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Caltrans Approves Richardson Grove Project, Again

Updated: Mar 10, 2023


Redwoods and other conifers in Richardson Grove State Park. Photo by Miguel Vieira via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Agency Still Denies Impacts to Old-Growth Redwoods Despite New Evidence


Caltrans is making a fourth attempt to approve the controversial Richardson Grove Project, which would realign portions of Highway 101 through Richardson Grove State Park to facilitate passage of oversized commercial trucks, risking damage to a grove of ancient redwoods up to 3,000 years old. To realign the road, Caltrans proposes cutting and paving over roots of adjacent old-growth redwood trees.


Each prior approval of this unnecessary road widening project has been halted by litigation and a state or federal court stop work order. In the latest round of litigation in 2019, Judge Kelly Neel of the Humboldt County Superior Court enjoined the project, requiring Caltrans to offer the public an opportunity to comment on the state environmental analysis. Caltrans released an “addendum” to their 2010 Environmental Analysis for public comment in October 2021 and received substantial comments.


“Caltrans has pulled the same play from the playbook: Deny obvious impacts and push ahead,” said Tom Wheeler, executive director of the Environmental Protection Information Center. “We are stuck in a Groundhog Day nightmare where the agency refuses to take accountability for its sloppy work.”


“We simply can’t let this beloved remnant of primeval forest be damaged for an unnecessary highway widening project in our state park,” said Peter Galvin, director of programs at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Caltrans should read the writing on the wall, drop this project, and let these towering trees flourish.”


Since the project’s inception in 2007, new research published in 2021 has documented how cutting and paving over the roots of old-growth redwoods causes long-term impacts on coast redwood forests. Researchers with the California Department of Forestry, Utah State University, and Michigan Technological University found that road construction significantly impacted adjacent old-growth at Humboldt Redwoods State Park, causing growth suppression, elevated water stress, and crown dieback of redwoods. This study and other evidence was submitted to Caltrans but the agency has denied that the research could better inform the project.


"The fact that Caltrans refutes as 'non informative' new scientific research on the effects of paving over the roots of redwood trees demonstrates the callous nature of their dogged approach to completing this needless project. Richardson Grove deserves better,” said Don Gillespie of the Friends of Del Norte.


Richardson Grove State Park is considered the gateway to the Redwoods, where tourists often first encounter large Redwoods when heading north on Highway 101. It is home to one of the last protected stands of accessible old-growth redwood trees in the world. The park has essential habitat for protected species and its creeks support runs of imperiled salmon and steelhead trout.


Contact:

Tom Wheeler, EPIC, (206) 356-8689, tom@wildcalifornia.org

Peter Galvin, Center for Biological Diversity, (707) 986-2600, pgalvin@biologicaldiversity.org


The Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) advocates for the protection and restoration of Northwest California’s ecosystems, using an integrated, science-based approach, combining public education, citizen advocacy, and strategic litigation


The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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