A San Francisco-based conservation group has reached a deal to buy one of the last and biggest old-growth forests still under private ownership on the West Coast.
Now all it needs is the $7 million to complete the purchase.
Save the Redwoods League announced the launch of a fundraising campaign for the 426-acre plot in Mendocino County's Noyo River canyon Friday. The property contains stands of ancient Douglas fir and redwoods and is home to rare, threatened and endangered species, including the northern spotted owl and bald eagle.
The league hopes to buy the property, then turn it over to a permanent steward. But it needs to raise the $7 million by April 1, or Willits Redwood Co., the current property owner, will log the trees.
"The goal here is to have people come out and enjoy the woods," Ruskin Hartley, executive director of Save the Redwoods, told the San Francisco Chronicle.
A train run by the Sierra Railroad Co. currently takes tourists through the forest. Hartley would like to have biologists who can explain the redwood forest ecosystem lead the tours.
"As California gets more and more crowded, these places where you can get away from it all become more and more precious," he said.
Willits Redwood Co. has received permission from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection to harvest timber from the forest. Willits co-owner Chris Baldo said the old-growth wood commands prices of around $10 a board foot compared with just $1.80 for second-growth redwood.
Baldo and his business partner bought the property for about $2 million in 2007. If people think the forest is worth saving, they should raise the money and buy it, Baldo said.
Save the Redwoods has had discussions with several potential donors, but no one has pledged any money so far, according to Hartley.
Information from: San Francisco Chronicle, http://www.sfgate.com/chronicle