Success Stories

Conservation Success – Past and Present

Since 1900, Sempervirens Fund has protected more than 50 square miles of coast redwood forests in the Santa Cruz Mountains – where wildlife and people thrive. Our founders came together more than a century ago in the midst of massive logging and protected the largest remaining area of old growth redwood forest, which became Big Basin Redwoods State Park. Since then, Sempervirens Fund played a crucial role in creating three other state parks that protect local redwoods: Castle Rock, Butano and Portola Redwoods.

We continue to build on this legacy of conservation success through an unwavering commitment to protect:

  • 2,000-year-old redwoods – the tallest tree on Earth
  • 20 million-year-old redwood forest – growing here and nowhere else
  • Clean air, fresh water and stunning waterfalls
  • Abundant wildlife – like coyotes, salmon and endangered marbled murrelets
  • Extensive trails, campgrounds, and picnic spots
  • Quiet, awe-inspiring places to reconnect with the wild and recharge our batteries

Highlights of our innovative work since 1900 include:

(Click to learn more about each)

In 2011, Sempervirens Fund purchased 8,532 acres (13 square miles) of forest land north of Santa Cruz from the multinational corporation CEMEX, in partnership with four other land trusts and three foundations, working together under the Living Landscape Initiative to achieve a conservation success that none of us could have accomplished alone. This purchase—the largest in Sempervirens Fund’s history—unites more than 27,000 acres of protected land, from the ridge to the sea. It marks a huge step toward creating the Great Park.

In June 2014, the property was renamed San Vicente Redwoods in honor of the creek that runs through the property and supplies water to the coastal town of Davenport, north of Santa Cruz, California. The new name signals a new era for the largest intact redwood parcel between Silicon Valley and the Pacific Ocean, which will be protected for wildlife habitat, clean drinking water, public recreation and ecologically sustainable timber harvesting.

Today Sempervirens Fund and co-owner Peninsula Open Space Trust are managing the property based on our visionary conservation plan, which fully protects all the old-growth redwoods. We’re excited about the potential to help this critical, much-logged land regain its natural strength and beauty.

The San Vicente Redwoods property provides crucial refuge for mountain lions and for rare plants and animals found nowhere else on the planet. It adjoins several protected areas, including Coast Dairies, which has recently transferred to federal ownership under the Bureau of Land Management.

Our conservation plan reserves two-thirds of the property for restoration and recovery, so that young redwood trees – akin to a 4-year-old human — can live 2,000 years or more and help re-create a vibrant forest. The plan also identifies limited areas where selective timber harvesting may continue – only with great care, under strict sustainability standards – to generate money for ongoing management and restoration of the property.

Meanwhile, in partnership with the Land Trust for Santa Cruz County, we are developing plans to open up the land for recreation, including opportunities for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding, making use of the property’s miles of unpaved roads and skid trails from old logging operations.

Watch this short video to learn more about our San Vicente Redwoods restoration and public access efforts.

To ensure permanent legal protection for San Vicente Redwoods, Sempervirens Fund and Peninsula Open Space Trust sold a conservation easement to Save the Redwoods League, who will hold the easement in perpetuity to make sure this magnificent forest survives and thrives, regardless of future ownership. The League applied to the state Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB) to fund the easement and the WCB funding was unanimously approved on August 28, 2014.

The CEMEX acquisition is the first major project to result from the Living Landscape Initiative, a collaboration of five conservation groups (Sempervirens Fund, Land Trust of Santa Cruz County, The Nature Conservancy, Peninsula Open Space Trust, and Save the Redwoods League). Funding for the acquisition came from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Resources Legacy Fund and the State Coastal Conservancy, which also provided funding for public access planning.

You can help fund the restoration and care of San Vicente Redwoods by making a contribution to the Great Park Campaign.

Big Basin is California’s oldest State Park, established in 1902 as a result of the efforts of the Sempervirens Club. Spanning more than 22,500 acres in the Santa Cruz Mountains, Big Basin is home to the largest stand of old-growth redwoods south of San Francisco.

Since our central role in acquiring the 3,800 acres that became Big Basin Redwoods State Park in 1900, Sempervirens Fund has completed 75 additional real estate transactions and protected almost 15,000 acres within the Big Basin Redwoods State Park planning area.

Explore Big Basin on the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail.

Camp at Big Basin

In 2007, Sempervirens Fund partnered with the Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) to purchase the Little Basin property from Hewlett Packard: 535 acres of coast redwoods and scenic woodlands located adjacent to Big Basin Redwoods State Park. We took an innovative approach to setting up Little Basin for long-term success – ecologically, recreationally and financially. Today, Little Basin is officially part of Big Basin, although it is managed by a private company with vast experience managing similar facilities.

