Old Growth Redwoods face loging to build highway

Richardson Grove is a stand of majestic, ancient redwood trees bisected by the iconic Highway 101 north of San Francisco, preceding one of Humboldt County’s biggest tourist attractions, the Avenue of the Giants. Richardson Grove State Park represents some of the 5 percent of this nation’s last remaining old-growth forest.

The California Highway Department Caltrans has proposed straightening and widening the section of Highway 101 that runs through the grove. That section is a choke point — a short section of twisty, thin road with a slow speed limit surrounded by a more modern highway. The Caltrans plan calls for the removal of dozens of trees from the grove, cutting into the root systems of old-growth redwoods and disturbing Marbled Murrelet and other threatened species’ habitat. There is no guarantee that cutting roots will not harm the health of, or eventually kill, old-growth trees.

Public safety and concerns for commercial robustness are Caltrans’ stated reasons for moving forward on their proposal to widen 101. They want the stretch of road to be wide enough to accommodate the largest trucks legal under California state law. But many environmentalists and local business owners say that widening the highway to allow more semi-trucks may negatively impact the local economy by opening the gates of Humboldt County to sprawl and ugly development. The ecological impacts are also considerable. Richardson Grove is federally designated Marbled Murrelet critical habitat. As many as six endangered species make the old-growth forest of Richardson Grove their home.

Community members, tribal leaders and environmentalists are coming together to strategize about how to protect Humboldt county — with its rural charm and tight-knit local economies — from the threat of increasing gentrification / commercialization that opening up the highway would pose. Caltrans’ Environmental Impact Report is currently under review. If it gets approved, Caltrans could start construction — that is, unless massive protest and direct action stops them. Keep posted. For more info contact the Environmental Protection Information Center www.wildcalifornia.org