Frequently Asked Questions
See answers to common questions about Save the Redwoods League and redwoods.
Experience the Redwoods
Where are the redwoods?
- Coast redwoods grow naturally today only in a narrow 450-mile strip along the Pacific coast from central California to southern Oregon. This strip is almost the distance from San Francisco to San Diego.
- The Earth's last giant sequoias grow naturally today only in 77 scattered groves along the western slopes of California's Sierra Nevada mountains.
- Dawn redwoods grow naturally today in south-central China.
- Plan your next redwood adventure: SaveTheRedwoods.org/maps
Redwood species grew throughout North America, Europe and Asia 144 million years ago. Over time and in response to an ever-changing environment, they retreated from most of their former range, and many once-abundant redwood species became extinct.
I'm planning a trip to visit the redwoods. Where should I go, and do you have any recommendations for accommodations?
State, federal and local parks offer amazing experiences in the redwoods.
- See our Redwoods Finder interactive redwood parks map of California: SaveTheRedwoods.org/maps
- Download the PDF of our Redwood Highway Guide
- Some parks offer lodging and/or tent cabins:
COAST REDWOODS: Big Basin Redwoods State Park, Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park
GIANT SEQUOIAS: Yosemite National Park, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks
Make a Donation
How can I donate?
You can easily make a donation using our secure donation webpages, via the phone or fax and by mail.
- On the web: SaveTheRedwoods.org/givetoday
- By phone: (415) 820-5800 or (888) 836-0005 (toll free)
- By fax: (415) 362-7017
- By mail:
Save the Redwoods League
114 Sansome Street, Suite 1200
San Francisco, CA 94104-3823
Please make checks payable to "Save the Redwoods League." We accept all major credits cards. There is also the option of making monthly payments from your checking account or credit card.
Have all redwoods been saved?
It's estimated that before 1850, there were approximately 2 million acres of coast redwood forest. The gold rush brought hundreds of thousands of people to California, and the coast redwoods were logged extensively to satisfy the explosive demand for lumber. Now, approximately 5 percent of the old-growth coast redwood forest remains. About 75 percent of the remaining old-growth coast redwood forest is now protected in parks and reserves. However, only 29 percent of the entire coast redwood forest, old and young, is currently protected.
Unlike the coast redwoods, loggers found less value in the giant sequoias. When felled, the colossally heavy and brittle sequoia trees often shattered when they hit the ground. Still, about 35 percent of the original sequoia forest was logged. Currently, 96 percent (46,000 acres) of the historical giant sequoia range is protected, and 4 percent (2,000 acres) is privately owned.
Today, Save the Redwoods League works to protect and restore redwood forests and their surrounding lands and waterways. The League has protected more than 190,000 acres throughout the redwood range.
"Saving" the redwoods means much more than just protecting old-growth, important as that is. With careful management, previously logged or disturbed lands can be restored to health; and modern-day threats like development and climate change make the work of redwoods protection more complex than ever. Leading-edge science and the support of its dedicated members and partners make it possible for the League to continue the important work of redwood forest conservation.
What are the threats to redwoods?
The threats to the redwoods are increasingly complex, no longer embodied by the axe and saw. Some of the greatest threats to redwoods today include human land uses not compatible with forest health (e.g. development, conversion to vineyards); the lack of old growth — most of the forest is now young and degraded due to past human activity; and people's increasing detachment from the natural world.
What is the difference between old-growth and second-growth redwoods? How does that impact your work today and in the future?
There is no universal definition for an old-growth forest, redwoods or otherwise. The League's working definition of an old-growth forest is one that has been standing since before settlers first began cutting the redwoods, around 1850; and that therefore contain many large, old trees. About 20 percent (24,000 acres, or the equivalent of Kapalua, Hawaii) of the Earth's old-growth and ancient redwood forest is unprotected. About 80 percent of the world's remaining old-growth and ancient coast redwood forests are protected in a park or reserve.
