'We didn't even know what a land trust was'

  • Rondal Snodgrass


Note: This article is a sidebar to this issue's feature story.

Sanctuary Forest was founded in 1987 to protect Big Red, a 2,000-year-old redwood tree in Northern California's Mattole River watershed. "We started with 11 people, since it took 11 of us to join hands and stand around this one particular tree," says executive director Rondal Snodgrass. The group has since purchased 3,500 acres and protected another 6,000acres with conservation easements.

In December, Sanctuary Forest signed an agreement with Pacific Lumber Co. and forest activist Julia "Butterfly" Hill. The covenant permanently protects the old-growth tree that was Hill's home for two years. The group will monitor the Pacific Lumber property to make sure that the tree and the surrounding three acres of forest land are not disturbed.

Rondal Snodgrass: "We started in reaction to a timber sale, which would have resulted in the destruction of the last of the old growth in the headwaters of the Mattole River - an undammed river.

"In this watershed, there's only 4 percent of the old growth left; all of it was cut from 1944 to 1984. In 40 years, (logging) had an impact like an ice age or a climate change, it was such a radical removal.

"We didn't start out thinking we were a land trust - we didn't even know what a land trust was. We just realized we had to buy (the land), and we had to convince people to be willing sellers. We also had to enlarge the issue, make people aware that it wasn't just this little river. We're in the temperate rainforest, and the temperate rainforest is being destroyed faster than the tropical rainforest. That appeal went beyond our watershed."

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