State of the Mattole

By
Thursday, May 21st, 2015
Fieldtrip to Mattole THP's with HRC

Fieldtrip to Mattole THP’s with HRC

Nestled in a remote valley that drains to California’s famous Lost Coast, the Mattole River watershed spans from its headwaters near Whitethorn down to the sea where it terminates at Petrolia. The Mattole watershed is a peculiar Humboldt County coastal watershed in that its forests are largely composed of a mix of fir and hardwoods, rather than being dominated by the giant and majestic redwoods found elsewhere in the region.

Pre-European settlement, the forests of the Mattole appear to have been left unmanaged, while grass lands were burned to maintain oak acorn harvests, and to manage conifer encroachment.

Post-European forest management activities and old-growth logging in the Mattole began in earnest after World War II. By 1988, approximately ninety percent of the original old-growth forest had been logged.

In the North Branch of the North Fork of the Mattole, much of the remaining old growth (approximately 48 percent), is still in privately-held industrial timberland ownership. The majority of this property is held by Humboldt Redwood Company, the successor to the Pacific Lumber Company.

While forest conservation activism in Humboldt County in the 1980’s and 1990’s was focused on the redwood region, the old-growth forests of the Mattole on private lands remained largely at risk. With the advent of the Headwaters Forest Agreement in 1999, the Mattole Valley old-growth on the Pacific Lumber Company lands became fair game for logging. The old-growth in the North Branch of the North Fork of the Mattole was considered to be a so-called “sacrifice zone.”

Beginning in 1999, the Pacific Lumber Company aggressively targeted the old-growth conifer forests of the Mattole for clearcut logging. Citizen’s lawsuits and direct actions in the forest were able to slow, but not fully prevent the logging of the old-growth in the Mattole by the Pacific Lumber Company.

After Pacific Lumber went bankrupt in 2008, all PL land and assets were transferred to Mendocino Redwood Company, and in 2012, the newly named Humboldt Redwood Company began to prepare and file logging plans in forest stands thought to be old-growth, or at the very least so-called “primary forests” i.e. areas that have never been managed for timber production. Once again, citizen’s mobilization and direct action ensued. In response to this, Humboldt Redwood Company has voluntarily ceased timber operations in these sensitive forest stands, and is now working with EPIC and other members of the community to determine the most appropriate conservation and management measures within these old-growth and primary forest stands.

While Humboldt Redwood Company touts commitment to protecting old-growth trees and old-growth stands, appropriate management activities in the primary forest stands are still a subject of debate. EPIC will continue to monitor Humboldt Redwood Company’s logging activities in the Mattole, and work to ensure best conservation and management practices are in place to protect the unique Mattole watershed.