Unentered Old Growth in Mattole at Risk

A banner protesting Humboldt Redwood Company (HRC) logging in the Mattole, April 29, 2014. Photo: QueRoule, Flickr CC.
A banner protesting Humboldt Redwood Company (HRC) logging in the Mattole, April 29, 2014. Photo: QueRoule, Flickr CC.

The revived conflict over logging of ancient and unentered forest on Rainbow Ridge continues to approach the intensity of a full blown timber war. In the North Fork headwaters of the Mattole River, Humboldt Redwood Company (HRC) threatens to build a new logging road to open up the largest unprotected coastal old growth Douglas Fir forest in California. For 20 years, these same forested slopes have been fiercely defended by activists using nonviolent tactics to disrupt logging operations.

In October, near the tail end of the successful five-month blockade of the only access road, HRC proposed a new road. They filed Major Amendment No. 6 to the Long Ridge Cable THP (1-12-026 HUM).

The site of this proposed road sits directly above the headwaters of Sulphur Creek and a pristine mixed forest containing old growth Douglas Firs, giant Madrones, Tan Oaks, and Canyon Live Oaks—an unforgettable forest that many Earth First!ers and others fought to protect in 1998.

Although HRC boasts itself as being “sustainable” and “eco-friendly,” last May the company “hack’n’squirt” herbicided over 170 acres of “unmarketable” hardwoods in a previously untouched mixed species ecosystem in the Mattole headwaters. Horrified by the devastation, local activists responded by building an aerial road blockade and established tree sits to stop logging traffic and protect the North Fork zone from continuing to be poisoned by HRC. The road blockade held strong from June until October of 2017, borrowing skills and concepts from a similar action held in the same spot for four months in the summer of 2014.

In the proposed major amendment, HRC states the new logging road is needed because the current access road is “extremely narrow” and that a new road would “provide better access for timber management and fire suppression efforts.” However, it is clear that fire safety is not their main priority.

Not mentioned in the amendment is the fact that logging blockades have historically been held on in this same dirt track since 1998, when the area was previously owned by notorious Pacific Lumber/MAXXAM. As this is the only access point to about 8,000 acres of wild and lush forests, much of which are unentered stands of rare and valuable old growth, it’s not surprising that the company is trying everything in their power to get around current and future blockades.

Long time local environmentalists observe that this is foreshadowing the company’s intention to further pillage this sensitive ecosystem and open up the North Fork Mattole watershed to further vulnerability from logging. Company representatives have stated that the ancient groves of Taylor Peak are in the next scheduled “cut block”, only a few years away.

Dozens of public comments poured into CDF in opposition to this project. The location of the proposed road would damage tributaries feeding Sulpher Creek, threatening to contaminate the headwaters where spawning salmon have returned after 30 years of community restoration efforts. Additionally, this zone sits on one of the most geologically unstable land-masses in the country and would require excavating steep, landslide-prone hillsides, quarrying a giant bedrock embedded into the mountainside that currently provides sheltered habitat for an incredible grove of mature Bay Laurels and moss-drenched Canyon Live Oak.

This assault on the point on Long Ridge Road which they claim to be “too narrow” is the same site of over two decades of non-violent direct action campaigns to save this unique forest. HRC’s attempt to build a new road to circumvent activists only threatens to trigger another timber war flair-up.

For two decades, activists have put their bodies on the line on this very patch of land that is now, once again, under attack. Road permit or no road permit, if HRC attempts to extract timber from this revered landscape they will once again meet an all-out resistance from passionate earth defenders.

To get  involved with Save the Mattole’s Ancient Forest Campaign, contact mattoleactioncamp@riseup.net or attend our monthly public meetings on the first Tuesday of each month, 5:00-7:00 p.m. at Outer Space at 11th and M Streets in Arcata.