Noyo River Redwoods
The Mendocino Land Trust (MLT) acquired the Noyo River Redwoods property in 2012, in partnership with Save the Redwoods League (SRL) and the California Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB).This property occupies 426 acres of coastal Redwood and Douglas-fir forest in eastern Mendocino County, just four miles west of Willits. The Mendocino Land Trust’s vision for the property is driven by two objectives laid out in the Noyo River Redwoods Cooperative Forest Management Plan (2012), a plan which outlined conditions and capabilities of the property’s resources.
A. The old growth stands and legacy old growth are generally located throughout the property and will be managed as a “Forest Reserve”; and
B. The non-reserve areas shall be managed to promote late-seral stage forest development through the use of restoration forestry tools.
In addition to old-growth redwood stands and other important natural resources,the Noyo River Redwoods property offers exceptional cultural and recreational resources. The complete vision for the property is to restore, protect and preserve the unique natural and cultural resources in perpetuity,while at the same time providing for managed public access. This management plan inventories the property’s resources, characterizes various issues that need to be addressed and suggests detailed prescriptions to realize MLT’s vision, now and into the future.
The Mendocino Land Trust has commenced forest and watershed restoration and is developing public access proposals to ensure long term ecosystem health and public enjoyment of the Noyo River Redwoods property. Current resource restoration projects include forest thinning and fuel reduction to enhance old-growth redwood forest characteristics and reduce fire danger. The installation of large woody debris (LWD) into the Noyo River will enhance stream habitat for salmonids. An LWD project was completed at the Noyo Headwaters on the property in the Fall of 2016. Cultural resource projects include preserving contributing elements of historic logging, from logging camp sites to the historic Skunk Train. Public access recommendations include developing trails to old-growth redwoods, historical sites, and salmonid habitat on the Noyo River.
Starting in the late 1800s, homesteading began on the property around the areas known as "Crowley" and "Hair-pin turn". Evidence of these activities can be found through remnants of cabins and vegetation composition, including the planting of fruit trees. After the railroad was extended to the town of Willits between 1907 and 1911, the area became property of the Union Lumber Company and was used for timber harvest. It was during this time that work camps began to be built in various places along the railroad, some of which are still partially standing. The forest was harvested again in 1966, 1972, and 1978, and roads were gradually constructed to bring logs out of the property to the rail line.
The property changed ownership numerous times during logging operations. The Willits Redwood Company owned the property until 2011, while Mendocino Railways (which later became known as Skunk Train) owned the railroad. The Hawthorne Timber Company, a previous landowner, sold the land that the railroad traversed (including the land 50 feet to either side of the railway) to Mendocino Railways in 2005, and this ownership is still maintained.
In 2009, a Timber Harvest Plan (THP) was approved that included cutting down many of the old-growth redwoods on the Noyo River Redwoods property. Due to the initiative and vision of local activists, this timber harvest plan was halted and funds were raised to acquire the land for conservation. On April 27, 2011, Save the Redwoods League (SRL) purchased the Noyo River Redwoods property (excluding the 100 foot strip around the railway) from Willits Redwood Company after raising $7.5 million to save it from the threat of logging and further degradation. Mendocino Land Trust closed escrow on the purchase of the 426-acre property on March 19, 2012, paying SRL $4 million from a Wildlife Conservation Board grant.