Old-growth forests are characterized by diverse, and often rare, communities of plants and animals due to the long period of forest stability. The imperiled Humboldt Marten, for example, relies on old-growth forest attributes to survive. It needs large fallen logs for shelter, and bountiful shrubs for foraging habitat. Through science-based restoration, younger forests can attain old-growth characteristics, like large trees, over time, healing the damage of the past and allowing wildlife communities to return and thrive once again. The League places a high priority on projects that will help to bring about the ancient redwood forests of tomorrow. Visit our restoration webpages to learn more about this exciting work.
How many acres of old-growth forest are left?
Fewer than 120,000 acres, or 5 percent, of the original redwood forest remains today. It's a tragedy to have lost most of the ancient redwoods; however, science-based forest restoration holds the key to bringing back what we've lost. Though there are so few acres of old growth left, only about 25 percent of the original redwood forest was lost to land conversion — the remaining 1.5 million acres is young, previously logged forest. Through careful restoration, younger forests can attain old-growth characteristics, healing the damage of the past and allowing wildlife communities to return and thrive once again. The League places a high priority on projects that will help to rebuild the ancient redwood forests of tomorrow. Visit our restoration webpages to learn more about this exciting work.
How many acres of redwood forestland are owned by a public agency (national, state and local parks)?
340,000 acres, about half the size of Rhode Island. Examples of public agencies that own redwood forestland:
- National agencies: the Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service
- State agencies: California State Parks
- Local agencies: East Bay Regional Parks District
Permanent Protection of Land
How does Save the Redwoods League protect redwoods today compared to 100 years ago?
The League was founded nearly a hundred years ago in an effort to curb the destruction of the redwood forests wrought by logging and infrastructure. Therefore, land acquisition was the immediate goal. While protecting the lands that may otherwise be logged or developed is still a priority, the League has also greatly increased its focus on forest restoration compared to 90 years ago.
Unfortunately, today the work needed to protect redwood forests is harder and more complex than ever before. Many redwood lands are still struggling to recover from years of past damage and neglect. To thrive, protected forests also depend on the health of nearby land, much of which is privately owned, including property of commercial timber companies. People also use land in ways incompatible with forest health, through development or conversion to vineyards, for example; and we must find a balance between meeting human needs and the needs of the forest. In addition, we do not yet know the impact that the Earth's changing climate will have on the size, strength and survival of redwood trees and forests.
How can the League be sure that property will be protected once it is transferred to a permanent steward?
Before we transfer land to a permanent steward, the League includes clauses in deeds limiting the future uses of the property. Generally, restrictions ensure that the future use of the land is consistent with its management as a public park.
What is the League's position on commercial forestry in the redwoods?
The League has always supported a sustainable (or viable) timber industry. Lumber companies have been our partners in forest conservation since our founding. We believe that working together with a variety of entities achieves the best results for the redwoods, and this cooperative spirit has proven incredibly successful.
Sustainable forestry as the League sees it is the scientific, ecologically-based management of a forest to produce quality timber while protecting the health of the forest and its wildlife. A sustainable forest is also known as a working forest: some trees are removed, but with the health of the forest and its inhabitants in mind. This method supports local economies, protects tree species, and improves the health of the forest.
Protected forests can gain health benefits from a sustainable forestry practice. In fact, removing select trees in protected forests is often necessary to prevent the spread of high-intensity forest fires and to restore forests that are too dense with young trees. If young trees are growing together too closely, none of the trees have enough light, space, water or nutrients to grow. By removing some of the young trees, we lessen the competition and help the remaining trees mature more quickly.
If you want to be assured of sustainable forestry practices, choose paper and wood products that are certified by a third-party organization like the Forest Stewardship Council. Keep in mind that these third-party organizations have varying standards, some more stringent than others, and that the definition of "sustainable" can be variable as well. To some views, a sustainable forest is simply one that will keep producing a supply of wood that can be harvested. Others, like the League, consider sustainable to mean that all of the ecological systems of a forest — like its waterways, plants and animals, and soils — remain healthy and intact. California has strict rules governing forestry; many believe these standards promote sustainable forestry in their own right.
The League does not support clearcutting (a practice in which virtually all of the trees in a given area are uniformly cut down) in the redwood forest. While clearcutting may be appropriate in certain forest types — in some parts of the Boreal, or in some of the catastrophic fire-driven pine forests in the southeastern U.S. — it is not reflective of the natural processes of either the coast redwood or giant sequoia forest.
