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Redwood Forest Foundation - A new approach to forest ownership

The Issue

The redwood region along California's north coast has a history of social conflict and community strife over the logging of its forests. The basis of the conflict has been due in part to the decisions affecting local communities being made by absentee, corporate landowners.

In 1997 the non-profit Redwood Forest Foundation, Inc. (RFFI) was formed. The board of directors included representation from the timber industry (a mill owner, Registered Professional Foresters), community activist groups (Earth First!, Sierra Club), banking community (a stock broker, a banker) and education (the UCCE Mendocino County forest advisor). They set out to create a new structure of ownership and community partnering that was unprecedented in the world of forestry.

Using a new corporate model, the RFFI established county-based advisory committees who serve in the traditional role of “shareholders” in the corporation's decision-making process. These committees also reflect the multiple talents and experiences of the local community.

What Has ANR Done?

From the beginning, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources has served as a strong voice in helping the RFFI directors develop and design educational workshops, outreach materials, pamphlets, press releases, Web page design and a 12-minute video to explain the possibilities of community ownership of forest resources.

UC ANR academics have freely lent expertise to the board, helping its members understand the nuances of newly developing carbon markets, designing and developing long-term conservation and timber management scenarios, and financing models to align timber management, environmental protection and fiduciary responsibilities to ensure the stability and sustainability of both forest and community resources.

The Payoff

A new day in forest ownership

In June 2007, 10 years after its formation, the Redwood Forest Foundation acquired nearly 51,000 acres of coastal redwood lands in northwestern Mendocino County with $65 million in financing from Bank of America. The bank’s enthusiasm for working with RFFI was due largely to its recognition of the community-oriented structure of its board and the credibility of its members and advisors. The structure of the loan includes tenets that protect certain aspects of the environmental integrity of the forestlands and preclude over-harvesting of timber to reduce the debt.

Clientele Testimonial

"This is the beginning of a new era for our local community," said Art Harwood, president of RFFI. "We are banding together to protect and manage our forests. We are pulling together private capital, and the hopes and aspirations of people from all walks of life to create a bright beacon for our future. We are doing this by ending the 30 years of fighting, and focusing on what unites us."


Supporting Unit: Mendocino County

Gregory A. Giusti, (707) 463-4495, gagiusti@ucdavis.edu