Ecological Importance of
Usal Redwood Forest
In Reed Noss's 2000 book The Redwood Forest: History, Ecology, and Conservation of the Coastal Redwoods, he explores methods for conservation planning using insights from conservation biology and scientific data gathering techniques in the redwood forests of California. He presents principles of conservation biology (listed below) as general guidelines for effective conservation planning.
Stewardship and restoration of the Usal Redwood Forest is in line with many of the desirable qualities highlighted by these principles.
Principles of Conservation Biology*
- Species well distributed across their native range are less susceptible to extinction than species confined to small portions of their range.
- Large blocks of habitat, containing large populations, are better than small blocks with small populations.
- Blocks of habitat close together are better than blocks far apart.
- Habitat in contiguous blocks is better than fragmented habitat.
- Interconnected blocks of habitat are better than isolated blocks.
- Blocks of habitat that are roadless or otherwise inaccessible to humans are better than roaded and accessible blocks.
- The fewer data or more uncertainty, the more conservative (i.e., causing less reduction or distribution of natural habitats) a conservation or development plan should be.
- Maintaining viable (i.e., undegraded, fully functioning) ecosystems is usually more efficient, economical, and effective than a species-by-species approach.
*Source: Noss, Reed F., ed. The Redwood Forest: History, Ecology, and Conservation of the Coast Redwoods. Washington D.C, Covelo, CA: Island P, 2000. pp 205-6.
Size and Location
The Usal Redwood Forest consists of over 50,000 acres of forestland that will remain intact in perpetuity (forever). The size of this land purchase creates "contiguous," "large blocks of habitat" that allow species to roam across their "native range," and maintain "fully functioning ecosystems," which for conservation purposes is "more efficient, economical, and effective than a
species-by-species approach" (Noss, 206). The natural isolation of this property from human establishments such as towns and major roads makes the Usal Redwood Forest ideal for conservation strategies.
The Usal Redwood Forest is home to several threatened or endangered species, including Coho and Chinook salmon and Northern Spotted Owl. Noss emphasizes that the ability for species to survive and evolve, "requires populations large enough to avoid rapid extinction." He points out that, "some processes . . . may result in changes on a large watershed scale," and therefore, "the more intact (less fragmented), larger sites have higher conservation value than small, fragmented sites" (Noss, 205).
Small creek in Usal Redwood Forest
The conservation easements that are leveraged over the entire forest guarantee that the Usal Redwood Forest can never be fragmented into smaller plots for development. This gives threatened species a vast landscape to maximize chances of survival.
Entire watersheds, such as the Standley Creek watershed, seen in the aerial photo below, are contained within the Usal Redwood Forest. Healthy salmon populations depend on watersheds that maintain their natural attributes such as low water temperature and turbidity levels. Forest management practices affect the quality of watersheds. RFFI has the ability and will to restore damaged areas and to alter historically harmful harvest practices for the benefit of salmon populations and other wildlife.
Currently, the Usal Redwood Forest contains over 50,000 acres of "depleted forestland." Through proper forest management that emphasizes the health of the forest and watersheds, RFFI hopes to restore endangered populations and create a vast expanse of healthy habitat for the long term resilience and survivability of our coastal redwood ecosystems.
Above (left) is a map of the Standley Creek watershed that is pictured in the aerial photo (above right). The black dots are "treatment sites," or areas that require road repair or decommission in order to restore the health of the watershed or to prevent further watershed damage.
RFFI's management plan requires the implementation of changes to treatment sites surrounding the Standley Creek watershed in the first period (five years) of RFFI ownership. Standley Creek watershed restoration is one phase of RFFI's long term goal to improve the health of watersheds throughout Usal Redwood Forest.