Conservation group closes a $15.65 million deal to buy the largest privately owned giant sequoia grove left on Earth, an ancient forest with hundreds of the endangered trees that can live for 3,000 years and rise nearly as tall as the Statue of Liberty.
Alder Creek—the “Crown Jewel” of Remaining Giant Sequoia Properties—now safe
People from around the world united to help Save the Redwoods League (SRL) protect Alder Creek, the largest remaining privately owned giant sequoia property on Earth. The purchase of Alder Creek, which was finalised on December 31, 2019, was made possible thanks to more than 8,500 donors from all 50 states and around the world who made gifts to acquire the property for $15.65 million.
“Most consequential giant sequoia conservation project of our lifetime,”
Conservation Save the Redwoods League group (SRL) has closed a $15.65 million deal to buy the largest privately owned giant sequoia grove left on Earth. Due to its size, health and age diversity — with sequoias ranging from seedlings to Methuselahs — this grove represents "the most consequential giant sequoia conservation project of our lifetime," according to the group’s president.
Known as Alder Creek, the grove covers a seemingly modest 530 acres (2 square kilometers), but that’s a big deal for giant sequoias. The iconic trees once lived throughout the Northern Hemisphere, but they now exist in only 73 isolated groves, all located on the western slopes of California’s Sierra Nevada mountains. This particular grove of Sequoiadendron giganteum packs a lot into its 530 acres, including 483 sequoias with trunks at least 6 feet (1.8 meters) in diameter, along with a few hundred smaller sequoias of varying ages.
That age range is a big reason why this grove is so valuable, according to Sam Hodder, president and CEO of Save the Redwoods League, a century-old California nonprofit that’s been working to acquire Alder Creek for more than 20 years.
SRL plans to eventually transfer ownership to the US Forest Service, so the sequoias can join the federally protected wilderness around them, but that won’t happen for a while since SRL expects to hold the property for 5-10 years to study the grove and implement a plan for good stewardship, ensuring the trees are healthy and ready before handing them over to the public.
Charity will open Alder Creek to public
Alder Creek is an island of private property surrounded by Giant Sequoia National Monument, which spans about 328,000 acres (1,327 square km) and connects to the even larger Sequoia National Forest.
The Rouch family has long used the grove for commercial logging, and even cut down giant sequoias in the early days, although since the 1960s they’ve reportedly only logged non-sequoia species like sugar pine and white fir. SRL plans to eventually transfer ownership to the US Forest Service, so the sequoias can join the federally protected wilderness around them.
That won’t happen for a while, though, since SRL expects to hold the property for five to 10 years. That’s partly because this kind of public-acquisition process moves slowly, Hodder says, but also because SRL wants time to study the grove and implement a plan for good stewardship, making sure the trees are healthy and ready before handing them over to the public.
As part of that preparation, the group plans to open Alder Creek for public access even before giving it to the Forest Service, hoping to help the ecosystem ease into an unfamiliar role as a host for human visitors. "This property has been in private ownership, and it has never had public access," Hodder says. "We want to go through a thoughtful process to plan out public access, so when it does get conveyed into the national monument, it’s ready for its public purpose."
The goal is to bring back a balance of native forest species that have been altered by logging
“This is a historic moment! Giant sequoia are among the largest and oldest living things and grow nowhere else in the world outside of the western slopes of California’s Sierra Nevada. With the purchase of Alder Creek, we have protected the best of what’s left,” said Sam Hodder, president and CEO of Save the Redwoods League.
“We are amazed by and grateful for the generosity of people from all over the world who stepped up to help save this special forest. At a moment when good news is hard to find, we are thrilled to begin the new year celebrating the generosity and sense of stewardship reflected in this successful effort.”
Launched publicly in September 2019, the League’s fundraising campaign for Alder Creek secured 9,500 contributions from more than 8,500 individuals and foundations from across the United States and 30 other countries. Significant gifts from Ralph Eschenbach and Carol Provan and John Woollam, were instrumental in the success of the campaign, and a $250,000 challenge grant issued by the Bently Foundation in the final weeks of the campaign inspired online giving up to midnight on December 31, 2019.
Ongoing Protection and Future Stewardship of Alder Creek
The League intends to own and manage the property for five to 10 years, during which time the League will continue fundraising to support restoration, stewardship and public access planning and implementation. Ultimately, the League intends to transfer the property to the US Forest Service for inclusion in Giant Sequoia National Monument, ensuring its future management in accordance with the monument’s long-term restoration, resource protection and public access program.
The restoration goal is to bring back a balance of native forest species that have been altered by historical logging and to reduce fuel loads to assure fire resilience and long-term protection.
Considering the limited public access to giant sequoia groves in Giant Sequoia National Monument, the acquisition by Save the Redwoods League offers a unique opportunity to plan for and ultimately provide new public access to a truly extraordinary scenic and recreational resource. Alder Creek is one of the most beautiful places in California, and the League hopes to establish a plan that both inspires visitors with the beauty and power of nature and ensures the health and resilience of this rare forest ecosystem.