My neighbor or someone in my community is planning a timber harvest on their private land. What can I do?
Please provide as much information on the timber harvest plan as you can (timber harvesting landowner's name, location, assessor's parcel number, etc.). If you have issues with the timber harvest plan, please contact the local planning or land use authorities in your city or county.
The League does not take a position on timber harvest plans on private land, but we appreciate having this information in case it relates to a landowner we are working with or a project we are working on in the area.
Someone in my neighborhood wants to cut down redwoods (on their own or someone else's property). What can I do about this?
In most cases, people are fully within their rights to cut down redwoods on their own property. You can contact your local city council or other community organization to try to make a case for the value of redwoods in the community.
How does the League determine which properties to purchase?
Our Master Plan for the Redwoods guides our efforts to protect and restore redwood forests. This science-based plan identifies areas to focus our activities upon, and enables us to efficiently evaluate and respond to conservation opportunities as they arise. We evaluate properties according to 16 criteria in the Master Plan, including:
- whether ancient forest is present
- habitat for, or presence of, threatened or endangered species
- potential for public access and recreation
- the risk of commercial and residential development
- water sources (i.e. presence of springs or streams)
When the League purchases a property, how does the League determine what price to pay?
We rely on an independent assessment of value by a professional appraiser. The League pays fair market value, unless the landowner is willing to donate the property or sell it at a reduced price.
Why does it cost so much to buy redwood forestland and the surrounding landscapes?
The value of redwood forestland and surrounding landscapes can vary widely depending on the location, the value of the timber, and competing land uses (e.g. potential for vineyard or housing developments). In all instances our purchases are based upon an independent assessment of value.
What will the League do if a private property owner wants to convert his/her lands to vineyards or develop the property for residential/commercial use?
Save the Redwoods League works with willing land owners either to buy property or to provide guidance on how to steward their redwood lands. Our decisions to work with land owners are guided by our science-based Master Plan for the Redwoods. Each property is evaluated on 16 different criteria to determine the best possible outcome for the redwoods. Among other things, we look at each property's conservation values (such as water sources, habitat for endangered species and proximity to other protected areas) and location within the natural range of the redwoods.
We receive inquires year-round on properties ranging from huge swaths of forest, to small private parcels, to land with few or no redwoods at all. Many of the properties that we evaluate do not meet the criteria for us to buy or steward the property. Some properties fall outside of our science-based Master Plan for the Redwoods while other projects simply may not have enough ecological, scenic or historic significance. Still, we acknowledge that every parcel in California is important to all of us, and we wish we could protect them all. Since we have limited resources, we carefully follow our guidelines to advance our mission to protect these magical places and connect people to the wonder of the redwoods.
Land owners are not obligated to work with us and owners may have legal rights to clear the trees and develop or convert the land to other use. This is why the League's work to protect important properties when we have the chance is so critical.
How are roads removed during a restoration project?
The League supports restoration of redwood forests. This restoration work is conducted by our partners, California State Parks, the National Park Service and the US Bureau of Land Management. Some of the forests we protect were owned by timber companies. These companies built roads through the forest for trucks and machinery. To keep the forest healthy, we reshape the land so it looks like it was before the road installation. In time, plants and trees grow, concealing evidence of the road.
Why does the League support the cutting of trees in forest restoration projects such as Mill Creek?
To ensure the long-term health and survival of redwood forests, Save the Redwoods League takes a comprehensive and holistic approach to their protection and care. While we stand firmly against the harvesting of any huge, very old redwood trees, we do recognize that there are times where removing younger trees doesn't jeopardize the long-term health or survival of redwood forests. And in some cases, as in our restoration efforts, removing younger trees actually promotes the health of redwood forests by giving trees that are struggling and competing with one another the space, light and water they need to grow.
What is a conservation easement?
A conservation easement, sometimes called a conservation agreement or land protection agreement, is among the tools the League uses to protect redwoods. It is a voluntary contract between a landowner and the League that permanently limits uses of the land to protect its natural resources such as old-growth redwood forests. The contract allows the landowner to continue to own and use the land and to sell it or pass it on to heirs. In making the agreement, the League agrees to monitor the land forever to ensure compliance with its terms.
