The McKay Tract, the forest owned by Green Diamond Resource Company just east of Eureka has long been proposed as an area for residential development as the County of Humboldt anticipated its future growth potential.
However, biologists and environmentalists consider the McKay Tract, and the whole Ryan Creek watershed it lies within, one of the region’s best refuges for spawning coho salmon and the most productive redwood timberland land in the county. The presence of endangered northern spotted owl, osprey, tree voles, flying squirrels, and residual old-growth redwood trees in some areas of the tract further lends to the biological significance of the forest.
Earth First! activists discovered a timber harvest plan proposed by Green Diamond, called the “McKay 09” THP that would have clearcut nearly 40-acres of forest on the west side of the McKay Tract, which threatened scattered old-growth redwood trees and 100 year old second growth, and was home to a breeding pair of northern spotted owls. The activists began setting up an extensive ‘tree-sit village’ and began a campaign to protect the McKay.
About two years ago Green Diamond announced they were considering selling the McKay Tract to the Trust for Public Land, a conservation easement organization. Earth First! Humboldt started lobbying the Trust for Public Land. “We asked them to help protect the land and create a real conservation plan that would preserve the biological heart of the watershed,” said Farmer, an Earth First! activist. “Later we approached Green Diamond, asked them to deescalate the situation and to put a good foot forward by closing the timber harvest plan, McKay ’09.”
Last week, Green Diamond decided to close the McKay ’09 timber harvest plan and not log the contested land, as a part of a larger land deal with the Trust for Public Land and the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors. That deal would put the 7,500-acre McKay Tract into a conservation easement. Up to 1,800 acres along the western edge of the McKay Tract, the area of contention for the tree-sitters, will be bought by the Trust for Public Land to become a community forest managed by the county. The 5,700 acres on the east side of Ryan Creek will remain under the management of Green Diamond, and the timber company has agreed to sell a conservation easement, thereby surrendering its right to pursue residential development and thus maintaining a “working forest” model for the tract in perpetuity.
“This is a great resolution for the forest and the community,” said Natalynne DeLapp of EPIC. “The tree-sitter’s presence prevented the permanent loss of a rare redwood ecosystem and Green Diamond deserves real credit for what is turning into a text book example of a private conservation initiative with a public benefit.”
The tree-sitters are packing and cleaning up their Ewok village for some much deserved rest and relaxation before they start planning their next forest defense campaign. Click here to read the press release from Earth First! Humboldt regarding their victory in the McKay Tract.
The following EPIC articles feature the evolution of the McKay Tract situation: