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J. Michael Fay, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, packs the house at the Caspar Inn on October 26, 2009

Fort Bragg Advocate-News
November 5, 2009

More than 160 people packed into the Caspar Inn to engage in a conversation with J. Michael Fay, a Wildlife Conservation Society conservationist and National Geographic Society Explorer-in-Residence.

Lindsey Holm and Mike Fay, photo by Robert Ballard
Lindsey Holm and Mike Fay
Photo by Robert Ballard

Lindsey Holm was on hand to join the discussion. Holm is an environmental activist who accompanied Fay on his 11-month trek through the redwood region. The Redwood Forest Foundation (RFFI) and the Caspar Inn sponsored the evening of slides and discussion on October 26, 2009. Don Kemp, RFFI's Board President, welcomed the participants.

Participants viewed Fay's slides, capturing the condition of the unique ecosystem in California's North Coast forests and streams and the hidden world at the top of 370-foot redwoods - a vibrant ecosystem alive in the redwood canopy.

Fay and Holm captured vivid images of forest creatures that dwell among some of the world's oldest and tallest trees - from wide-eyed salamanders to rapacious black bears that are stripping young redwoods in Humboldt county. They saw examples of devastating forest practices along with hopeful sites where enlightened forest practices are restoring the resource.

Fay played a lead role in developing the October National Geographic cover story: Redwood: The Super Trees and the recent documentary: EXPLORER: Climbing Redwood Giants.

Fay and Holm completed the Redwood Transect last year - a 2000-mile trek through the redwood region. Fay walked through California's iconic redwood range, from Big Sur to just north of the Oregon border. The pictures and detailed notes from their trek, document the condition of the wildlife, plant life, fish, and the forest and streams.

Fay believes it is possible to maximize both timber production and the many ecological and social benefits that working forests provide. Fay believes the region is at a historic crossroads. His study documents the fact that over 95% of the redwood resource has been logged. He states that it will take more than sustainable harvesting of the remaining resource to return the forests to a healthy state.

While Fay's message is sometimes dire, "This planet is in peril," he also sees signs of hope because an improved form of forestry is developing on the North Coast. He is impressed by the amount of forest and stream restoration that is taking place throughout the redwood range.

Mike Fay has spent his life as a naturalist - from the Maine woods as a boy to North Africa and the depths of the central African forest and savannas. His Megatransect from the Oubangui to the Atlantic Ocean through the last pristine forest in central Africa led to an historic initiative by the Gabonese government to create a system of 13 national parks in Gabon.

Acknowledging he will continue to work on behalf of African forests, Fay confirmed his intention to remain involved in the environmental and economic revitalization of the redwood region. Fay sees this as a crucial opportunity for society to embrace a different kind of forestry that can benefit people, wildlife, and perhaps even the planet. Fay is advocating with public officials, commercial interests and the region's residents for a Marshall Plan for the redwood region.

The sponsor, the Redwood Forest Foundation (RFFI), acquires working forestlands as a way to protect biodiversity, mitigate climate change, improve the local economy and achieve social equity. Together with local residents, key corporate and public partners, they purchase, protect, restore, manage and conserve the forest and will use the eventual profits from sustainable timber production for the long term public benefit of the local residents.

RFFI purchased the Usal Redwood Forest in Mendocino county in 2007. For more information about their work visit www.rffi.org or call 707-937-4808.

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