Does the League establish conservation easements or accept donations of land?
Yes. The League enters into conservation easements and may accept donations of land if they fit into our Master Plan.
Planting and Caring for Redwoods
A redwood or sequoia in my backyard is looking unhealthy or falling. Can the League visit or provide information on helping this tree?
The best way to help your tree is to contact an arborist or a tree care specialist in your community because they will be familiar with your local climate and the special needs of trees in your area. You could contact the Tree Care Industry Association (external link) to find an accredited tree care company in your area, or call this association at (800) 733-2622. This Tree Care Industry Association contact information is provided for your convenience. Save the Redwoods League makes no guarantees in connection with tree care services.
Can I plant a coast redwood or a giant sequoia in my yard, and will it thrive if I live outside California?
Many people take great pleasure from planting iconic, inspirational redwoods. Keep in mind that these trees need certain climatic conditions to truly thrive. Mature redwoods require a lot of space (coast redwoods can be up to 24 feet in diameter; giant sequoias up to 30 feet in diameter). Limbs of old redwoods can cause major damage to structures when they fall.
Whether you live within or outside of California, we recommend planting trees that are native to your area. Native plants are always preferable because they are adapted to an area's climatic and soil conditions. Within California, we also recommend choosing a tree that will fit your yard's space limitations as it matures.
For more information, visit SaveTheRedwoods.org/redwoods or your local nursery. You may contact the Tree Care Industry Association to find an accredited tree care company in your area or call (800) 733-2622.
What kind of soil and climate conditions are best for redwoods?
Coast redwoods and giant sequoias thrive in the moist, well-drained soils found throughout much of their natural ranges.
Coast redwoods thrive in California's coastal climate because of moderate year-round temperatures, abundant winter rains and summer fog that supplies the moisture they need to survive the summer droughts typical of this area. In addition to their dependence on moisture, coast redwoods also are susceptible to frost damage if subjected to extended periods below freezing.
Giant sequoias thrive in California's Sierra Nevada because they receive water from the heavy snowpack that accumulates each winter. Melting snowpack in the spring and summer delivers the moisture that sequoias need to survive the summer droughts typical of this area.
Prolonged periods of hot weather above 100 degrees can be lethal to coast redwoods and giant sequoias as the trees become stressed from lack of moisture.
I disagree with how my neighbor or community member is managing the trees on their private property. Can you provide support?
Thank you for your concern for the well-being of the trees. Save the Redwoods League works to protect redwood forests in their natural range; the League doesn't take a position on the management of private land or urban forests, or of individual trees on private or urban land. If you are concerned about your neighbor's management of their property, please contact the local planning or land use authorities in your city or county. If you have questions about an individual tree in your own yard, contact an arborist.
I want to give someone a redwood book. What would you recommend?
Links to Amazon.com are provided for your convenience. Save the Redwoods League makes no guarantees in connection with their services.
About Coast Redwoods
- Giants in the Earth: The California Redwoods by Andrew Dean Nystrom (Collaborator), Peter Johnstone (Editor) and Peter E. Palmquist (Editor). Stories, poems, natural history writing and articles about contemporary conservation issues.
- Among Trees, by Sean Kernan. Coffee-table photo book highlighting various forests.
- Tree: A New Vision of the American Forest by Jim Balog. Portraits of immense sequoias and redwoods.
- Coast Redwood: A Natural and Cultural History by Michael G. Barbour (Editor), John Evarts (Editor), Marjorie Popper (Editor). Includes more than 200 color photos.
- The Redwood Forest: History, Ecology, and Conservation of the Coast Redwoods by Reed F. Noss (Editor). Scientific book written to support the Save the Redwoods League Master Plan.
About Giant Sequoias
- The Giant Sequoia of the Sierra Nevada, by National Park Service and Richard J. Hartesveldt, H. Thomas Harvey, Howard S. Shellhammer and Ronald E. Stecker. A synthesis of the writings of others and results of the authors' field studies, begun in 1956.
- A Guide to the Sequoia Groves of California, by Dwight Willard. Extensive information on each grove, including general description and managing agency; historical facts; size, condition, and overall quality; access; and notable trees.
