Mar 31, 2018
by Tim McKusick
Breaking News: Iconic Berry’s Saw Mill and property in Cazadero are for sale. The Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District should take note, as this historic property is just over the hill from the Jenner Headlands Preserve and would complement the Preserve/Pole Mountain acquisitions in so many ways.
In addition, the Berry Family own lands adjacent to the Preserve with active Timber Harvest plans. The fate of those lands is unknown at this time.
My biggest fear is that someone would acquire the saw mill and lands and then have to accelerate the removal of the quality Old Growth Trees just to pay down the debt. Any attempts to bring back Sheephouse Creek species’ from the brink of extinction will be lost. We are so close to achieving what once seemed like an impossible dream.
Remember that the Jenner Headlands Preserve property was once slated for an upscale golf course development. If it were not for the efforts of a few local concerned citizens who initially spoke up, this crown-jewel of the coastal ridges would not have happened.
I propose we purchase the Berry properties and turn the mill into a museum, used as a demonstration mill used periodically to mill the smaller trees gleaned from the preserve property over time, much like the Sturgeon Saw Mill in Sebastopol. We can call it the Berry Family Visitor Center. Perhaps other iconic local families with property adjacent to the Preserve will follow suit and offer their lands for preservation or conservation, as 2/3 of the Sheephouse Creek Watershed is owned by a couple of families.
One thing is for sure, we are at a turning point with the sensitive lands above our embattled Russian River. So much is riding on our doing the right thing. The Sheephouse Creek Watershed would be the Poster Child for Coho Habitat Restoration. A World-Class Destination to be marveled at, cherished and (hopefully widely) imitated.
It is hard to imagine, while driving through the cool Redwood forests and meadows, that many of these areas were reduced to a moonscape of logging ‘skid-trails’ and stumps just a generation or two ago. The fact that there are now 100+ year old healthy, beautiful Redwoods thriving is a testament to the resiliency of these ‘Wonders of Nature’.
It is only in relatively recent history that hard-science has proven the (multiple) positive benefits of NOT harvesting the biggest and oldest of the trees, as is the current logging practice. They have discovered that the big, old trees are Fog Harvesting Machines! They actually absorb the moisture & fog through their leaves and direct it to the roots and out into the streams and watersheds. And that the older trees are exponentially better at this unique (rather magical!) process than the younger trees.
The Redwood forests native to our coastal areas also naturally attract rains and storms from the Pacific, so critical to recharging our water tables. (Surely you have seen Cazadero’s official license plate frame: REDWOODS and RAIN – Cazadero!) It is true.
The 5,630-acre Jenner Headlands Preserve overlooking the lower reaches of the Russian River is embracing this practice of leaving the older Redwoods with the generations-deep goal of once again having an Old-Growth type forest habitat. A habitat protected and nurtured as payback for all it has given to us, and now will continue to give us.
Jenner Headlands Preserve is home to the Headwaters of Sheephouse Creek, actively being restored (within the Preserve’s boundaries) with hopes of once again having a habitat healthy enough for survival of the threatened and endangered species that are struggling to call this Home.
Sheephouse Creek is one of the first Russian River tributaries inland from the Pacific, and meets the river in the Estuary. As an Estuary-perched stream subject to tidal influence, it is relatively easy for the Sheephouse fish to make it to their stream, whenever the tide is in and the river mouth is open. All they need is a habitat healthy enough to survive. Unfortunately, Sheephouse runs through private lands between the Preserve and the Estuary. And those private lands all appear to hold active Timber Harvest Plans; plans geared to remove the larger, older trees.
Please understand that the entire Sheephouse Creek watershed with all of its tributaries can be viewed in one aerial photograph; it is that small. If these private lands were managed using the same ‘Old Growth Saving’ techniques as the Jenner Headlands Preserve, this coastal watershed could be the Poster Child for Habitat Preservation and Restoration.
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