Two Land Deals Protect Redwoods, Murrelets, and the Skyline Trail

February 2, 2010

In just one conversation with Reed Holderman, it’s easy to tell that he loves his job. And why shouldn’t he? As executive director of the Sempervirens Fund, he gets to help save landscapes for generations to come. With two recent land deals, the fund has come a step closer to its goal of connecting all the major parks on the Santa Cruz coast.

The first of the recent land deals involves a 107-acre parcel called Sempervirens 236 (formerly Redtree 236), purchased for $1.4 million. The Sempervirens Fund has been eyeing this property for at least 10 years.

This land deal was like a jigsaw puzzle all coming together, where the last piece connects Highways 236 and 29, the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail, the Waterman Gap and the gateway to the Big Basin Redwoods State Park. “There are few parcels with that type of intersection between trails, highways, wildlife, and people,” says Holderman, adding that this was Semperviren’s 18th deal in its long campaign to complete the original vision for Castle Rock State Park. Now, they have 588 acres to go.

Redtree 236 map
Redtree property to be added to Castle Rock State Park. Map courtesy Sempervirens Fund. Click for larger version.

The deal also preserved a host of redwood trees that were set to be logged this spring. The land was purchased from Redtree Properties, a major local lumber company that had timber permits ready last summer and had a signed agreement to haul the lumber out. You can still see trees that were marked for execution with blue ribbons.

Lot 236 is also a major visual reference point along the 35-mile Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail. “The boundary line is right where the trail stops,” says Holderman. “Could you imagine backpacking for days on this trail and then all of a sudden seeing a bunch of logging right there in front of you as you look down from the trail crest?”

Sinnott Map
Sinnott Property. Map courtesy Sempervirens Fund. Click for larger version.

To the north, the Sinnott Property, at 160 acres, is the bigger of the two recent deals. It is a wilderness acquisition located in the Butano watershed, purchased from Redtree for $760,000. “The number one reason we purchased this land is that we’re all about redwoods,” says Holderman. “The number two reason is to protect the marbled murrelet.” This endangered seabird has its primary nesting habitat in old growth redwoods, including some on this property.

Marbled murrelet
Old-growth redwoods on the Sinnott property contain good nesting sites for endangered marbled murrelets. Photo courtesy Sempervirens Fund.

The Sinnott land adjoins both private and public parcels that might also be home to endangered murrelets, and Sempervirens plans to continue monitoring their populations and watching for chances to acquire more land to ensure habitat protection.

It might seem that acquiring lands destined for state parks would be a tough call when California’s park budget seems forever threatened. But Holderman is undaunted. He says the state has $5.6 billion bond money approved for land acquisition which has not been spent yet. “[We] queue the property up so that when the annual budget problems get solved, we can have some ready to go,” he explains. “When the money starts flowing again, we have a pipeline into the state and want as many teed up as we can.”

And waiting for better economic times isn’t an option. “Now is the time to act,” says Holderman, “in 30 to 40 years, it might be a different ball game.”

About the Author

Kris Vann is a Bay Nature editorial volunteer.