Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Redwoods Restoration: Redwoods National and State Parks

Date of Visit: May 16, 2019
Type of event: Study tour
Topic: Redwoods Restoration
Companies/Organizations: Redwoods National and State Parks
Locations: Prairie Creek, Jedediah Smith, and Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Parks, California
Hosts: Jason Teraoka / Forester, Scott Powell / Restoration technician, Neil Youngblood / Restoration Technician at Redwood National and State Parks.
International Fellows: Richard Banda (Malawi), Fen-hui Chen (Taiwan), Temitope Dauda (Nigeria), Zhongyuan Ding (China), Ana Kanoppa (Brazil), Will Maiden (United Kingdom), Romain Matile (France), Rodolfo Vieto (Costa Rica)
WFI Staff:  Vivian Bui / Professional Programs Coordinator, Shadia Duery / International Fellowship Program Manager, Rick Zenn / Senior Fellow

Prairie Creek State Park visitor center
Our first introduction to the amazing redwoods happened along the Avenue of Giants in Humboldt State Park as we drove in. After getting some information in the park’s visitor center, we had the opportunity to further experience the inevitable admiration and emotional high of walking among these giants in the Founders Grove trail. There we had the great opportunity to share space with them as closely as we wanted to, touching, hugging, or simply trying to absorb the moment. For me, this was a childhood dream come true.
The next day, we visited Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park to learn about the redwoods restoration program that has been running since 1978. We were given a warm welcome by the park’s forester, Jason Teraoka, and restoration specialists, Neil Youngblood and Scott Powell. The redwoods restoration program is meant to restore, protect, and reconnect redwoods that were heavily harvested as the result of an aggressive forestry biologic asset liquidation strategy that led to the parks’ creation. This restoration program management evolved from roads removal to a multi-level landscape focus. An important indicator of success of the road restoration efforts is the presence of different-sized gravel types in streams, allowing for cavities among them, which serve as wildlife habitat. The absence of these cavities occurs when eroded dirt covers them.

Ecologically-driven thinning are used to manipulate vegetation composition and structure, modifying even-aged Douglas Fir-dominated vegetation. The goal is to promote more uneven-aged stand composition and spatial distribution for redwoods repopulation. The efficacy of different thinning densities and extraction techniques have been proven. Of special interest is that, by applying thinnings from below, typical for commercial plantations, the restoration foresters found that the redwoods were not benefiting much, as Douglas fir, the dominant species in these seeded areas, was getting a competitive advantage. For this reason, a crown selection thinning system has also been applied, resulting in crown recovery for the redwoods. Another thinning technique, cluster thinning, is currently under review as a potential mechanism to create a more natural spatial distribution of redwoods.
Prescribed burning area
Throughout the park, various extraction methods have been implemented by selected skillful loggers and closely supervised by park managers to reduce the risk of wildfire and to generate income. In areas with no road access, wood is not extracted, but eventually prescribed fire may be used to manage fire risk. After any logging operations, used roads are killed and the eroded soil is moved back to its original position. When asked about how they have reached management efficiency in the work that they do, the park managers responded with doing a great amount of outreach and implementing strong collaboration initiatives. For example, the Save the Redwoods League, a locally-based, conservation-oriented NGO, helps finance ecologically-driven logging throughout the parks.

After this field visit, we were invited to Neil Youngblood’s house, where a friendly group of neighbors gathered and shared their experiences with us, and us with them, including Leonel Arg├╝ello, the Chief of Resource Management and Science and who started this innovative, paradigm-shifting project.

On our last day, we drove through Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park and Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. At this last park, we stopped to visit the Howland Hill Giant, which is the 6th largest coastal redwood, and to take a farewell hike along the Boy Scout Tree Trail. I hope many more will continue to be friends with these peaceful giants. 

Rodolfo Vieto, International Fellow from Costa Rica
An International Fellow’s Thoughts and Perspectives

We learned a good conservationist lesson from the park managers: "It may have taken a long time and much effort to start a new paradigm in which thinning is allowed within Redwoods National and State Parks but now, different thinning treatments are providing advantages for the redwoods to recover.” I keep believing that conservation is not always about "not touching". Not all we do is meant to be destructive or greed-based and should not be demonized. Let's not use fear-based narratives that may interfere with good management of natural resources that we are called to do on behalf of a holistic well-being.

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