- The Enduring Giants: The Epic Story of Giant Sequoia and the Big Trees of Calaveras, by Joseph H. Engbeck Jr.
History of Logging in the Redwoods
- Logging the Redwoods by Lynwood Carranco and John Labbe. The story of the California redwood lumber industry also tells the stories of the men, trains and the land. Illustrations and historical photographs fill the pages.
- Redwood Classic by Ralph Andrews. One man's memorial to redwoods. Lumbermen are quoted in memories about their work, including hardships, inventions, earthquakes and fires, sawmills, logging camps and shipping.
- Ages 2-5. The Tallest Tree by Robert Lieber. The world's tallest trees come to life in a delightfully illustrated story that will enchant and teach children about life in the forest.
- Ages 4-8. Redwoods by Jason Chin. A boy finds a book about redwood trees and becomes captivated while reading it on the train. When he comes out of the station, he finds himself deep in a redwood forest, where he discovers its many wonders.
- Ages 8-12. Operation Redwood by S. Terrell French. Julian's uncle's company plans to cut down some of the oldest California redwood trees, and it's up to Julian and his friends to stop them.
See more on our book list for children: SaveTheRedwoods.org/kidsbooks
Does the League have any information about how my firm or organization can purchase carbon offsets?
While we don't formally endorse any one organization, here are some that sell carbon offsets. These referrals are provided for your convenience. Save the Redwoods League makes no guarantees in connection with their services.
- Neutralize Your Pollution – Fight Global Warming – Environmental Defense Fund (external link)
- TerraPass Carbon Offsets (external link)
- Carbonfund.org (external link)
- Carbon Emissions Offset Directory (external link)
The League maintains that redwoods stand at a new crossroads of environmental change where urbanization, habitat fragmentation, invasive species and climatic changes in combination threaten these forests in ways they have not yet experienced in their long history on Earth. We are currently evaluating any potential benefits of carbon offset programs for redwood forests.
What government agencies are the League's primary partners?
We transfer land to California State Parks (external link), National Parks Service (external link), US Bureau of Land Management (external link), US Forest Service (external link) and county and local park systems, which are permanent land stewards. Agencies such as the State of California Coastal Conservancy (external link) and State of California Wildlife Conservation Board (external link) are our funding partners. We work with leading redwood forest scientists at many universities including the University of California, Berkeley, and Humboldt State University. Parks and public schools, among other providers, may be awarded grants through our Education Grants Program or Research Grants Program.
Does the League work with other nonprofits?
The League often partners with nonprofits operating at the national, state and local levels. For example, Save the Redwoods League has joined a passionate group of conservation organizations in and around Silicon Valley to protect the area's vast open spaces, broad biodiversity, productive working lands and dramatic natural beauty, including 30,000 acres of redwood forests. This new Living Landscape Initiative (LLI) (external link), includes The Land Trust of Santa Cruz County (external link), The Nature Conservancy (external link), Peninsula Open Space Trust (external link) and Sempervirens Fund (external link). We also give grants to schools and park cooperating associations such as Humboldt Redwoods Interpretive Association (external link) and Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods (external link).
How does the League work with California State Parks?
Save the Redwoods League has maintained a close partnership with California State Parks (CSP) since the League helped establish the state park system in 1927. Since then, we have transferred land to nearly 40 state parks and helped restore areas in many of them. Our donors have contributed more than $135 million for this work. The League is proud to be a part of the rich heritage of California and California State Parks.
As the nature of land conservation work and of California State Parks' work changes, the League's role as a parks partner adapts and grows as well. Historically, the League has acquired properties and bequeathed them to State Parks for management, leading to the creation of many of our beloved redwoods state parks. Now, the League is expanding its role as a property steward in its own right, and continues to assist CSP with parks improvement projects. Learn more about our proud partnership and how you can help California's state parks.
You Can Protect a New Gateway to Giants
You may know about our Santa Cruz Mountains Old-Growth Campaign to protect some of the most beautiful ancient redwood forests still standing less than an hour's drive from the bustle of the South San Francisco Bay Area. Now we've added another magnificent forest to this campaign, and you have the chance to complete the project to restore and open this easy-access gateway to Peters Creek Old-Growth Forest. Learn more about this addition and how you can help.