Headwaters Forest Reserve
Headwaters Forest in Northern California
LocationEureka, California, United States
Coordinates40°38′16″N 124°04′47″W / 40.63766°N 124.07959°W / 40.63766; -124.07959
Area7,472 acres (30.24 km2)
EstablishedMarch 1999
Visitors8,000 (in 2007)[1]
Governing bodyBureau of Land Management / State of California

The Headwaters Forest Reserve is a group of old growth coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) groves in the Northern California coastal forests ecoregion near Humboldt Bay of the U.S. state of California. Comprising about 7,472 acres (30.24 km2), it is managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) as part of the National Landscape Conservation System.

The climate is characterized by maritime conditions of cool, wet and foggy winters and cool to warm cloudy summers. Elevations range from 100 feet (30 m) to over 2,000 feet (610 m).


Headwaters Forest Reserve

The reserve was established in 1999 (H.R. 2107, Title V. Sec.501.[2]) The reserve was created after a 15-year effort to save the ancient ecosystem (with some trees estimated at over two thousand years old), from being clearcut.

This reserve of 7,472 acres (30.24 km2) is public land and is under the stewardship of the US Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Of the total area, 3,088 acres (12.50 km2) are old-growth redwood stands, surrounded by 4,384 acres (17.74 km2) of previously harvested timberlands. These were included in the purchase to protect the watershed related to the old-growth forest.[3] The reserve is located about 6 miles (9.7 km) southeast of Eureka, California and is managed by BLM officials from the agency's Arcata Field Office in nearby Arcata. The historic town of Falk and lumber mill site is within the reserve.

According to the BLM, "the reserve is set aside to protect and preserve the ecological and wildlife values in the area, particularly the stands of old-growth redwood that provide habitat for the threatened Marbled Murrelet, Northern Spotted Owl, native salmon stocks, and other old growth forest dependent species..." It also protects stream systems that provide habitat for the threatened coho salmon.

Other forest trees in the reserve include Douglas-fir, tanoak, Sitka spruce, western red ceder, western hemlock and red alder. There are limited distribution (CNPS list 4) plants in the reserve, including the heart-shaped twayblade and Kellogg's lily.[4]

The Headwaters Forest Reserve is one of the few remaining refuges for the marbled murrelet, an endangered seabird. Marbled murrelets make their nests on large redwood tree branches between March 25 and September 15. The seabird nesting can be disastrously disrupted by human activity. During breeding season, approximately June 25 to August 1, visitors are prohibited from entering the forest.[5]


By the late 20th century, most of the forest was owned by the Pacific Lumber Company, which became under the leadership of Charles Hurwitz and his company Maxxam, Inc, as the result of a hostile takeover in 1985.[6] Maxxam, Inc. changed logging policies at Pacific Lumber Company, replacing it with clearcutting.[7][8] Almost 60 per cent of the reserve was harvested by mostly clearcutting; more than 35 miles (56 km) of roads were constructed, resulting in more than 100 stream crossings, which greatly degraded watershed ability to store and filter water runoff. The untouched portion is dense, old-growth forest with pristine watershed conditions.[9]

The area was discovered and named in March 1987 by activist Greg King after a solo hike throughout Pacific Lumber's northern ancient redwood holdings. A journalist, King pioneered redwood tree-sitting and staged other direct actions over a five-year period to draw national attention to Maxxam's liquidation of the world's last privately held ancient redwood groves.[10]

This had been the site of decades of protests called "Headwaters" (1997–2009), a fight against the logging policies of the then-privately owned forest.[7]

Headwaters Forest Reserve is the largest area of old-growth redwoods protected as a result of the Redwood Summer protests.[11]

An agreement between Department of the Interior and Pacific Lumber Company was crafted in September, 1996. The agreement has two main parts: first, it provided $380 million of public funds for the purchase of the reserve. Second, it required a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) be developed and approved to allow limited logging on the remaining 211,000 acres (850 km2) of Pacific Lumber Company timberland.[12]

Public Law 105-83 was the federal legislation authorizing the acquisition. H.R. 2107 was passed by the US Congress in October 1997 which committed the government's share of $250 million of the purchase price. California provided its share of $130 million in Chapter 615, Statutes of 1998 with a requirement of stricter conditions regarding the Habitat Conservation Plan. Specifically, wider no-cut buffer zones, prohibitions on logging in certain areas, and a requirement for watershed analysis. This legislation established a specific boundary with access points, called for joint federal-state acquisition with the Bureau of Land Management, the managing agency and the State of California having a conservation easement, and required a management plan for the forest. The California state easement gives the state oversight responsibility to ensure "all human activities with the Headwaters Forest shall be consistent with the stated goals and purposes..." The California Department of Fish and Wildlife represents the state's interest.[13] Chapter 615 authorized purchase of two additional portions, the Owl Creek, and the Grizzly Creek properties. It provided Humboldt County with $12 million as economic assistance.[12]

See also


  1. ^ "2007 BLM Managers Report" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on July 25, 2008. Retrieved April 10, 2009.
  2. ^ Library of Congress, text of H.R. 2107, Title V-PRIORITY LAND ACQUISITIONS, LAND EXCHANGES, AND MAINTENANCE[permanent dead link]
  3. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on July 25, 2008. Retrieved April 10, 2009.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) 2007 BLM Manager Report
  4. ^ "CNPS database, Kellogg's lily factsheet". Archived from the original on April 23, 2012. Retrieved July 26, 2011.
  5. ^ In 2007 Headwaters Forest Reserve was posted as closed from June 25 to July 20. On July 19 signage was altered to extend the closure to August 1.
  6. ^ "Maxxam Buys 60% Of Pacific Lumber". The New York Times. December 6, 1985. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved April 17, 2021.
  7. ^ a b Rogers, Paul (March 8, 2009). "A decade after Headwaters deal, truce comes to Northern California redwood country". The Mercury News.
  8. ^ Lindsey, Robert (March 2, 1988). "Ancient Redwoods Fall to a Wall Street Takeover". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved April 17, 2021.
  9. ^ "Environmental Impact Statement, Ch. 3. p.5" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on September 23, 2015. Retrieved September 18, 2008.
  10. ^ Harris, David (1995). The Last Stand, Times Books. p. 179 ISBN 0-8129-2577-7
  11. ^ Widick, Richard (January 2006). "Violence, Archive, and Memory in the Making of the Redwood Imaginary". All Academic Inc. p. 19. Retrieved January 16, 2010.
  12. ^ a b An LAO Report, Opportunities and Challenges for the State-The Headwaters Forest Legislative Analyst Office of the state of California.
  13. ^ [1] Archived 2012-10-02 at the Wayback Machine Headwaters Final Environmental Impact Statement, Ch.1, p.2