Little Basin provides a wonderful campground in the redwoods plus picnic and recreation areas and miles of hiking trails that connect to trails within Big Basin. It also hosts The Web of Life Field (WOLF) School, which provides environmental education programs that serve public and private schools.

Butano State Park is a 4,500-acre park located in a secluded redwood-filled canyon. The park’s miles of popular hiking trails lead through dense redwood forest and up to high ridges offering hikers stunning views of the Pacific coast. Sempervirens Fund has completed eight transactions and protected over 1,500 acres in the Butano State Park planning area.

Sempervirens Fund is working to create the Gazos Wildlife Corridor, a link between Butano and Big Basin Redwoods State Parks that will provide safe passage for the wildlife that live there. The two parks are separated by a subdivision of rural, privately-owned land subject to the threats of both subdivision and development.

One species for whom this protected corridor is essential is the endangered marbled murrelet. The marbled murrelet is a small bird that spends much of its life at sea and flies up to 50 miles inland to lay its single egg on the large branches of old-growth redwoods and Douglas firs. The old-growth redwoods in the Gazos Wildlife Corridor provide a prime nesting ground for the species.

Castle Rock State Park is a gateway into the Great Park from Silicon Valley and a treasure of the region, yet it was scheduled to be closed until Sempervirens Fund stepped in. We are guiding Castle Rock into a new era with top-notch facilities and a sustainable funding model.

Our plan for new facilities includes: safe parking lots, electronic pay stations, a 60-seat amphitheater, trail connections, new restrooms, bicycle racks, a picnic area, and a new park entrance. The proposed new visitor center will be constructed during the next phase of the project. Once the public review is complete, we will begin construction, as early as spring 2015.

Our success partnering with California State Parks, local residents, rock climbers and other park users demonstrates that a local nonprofit organization can bring people, ideas and funding together to re-invigorate an endangered state park and keep it open for the next generations.

Castle Rock State Park is linked to Big Basin Redwoods State Park by the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail. It is located on one of the highest ridges of the Santa Cruz Mountains. The park includes 5,229 acres of coast redwood and oak forests, scenic vistas, and the breathtaking sandstone formation that rises 80 feet above the ridgetop and for which the park is named. Castle Rock was established as a park in 1968 through the combined efforts of Sempervirens Fund, the Varian family, and other local community members. Since 1968, Sempervirens Fund has completed 36 transactions, adding over 4,000 acres within the park’s planning area.

Sempervirens Fund purchased the 1,340-acre San Lorenzo River Redwoods, adjacent to Castle Rock State Park, in 2000 and transferred it to the State of California as an addition to Castle Rock. This redwood forest provides miles of trail connections, including the historic Saratoga Toll Road Trail which weaves through the redwoods before reuniting with the famous Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail.

Hugging the headwaters of the San Lorenzo River, the San Lorenzo River Redwoods shelter the creeks and canyons of the Castle Rock watershed. The water running through the redwoods is pure and abundant, making this one of the most important steelhead fisheries on the central California coast.

Before Sempervirens Fund stepped in and bought the Lompico redwood forest in the Santa Cruz Mountains, 60% of the redwoods were slated to be cut down. Sempervirens Fund partnered with PG&E customers, through PG&E’s ClimateSmart program, to pioneer a carbon offset program that provides as much climate protection as taking 2,700 cars off the road for one year.
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  • Purchased the 50-acre Castle Rock West redwood forest property that was one of the last unprotected inholdings of Castle Rock State Park. It’s located next to the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail and includes a headwaters tributary of the San Lorenzo River.
  • Purchased 80 acres of high-priority redwood forest near Big Basin, Castle Rock and Butano State Parks, including tributaries to Butano Creek and Pescadero Creek, keeping them off the open market.
  • Protected 76 acres of redwood forest surrounded on three sides by Big Basin, including 115 old-growth redwoods and the headwaters of Whitehouse Creek.
  • Partnered with Amah Mutsun Tribe and Costanoa Lodge on a conservation easement covering 96 acres of important coastal prairie adjacent to Año Nuevo.
  • Purchased timber rights on 151 acres near Bonny Doon adjacent to San Vicente Redwoods and Coast Dairies. The land includes the headwaters of Mill Creek, which provides an alternate source of drinking water for Davenport.

Sempervirens Fund takes a strategic approach to re-creating the local redwood ecosystem. In 2013, Sempervirens Fund completed the Santa Cruz Mountains Conceptual Area Protection Plan (CAPP) which identifies the critical areas to protect. This knowledge guides us as we set priorities for purchases, easements and caring for the land we own.

We continue to link up scattered pieces of redwood forest into a vast, unbroken redwood world stretching from Skyline to the sea.

Season by season, we are weaving together public and private lands into a vibrant redwood forest that provides a home for wildlife, a haven for local residents and visitors, and an extraordinary gift for future generations.