The Redwood Forest Foundation, Inc. (RFFI) is a grass roots organization that grew out of an extraordinary process wherein stakeholders holding widely disparate interests in forests moved beyond conflict to come together for the sake of the forest and their communities. RFFI promotes ecologically, economically, and socially responsible forestry as a means of sustaining the integrity of forest ecosystems and the human communities and wildlife dependent upon them. RFFI evolved from the bitter conflict of the “Timber Wars” of the ‘80’ and 90’s that reached a crescendo in the Redwood Summer of 1990. It was a decade-long violent and socially disruptive confrontation between industrial and environmental interests that continued late into the 90’s. The stakes were high! After almost a decade of confrontation and meetings the Redwood Forest Foundation emerged as a sane, uniting voice arising from violent disagreement. Together we transcended conflict and carved out a new non-profit ownership approach to providing community control over the conservation, use and distribution of natural forest resources.
Community is the cornerstone of this bold experiment known as the Redwood Forest Foundation, Inc (RFFI). We are pioneering a new community-based ownership model for acquiring, managing and restoring forestland. As a grass-roots organization, RFFI was formed by and is guided and governed by community stakeholders. Ultimately any profits derived from the Usal Redwood Forest, our 50,000 acre working community forest, and any of our other enterprises will be invested in the community.
As a grassroots organization, community involvement is a defining force in our operation. Our first forest acquisition, the 50,000 acre Usal Redwood Forest was conducted by stakeholders representative of the community, who have become the Redwood Forest Foundation Board of Directors. The management of our Usal Redwood Forest and our North Coast Biochar project are governed by our Board of community representatives and advised by the Redwood Forest Council, a large group of individuals from throughout the redwood region. Community members have driven this organization since RFFI’s inception.
Soon after RFFI purchased the Usal Redwood Forest in 2007, we held a series of public meetings seeking advice on forestry practices and vegetation management. This process garnered helpful advice and valuable advisors. One unanticipated and enduring result was that members of the Native American community stepped forward and began to educate us about historical native practices of native plant uses and the value of tanoak. After four years of work, this collaboration resulted in the establishment of the Chinquapin Springs Acorn Grove that is now set aside for Native American use.
Our biochar project was also initiated by the community. North Coast Biochar, now a project of our subsidiary Redwood Region Renewables, emerged from the work of the Mendocino County Woody Biomass Working Group (WBWG). In 2010, this ad hoc community group was concerned about fire danger presented by overcrowded forest stands and the negative impacts of herbicides used by other forest managers to address these issues. The WBWG held a series of community outreach events resulting in a recommendation for manual removal of hardwoods and brush that are choking the forests and creating a severe fire hazard. After research they recommended converting the removed material to biochar. This achieves forest restoration, reduces the risk of catastrophic forest fires, improve forest habitat and biodiversity, while increasing water flowing into nearby streams and tributaries. The removed tanoaks are converted to a charcoal, known as biochar. North Coast Biochar itself has an array of ecological and economic benefits: reducing water and fertilizer use, regenerating soil health and storing carbon for hundreds if not thousands of years. The WMBG approached (RRFI) who agreed to take the lead responsibility for implementing the project because it is synergistic with RFFI’s values and objectives.
Community involvement is integral to RFFI’s existence and operation. It is reflected in our governance by a Board of Directors, and an advisory group the Redwood Forest Council both composed of regional representatives. We benefit from a dedicated group of volunteers, who among other contributions help us conduct a number of educational, citizen science, forest restoration and recreational activities in conjunction with dedicated partners. Our Annual Meeting, affectionately known as everyone’s favorite barbeque, is a standing favorite. Even in 2020 when Covid 19 required a virtual Annual Meeting, our community pitched in and we all had a great time celebrating our successes! The possibilities are endless; our efforts are only limited by our staff capacity and financial resources. Please follow the links on this page to learn more about community involvement in the work of the Redwood Forest Foundation.