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From Redwood Summer to Redwood Summit

Preserving economies and the environment:
a new view of tall trees and older redwoods

October, 2009

Over 850 people took part in the Redwood Summit at Humboldt State University in Arcata on Saturday, October 3, 2009.

The main presentation featured National Geographic photographer Michael "Nick" Nichols and Explorer-in-Residence, J. Michael Fay. They played lead roles in developing the October National Geographic magazine cover story about Fay's 2,000 mile trek through the redwood region.

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

Fay, a Wildlife Conservation Society biologist and National Geographic Society (NGS) Explorer-in-Residence, walked the length of California's mythic redwood range, from Big Sur to just north of the Oregon border.

Fay believes it is possible to maximize both timber production and the many ecological and social benefits that forests provide. He and Lindsey Holm took pictures and detailed notes to document their 11-month trek, recording wildlife, plant life, and the condition of forests and streams.

Talking with loggers, foresters, biologists, environmentalists, local residents and timber company executives convinced them that redwood forests are at a historic crossroads - a time when society can embrace an ecological form of forestry that can benefit people, fish, wildlife and even the planet.

While echoes of Redwood Summer run through the NGS film, it is clear that Fay is urging the region's residents to capitalize on this focus on the majestic redwoods. The tenor of the redwood summit last weekend suggests that the movement to save redwoods and our regional economy has come of age.

While the message was sometimes dire - "This planet is in peril," stated Mike Fay - the tone was far more conciliatory than in years past. There was no dearth of humor, and Fay's overall message was that he sees signs of hope in a new form of forestry. He and others applauded the work being done on forests owned by Mendocino and Humboldt Redwood Companies and the Redwood Forest Foundation.

Humboldt State University Professor Stephen Sillett
Steve Sillett

Humboldt State University Professor Stephen Sillett, a redwood researcher who scales the mighty giants, described his pioneering work, which is highlighted in the National Geographic story and documentary, "EXPLORER: Climbing Redwood Giants." Sillett reveals the hidden world atop 370-foot redwoods, a vibrant ecosystem alive in the redwood canopy.

Ruskin Hartley, Executive Director of Save the Redwoods League, moderated an afternoon panel featuring: David Simpson, Association of Conservation Contractors and Workers; Mike Jani, Humboldt Redwood Company; Charlotte Ambrose, Salmon and Steelhead Recovery Coordinator, National Marine Fisheries Service; Chris Peters, CEO Seventh Generation Fund; and Kathy Moxon, Redwood Coast Rural Action. The panelists made brief presentations designed to set the tone for the breakout working sessions that followed.

Steve Zuieback of MendoFutures facilitated two hours of highly productive breakout working groups that met to develop and recommend solutions to some of the economic and environmental issues confronting the redwood region. A broad cross-section of the region was represented by 170 pre-selected individuals who participated in these discussions. Many have committed to continue to meet to explore solutions and strategies for addressing the serious economic and environmental issues that have been dramatized in the recent National Geographic articles and documentary.

Large National Geographic Society photo at the Redwood Summit
Large NGS photo at Redwood Summit

The Summit was organized by Connie Stewart in conjunction with Art Harwood and Kathy Moxon. Stewart is the Director of the California Center for Rural Policy at Humboldt State University. Art Harwood is the Executive Director of the Redwood Forest Foundation (RFFI) and Moxon is the Director of Redwood Coast Rural Action and the vice-president of RFFI. The Foundation's impact was evident. Panelists acknowledged Richard Gienger's influence in prompting them to participate and many of the facilitators are affiliated with RFFI.

Thanking Harwood for including her, panelist Charlotte Ambrose of National Marine Fisheries Service sums up the day and the future prospects,

"The day was informative and necessary; I am very honored to have participated. Currently, 95% of the remaining Central Coast Coho Salmon - Usal south through Santa Cruz - occur on redwood forestlands; their extinction is looming. Protecting these forests from conversion, urbanization, over-harvest, and increasing survival for each salmon individual are NMFS' highest priorities.

Standing redwoods provide shade and food for salmon; downed redwood creates pools for young salmon rearing in freshwater and refuge during storms. The fate of redwood forests are inextricably linked to the fate of our salmon. I will be urging my colleagues to support your effort to develop a Regional Redwood Revitalization Plan that addresses the economic, environmental and social aspects of conserving the redwood forests and encouraging the growth of larger older trees."



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