Sempervirens Club’s Christmas Wish List in 1908
As the year 1908 drew to a close, Sempervirens Club found itself fighting to protect their great victory – the 1901 establishment of 3,800-acre California Redwood Park, which they had achieved after years of skillfully lobbying the California Legislature.
As Christmas approached in 1908, members of the club were preoccupied with three threats to their crown jewel of redwood conservation – public access, water and sanitation and, most concerning, forest management.
On Dec. 23, 1908, the Santa Cruz Morning Sentinel ran a story outlining Sempervirens Club’s “Christmas Wish List.” This wish list wasn’t addressed to the North Pole, it was sent to Gov. James Gillett in Sacramento.
These “Christmas wishes” included building a road to Califorrnia Redwood Park from Saratoga Gap and installing a proper water and sanitation system in the park to accommodate the growing number of visitors. It also called for the immediate termination of the governor’s state forester, G.B. Lull, who was illegally granting private timber contracts for old-growth redwoods within the boundaries of the newly established state park.
Earlier in the year, Sempervirens Club had held a press conference in California Redwood Park to expose the blatant harvest of “no less than 46 trees” by Lull’s contractors. In their Christmas letter to the governor, the conservationists lambasted “the evils” of private timber contracts within the park’s boundaries and demanded Lull be fired.
Unfortunately, Gov. Gillett refused to terminate Lull. The men were fast friends and united in their distaste for the conservationists. The investigation into the destruction of the Big Basin redwoods did, however, result in five legislative bills calling for the reorganization of the Board of Forestry.
Lull, who was never held accountable for his actions, referred to Sempervirens Club members as, “sickly sentimental women, and men with less sense than women.” In 1910, he resigned from his position as state forester to work for an eastern company promoting the doomed eucalyptus industry.
In time, Sempervirens Club’s 1908 Christmas wishes were granted. Old growth trees were never again poached in what would become Big Basin Redwoods State Park, sanitation and water systems were eventually installed, and a road to Big Basin was finally finished in May 2015 – just in time for the Panama Pacific International Exposition, which introduced the park’s magnificent trees to the world.
“Ask State for New Road to Big Basin,” Santa Cruz Morning Sentinel; Dec. 23, 1908.
Yaryan, Willie. The Sempervirens Story: A Century of Preserving California’s Ancient Redwood Forest, 1900-2000. Sempervirens Fund, 2000.