Largest giant sequoia property to be preserved in $15.6M deal with California conservation group

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A San Francisco conservation group announced Tuesday that it had agreed to pay $15.6 million by the end of the year for the 530-acre hillside grove in Alder Creek, which includes the 3,000-year-old Stagg Tree — the fifth-largest tree in the world.

"Alder Creek is the most consequential giant sequoia conservation project of our lifetime," said Sam Hodder, president and CEO of Save the Redwoods League, the nonprofit  behind the deal. "It's the largest remaining giant sequoia property in private ownership, and a globally unique and extraordinarily beautiful landscape."

Alder Creek, in Tulare County is 200 miles from Los Angeles and is surrounded by Giant Sequoia National Monument and Sequoia National Forest. Owned since 1946 by the Rouch family, it contains 483 giant sequoias that are at least 25.5 feet in diameter. The ancient stand is about the same size as Yosemite's famous Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias, which was established in 1864 and helped inspire the creation of the National Park System.

The 34.7-foot diameter Stagg Tree, named in 1960 after legendary football player and coach Amos Alonzo Stagg, is older and bigger than the Mariposa Grove's Grizzly Giant, which is 30 feet in diameter.

"This is perhaps the most significant sequoia conservation opportunity in the last 65 years," said Becky Bremser, the director of land protection for Save the Redwoods League. "By protecting this property, we will safeguard the biological richness and ecological resilience of a forest unlike any other on Earth — with giant sequoia trees that are thousands of years old, and nearly 500 with diameters six feet or larger. We also will create the opportunity for this extraordinary mountain forest to inspire the public in a truly special way."

The League has been working on a deal to purchase the property from the Rouch family for more than 20 years, Bremser said, and this purchase will be among California's greatest conservation achievements.

Despite the optimistic news, Hodder said that to fully protect the grove, however, the nonprofit will need the public's help in raising the required funds by Dec. 31. An anonymous donor has offered a challenge match, agreeing to match dollar-for-dollar all gifts received by the deadline up to $500,000. 

If successful in raising the funds, the nonprofit said it intends to own and manage the property for five to 10 years. Ultimately, Save the Redwoods League intends to transfer the property to the U.S. Forest Service for inclusion in Giant Sequoia National Monument.

Donations can be made to support the protection and restoration of Alder Creek here.

This story was reported in Oakland, Calif.