The Headwaters Forest Reserve, located just south of Eureka, CA celebrates its nineteenth birthday anniversary on March 1, 2018. The 7,500-acre Reserve was established at the climax of the nearly 15-year-long campaign to Save Headwaters Forest, and stands today as a critical ecological refugia and linage to the primeval past for many critically-threatened and endangered species. The Headwaters Forest Reserve also stands today as a place for pioneering redwood forest restoration, a place for connecting community and visitors to stories of the past, and to a better vision for the future.
Nineteen years after the controversial last-minute consummation of the landmark Headwaters Forest Agreement, known to most activists and conservationists as “The Deal,” on March 1, 1999, the landscape that now embodies the Headwaters Forest Reserve in many ways bears little resemblance to the landscape, or the times when it was first established.
The so-called, “Death Road,” constructed into the heart of Headwaters Grove by Pacific Lumber Company, has been removed and decommissioned. Once raw, the barren clearcuts authored by Pacific Lumber Company and Elk River Timber Company are beginning to regrow and heal. The young, over-dense, biologically-sterile forest plantations established in the wake of the industrial clearcuts have been thinned, restoring both stem count, species composition, and stem density ratios to a more natural and healthy condition.
Today, the Headwaters Forest Reserve is a place where people and history can intersect, and where stewards of the future can learn the lessons from the stewards of the past. The Headwaters Forest Reserve is alive with educational events, living history reenactments, and thousands of visitors annually on the publicly-accessible trails in the Reserve. There is active stewardship as well. BLM volunteer-docents offer guided interpretive tours, and the young, burgeoning Friends of Headwaters Group hosts public trail maintenance days, tree-planting days, and invasive weed removal days. For the last two years, the Friends of Headwaters Group has also helped orchestrate the wildly popular and successful Halloween at Headwaters event in cooperation with the BLM.
Back in 1999 when the Headwaters Forest Agreement was signed, few, if any could have envisioned what the Headwaters Forest Reserve is and has become today. The success and longevity of the administration and public support for the Headwaters Forest Reserve is a great testament to the visionary work of activists at EPIC, Trees Foundation, The Bay Area Coalition for Headwaters, Sierra Club California, and the larger Campaign to Save Headwaters Forest, which embroiled thousands of ordinary citizens and forest activists in the fight to save the last remaining significant uncut old-growth redwoods in private hands left on the planet.
While our campaign certainly did not get everything it wanted, there yet lies within the struggle, the loss, and the failures, an irreplaceable ecological gem that can still serve as the nucleus and blueprint toward a different and better future.
Our friend Ken Russell uploaded the video below last fall. It was taken on September 15, 1996 at the Protest to Save Headwaters Forest in Carlotta, California, featuring Brian Tripp, Judy Bari, Darryl Cherney, Bonnie Raitt, Starhawk, and 6,000 others in the largest civil disobedience action in the history of the forest preservation movement.