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--the California "Mega-Park" Project

Tracking measurable success on efforts across California to preserve and connect our Parks & Wildlife Corridors

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

a true coastal wilderness in north Mendocino County...

A Look at the Roadless north coast of Mendocino County

(On this map, the large purple shaded area east of Sinkyone shown as owned by Hawthorn Timber was sold to the Redwood Forests Foundation in 2007 to be preserved as a "working" sustainably managed forest. CLICK ON MAP TO ENLARGE!)

InterTribal Sinkyone Wilderness Council

The Council established the 3,845-acre InterTribal Sinkyone Wilderness

The Council is comprised of 10 federally recognized Northern California tribes with direct ties to the Sinkyone region, which is located 200 miles north of San Francisco. Each of the Council's member tribes appoints by tribal resolution a delegate to serve on the Council's board of directors. Board members are all volunteers. Starting in 1987, the Council and its allies waged a ten-year fight to protect Sinkyone land from further clearcut logging. The Council raised $1.4 million and convinced the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors, the State of California (Coastal Conservancy), and Trust for Public Land to approve a sale to the Council of the Sinkyone land, which was completed in late 1997. The InterTribal Sinkyone Wilderness is located adjacent to and east of the Sinkyone Wilderness State Park. Local tribes, numerous individuals, environmental organizations and foundations, Bay Area Friends of Sinkyone, the indigenous Ainu people of Japan, and a major grant from Lannan Foundation provided support for the acquisition. The Council developed conservation easements to protect in perpetuity the InterTribal Sinkyone Wilderness' cultural-natural resources.


The federal government first recognized the area's remarkable scenic and biological values in 1929 when it withdrew public domain lands here from sale. Congress created the King Range Conservation Area in 1970. When I first visited the Lost Coast in the 1970s, plans were already afoot to protect much of the King Range as designated wilderness. Unfortunately, the King Range remains unprotected more than twenty years later.

Meanwhile during the 1970s, California State Parks began protecting the southern Lost Coast. In what was then called the Bear Harbor Project, the state acquired the remote Stewart Ranch in Mendocino County's northwesternmost corner. They changed the name to Sinkyone Wilderness State Park when the park was officially established in 1977, recognizing and striving to protect its essential wilderness values.

The park's southern neighbor, Georgia-Pacific Corporation, saw the Lost Coast in a different light. Several thousand acres of the company's coastal lands still held virgin forests of massive redwoods, firs and spruces in 1979. These forests had survived because they were remote, even though sawmills had operated within 5 miles of them, at Usal around 1900 and Wheeler in the 1950s. Georgia Pacific quietly began cutting these giants in 1980.

Not until autumn 1983 did word spread around the north coast of the last immense virgin trees around Usal falling to the chainsaws Then about 200 action-oriented environmentalists moved to stop the cutting along Wheeler Road. They came to the Lost Coast under cover of darkness. When the loggers came to work at dawn, they found people blocking their way to the standing giants. After many showdowns and the death of many more giants, a court injunction halted logging. The last groves, most notably the Sally Bell Grove, were finally saved when the Trust for Public Land purchased the surrounding lands. Of the 7100 acres bought by TPL, Sinkyone State Park gained 3000, extending it south to Usal. In 1996 the other 4000 acres became Sinkyone Intertribal Park where, in the nation's first intertribal park, major plant and watershed restoration are occurring.


Later, conservationists clashed with logging interests in a fight to preserve the park. Timber companies clearcut choice old-growth forests nearby. By the mid-1980s, Georgia-Pacific Corporation was on the verge of liquidating the last ancient redwoods in the area. While some activists filed suit, others chained themselves to trees in an old-growth forest they dubbed the "Sally Bell Grove." In 1986, after receiving a favorable court ruling and financial help from the Save the Redwoods League, the Trust for Public Land, the California Coastal Commission and other interests, the park was expanded to its current size and special places like the Sally Bell Grove were finally spared. North Coast activist Darryl Cherney commemorated this struggle with his catchy folk song, "Give 'Em Hell, Sally Bell."

The activists who helped defend Sinkyone in the 1980s continued to pressure the California Department of Parks and Recreation to officially protect the park as wilderness. At last, these efforts paid off this past November. President Bush created the first ever Lost Coast wilderness when he signed into law the Northern California Coastal Wild Heritage Wilderness Act, which included 42,000 acres of wilderness in the King Range National Conservation Area, adjacent to Sinkyone. The two areas of public land border each other and share the 50+ mile Lost Coast Trail. Both the governments of the State of California and the United States have finally given the historic and beautiful Lost Coast the permanent protection it deserves.

Logging operations continued until well into the 20th century and wood products of various kinds were shipped to market from Usal, Needle Rock, Anderson's Landing, Northport and Bear Harbor/Morgan's Rock. Northport was not much of a port, but lumber schooners were able to take on their cargoes by means of a "wire chute," - a cable and block system that could run wood from the bluff to waiting schooners. Built in 1875, the Northport "chute" was one of the first of its kind on the coast.

Sinkyone Wilderness State Park was created in 1975 when the first 3,430 acres were acquired at Needle Rock. The park expanded in 1986 and now totals 7,367 acres.


intertribal sinkyone park


2 old radicals hiking in the Sinkyone

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