by Ellen Taylor
Forest defense in the Mattole is recovering from the painful losses incurred by the recent logging by Humboldt Redwood Company (HRC) on Rainbow Ridge in the Mattole, the location of several tree sits and protests this summer. Many beloved trees went down, but the loggers were obliged to listen to Mattole residents whose human habitat would be affected by hillside destabilization and forest destruction. Many acres were temporarily saved, both by direct actions and Lost Coast League complaints.
However, more timber harvest plans are lined up like dominoes through the ridges and gorges of these headwaters that—although violated—are still rich in wildlife habitat and essential wildlife corridors increasingly stressed by the rising temperatures of hotter inland landscapes.
The Lost Coast League initially believed HRC’s declared mission to not harm the forest while managing a profitable company. We should have heeded the words of HRC owner Robert Fisher, when he stated, “restoration is a fine idea, but who’s going to pay for it? We’re a business, not a charity.” It’s clear that “certified management” does not differ much from prior practices. For example, in 1993, Maxxam—notorious for ravaging North Coast forests with clearcuts—agreed to leave trees housing red tree voles. HRC, however, has not honored this agreement and has failed for a decade to do surveys for these mammals, which are a favorite food of northern spotted owls. Worse, as they speculated in their 2018 owl report, more clearcuts might benefit the owls by providing habitat for rats.
Intact forests sequester large amounts of carbon, which is crucial to addressing the climate crisis. If all logging ceased today, existing forests would sequester 37 percent of the carbon dioxide (CO2) that must be removed from the atmosphere in order to avert climate catastrophe. Large Douglas-firs and redwoods absorb two and a half times more CO2 per acre than tropical rain forests. The larger (and usually older) the tree, the more carbon it sequesters. The mature trees on Rainbow Ridge must be protected as generators of oxygen; sequesters of carbon; providers of wildlife habitat, shaded moisture and fog-drip retention; and for all the many other ecosystem benefits of
old, tall forests.
With renewed energy, the Lost Coast League is pursuing avenues to achieve protection for these forests, including incorporation into the UC Natural Reserve System, as a location for the study of intact ecosystems (including soils) and the long-term effects of logging, and as a resource for local tribes to explore elements of tribal culture inherent in forest habitat.
Amnesty International’s Kumi Naidoo observed that we humans may pay the death penalty for our abuse of earth’s resources. Locally and around the world, respect for trees must evolve—now.