The Redwood Forest Foundation (RFFI) purchased the Usal Redwood Forest, located in northern Mendocino county, in 2007. The 50,000-acre Usal Forest encompasses 69 miles of Class I, 151 miles of Class II and 229 miles of Class III streams. Of this amount, approximately 146 miles of Class I and II flow into the South Fork Eel River and eventually into the Pacific Ocean in Humboldt County. The South Fork of the Eel River is one of California’s most important spawning streams for Coho salmon, Chinook salmon, and steelhead trout. More than 64 miles of Class I and II streams in the Usal Creek watershed flow directly into the Pacific Ocean about 30 miles north of Fort Bragg, CA.
RFFI is committed to restoring a landscape that has been severely degraded by aggressive timber harvesting that has depleted the forest ecosystem. We are committed to restoring the essential relationships, values and qualities that characterize healthy forestlands and watersheds. The Redwood Region in general, and the Usal Redwood Forest specifically, have had a tragic history of damage – some irreparable, and some that will take many decades or even centuries to repair. RFFI is addressing the difficult legacy problems and taking steps to correct the correctible. Our plans are always guided by the long-term big picture, but the aim of our implementation schedule is to get restoration measures underway as soon as possible.
As forests have come to be valued for more than just lumber, RFFI is developing comprehensive restoration plans. Restoring Usal is part of a much larger forest stewardship program that is addressing problems throughout the entire Usal Redwood Forest. It integrates sustainable silviculture with important recreational, cultural and wildlife elements. The general approach is to conduct watershed evaluation followed by restoration prescriptions. This is being incrementally applied to the whole of the Usal Redwood Forest.
We initially focused on adverse road impacts. Removing over nine miles of roads and restoring streams has allowed salmon and steelhead to return to spawn in our coastal streams. Work has been expanded to include riparian and other interconnected landscapes in support of fish and wildlife. Working with our partners has allowed RFFI to continue extensive watershed restoration in the Usal Redwood Forest. This is an intensive and very expensive effort. We have used our investment and generous donations from supporters to leverage more than $5,000,000 in restoration funding. RFFI and our partners have utilized guidance from experts at UC Berkeley, NOAA Fisheries, California Department of Fish and Game and CalFire in the process.
In conjunction with our community partners , RFFI has invested more than $5,000,000 and conducted extensive restoration throughout Usal’s two major watersheds as can be seen here.