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Redwood Forest Foundation

Spring 2014 Newsletter

RFFI on the Move
by Mark Welther

Mark Welther
Mark Welther
President and Chief Executive Officer
Redwood Forest Foundation

Have you ever taken a long trip without a road map or GPS - something to serve as a guide when heading toward a new destination? If I didn't use my Rand McNally atlas when I headed west for the first time after graduating college in Wisconsin, I might have stalled in South Dakota instead of landing in California.

During my first year as President & CEO, one of my priorities is to develop RFFI's roadmap: a strategic plan. In March, the RFFI Board of Directors and staff held a strategic planning retreat to outline the goals and actions for achieving our mission and vision. By agreeing on several critical elements described below, the Redwood Forest Foundation is now on the road towards fulfilling our long-range vision of "community-based forests that provide both critical habitat for increased biodiversity and improved regional economic vitality."

  • Three-year Herbicide Moratorium: Last July, the RFFI Board declared a three-year moratorium on the use of herbicides in Usal. Herbicides are the conventional and economical way to kill hardwoods, but for the next three years, RFFI will explore non-chemical methods of vegetation management. We are also experimenting with creating a forest structure that provides the space and light advantages that redwoods need in order to "over-top" hardwoods. Because alternatives to chemical herbicides are more expensive, we are diligently seeking funding to support these important experiments.

  • FSC Certification: RFFI's 2011 conservation easement requires "third-party" certification of Usal as a "well-managed forest" by May 2015. Toward this goal, RFFI is being reviewed by one of the world's leading certification agencies, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). As part of our application, we are completing a "Stewardship Plan" that outlines how we will manage Usal.

  • Timber Harvests: RFFI's Usal Forest is a working community forest which must service its debt while creating wood products and community jobs. 2014 will be our third year of harvesting and we are now developing eleven timber harvest plans. We are committed to use the lightest possible touch on the land during these operations, while also addressing our financial responsibilities. Current plans include selection and variable retention harvesting methods.

  • Restoration: RFFI continues to protect and restore habitat for threatened salmon and owls, as well as other species that rely on Usal. I'm excited to announce that in March we received grant funding for Standley Creek restoration Phase Five (of six), which we will complete along with our partners at Campbell Global, Trout Unlimited and Pacific Watershed Associates. RFFI also received funding for large woody debris projects on Anderson Creek and the South Fork of Usal Creek.

  • Carbon Registration: RFFI's easement also directs us to seek registration by the state to sell carbon credits. California leads the world in the development of carbon markets and RFFI hopes to be registered by early 2015. Carbon sales make it possible for us to protect trees and generate income at the same time.

  • The Biochar Pilot Project: Much of the rugged landscape where old-growth redwoods once thrived is now overgrown with low-value hardwoods, predominantly tanoak. In an effort to find uses for hardwoods while clearing space for redwoods and Douglas fir, RFFI has secured a grant to produce biochar, a product for use in gardens that sequesters carbon in the soil. Recently, this project has also taken important steps forward, as detailed in the Biochar Update in this newsletter.

  • Promoting Community Forests Elsewhere: Our mission includes not only Usal but other forests throughout the Redwood Region. This year, RFFI worked with Humboldt County, the Trust for Public Land and Green Diamond Resource Company to arrange funding for Humboldt County to purchase the 1,200-acre Ryan Creek property near Eureka for a working community forest.

  • A Tribal Acorn Grove: Since 2010, RFFI and local tribal leaders have cooperated in establishing the eight acre Chinquapin Springs Acorn Grove in the Usal Forest. This grove will be used in 2014 for traditional acorn gathering by local Native Americans, and is an example of the kinds of cooperative community projects RFFI envisions.

With our new road map in hand, RFFI is growing towards our vision every day. You can follow our progress by regularly checking our website, The journey to change how community forestry is practiced in California is a long one and requires input from all stakeholders. You are a part of that redwood community, so please get involved. You can start by joining us at our Annual Meeting on July 26. See you there!

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