League has announced in recent months and is part of the nonprofit’s vision in celebrating its 100 years in existence. In May, the organization spent $3.3 million for 160 acres of giant sequoias in the southern Sierra Nevada — the second-largest grove of giant sequoia trees in private ownership in the world.