LUMBER AND LOGGING
ON THE NORTH COAST
The History of Redwood Logging
The awesome task of falling redwoods, getting logs to the mill and shaping them into useful products is what logging was all about in the early days. The first humans to challenge the redwoods were ill-equipped for the task. Such massive trees had never before been encountered, and no tools had ever been developed for the purpose. Early tools included the axe and crosscut saw (sometimes called a 'misery whip'). These were followed by the drag saw and the gasoline powered chain saw.
The first really successful mill on Humboldt Bay was powered by the engines of a steamer ship in 1852. Back then, loggers used oxen or horses and a prepared trail known as a "skid road," for moving the logs to steam-powered sawmills. The Dolbeer steam donkey and its successors were added to logging techniques around 1890. It was also around this time that railroad logging began to develop.
Railroads were not only used in the woods, they helped transport the timber products. Prior to the introduction of railroads, schooner and steamer ships were used. Fields Landing (also known as South Bay) was a very busy commercial dock in the early 1900s.
Today, helicopters are used for logging, along with tractor and cable logging.
Eureka and Eel River Railroad Dock,
Forest regulations have existed since California gained statehood in 1850. To protect its forests, the state drafted the nation's first forest fire laws, and later, in 1885, created the nation's first Board of Forestry. Californians were learning to appreciate the uniqueness of the forests, and the 20th century began with a consciousness that the forests were a heritage to be preserved for the future and a resource that, if properly managed, could be renewed for all time.
Lumbermen took some of the first steps toward this goal with the 1909 formation of the California Forest Protective Association. This was followed in 1916 by the organization of the California Redwood Association. In 1922 the redwood lumber industry established tree nurseries and began an active program of reforestation. Then in 1945, California legislators, anxious to see that both public and private forests were protected and properly managed, passed the California Forest Practices Act and reorganized the State Board of Forestry. In 1950 the forest industries certified the first redwood tree farm, a privately owned forest where redwoods were grown as a continuous crop.
Today, California Forest Practice Rules are the strictest in the nation, and reforestation after harvest on private forest land is required by state law.
The Preserved Forests
The giant redwood trees of Northern California are one of the state's best known attractions. Each year thousands of people visit the majestic groves to stand in awe and marvel at these tall, tall trees.
The preserved redwood forests cover an area of over 350,000 acres, which amounts to a one-mile wide redwood forest stretching between San Francisco and Los Angeles. No other commercial tree species in the world has had such a great a proportion of its trees set aside forever in government parks and other preserves.
Logging will never be allowed in these preserved forests, so they will always be around for future generations to enjoy.
The redwood lumber companies of the North Coast have all played roles in making sure the most magnificent redwood groves are preserved forever. All have donated or sold some of their holdings to the Save-the-Redwoods League, the Nature Conservancy, the state of California and other public agencies for preservation. Richardson Grove, Humboldt Redwoods State Park, Bull Creek, Rockefeller Forest, Del Norte Redwoods State Park and Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park were once in private hands.
The Working Forests
Land owned and managed by private forest product companies is zoned by the state of California exclusively for commercial timber production, that is the growing and harvesting of trees. In addition, state law requires all private forest land owners to replant areas after they are harvested. More redwoods are planted and grown each year than are harvested.
Privately-owned forests are managed by highly skilled experts such as: registered professional foresters, licensed timber operators, biologists, geologists, hydrologists and others. These private resource representatives work in cooperation with state and federal agencies to assure a balance between production of wood products and protection of the environment. In fact, California has the strictest Forest Practice Rules in the nation.
The most amazing attribute of redwood is its ability to grow back naturally. After a redwood tree is harvested, it promptly sprouts from the stump and the existing root system in the ground. These sprouts will grow into new trees. Most forests on the North Coast are not pure redwood stands. They include a mix of Douglas Fir and other white wood species, as well as hardwoods, such as tan oak and madrone.
Where Are We Today?
Those who say the forest products industry is dead are wrong. This industry contributes to the health and welfare of the North Coast. The significant changes in the industry, mainly over the last two decades, ensures the necessary balance between resource production and environmental protection.
Consider the following statistics:
- Over 7,500 jobs (approximately 15 percent of the wage/salary employment) in Humboldt County are related to the forest products industry.
- Forest products manufacturing jobs are among the best paid in Humboldt County.
- The total estimated economic benefit of the forest products industry in Humboldt County is over $440 million.
- Humboldt County leads the state in timber harvest value.
- Nearly half of the acreage in Humboldt County is dedicated exclusively to growing and harvesting timber for the long-term.
- County and city governments and other local government jurisdictions receive nearly $13 million each year from the forest products industry.
(Information above taken form Humboldt County's Forest Resource Dollars Report, prepared by Phyllis Lammers in May 1998)