The large commercial timber companies have been divesting their forestlands. Some of that land has been fragmented into small holdings for single-family homes or weekend getaways. Most acreage has been sold to timber investment or real estate investment companies, whose harvest practices are often geared toward short-term profit as opposed to the long-term sustainable management typically employed by commercial forest products companies. Because of the number of large properties on the market and the competition from the private sector, conservationists are struggling to finance forestland acquisitions to protect the most sensitive natural areas, such as those around Big River and Salmon Creek.

Our Role

In 2006, The Conservation Fund purchased 16,000 acres surrounding Big River and Salmon Creek and implemented sustainable forest management practices that include decreasing the intensity of harvests, increasing the time between harvests and widening riverfront buffers to improve water quality in streams impaired by erosion from a century of timber harvesting. These practices have improved water quality and habitat for coho salmon, steelhead trout and spotted owl.

To make the acquisition happen, we developed an innovative funding partnership, attracting a $25 million loan from California’s State Revolving Fund (SRF), the largest loan of its kind in U.S. history. In addition, the Coastal Conservancy and Wildlife Conservation Board each gave grants of $7.25 million. The ACE Group and Centex—through the ACE Land Legacy Fund and the Centex Land Legacy Fund—provided private support; both are being used to support our top conservation priorities.

Big River and Salmon Creek forests are also generating income by trapping carbon dioxide (CO2), a greenhouse gas linked to climate change. Redwood forests store more carbon per acre than any other forest type. Sustainable forest management here can store up to 500,000 tons of CO2 annually. We were an early participant in the development of forest carbon projects verified and registered under the Climate Action Reserve. To date our forests have produced more than 90 percent of the forest-based offsets verified and registered with the Reserve. Carbon sales have provided significant additional support for the forests, enabling us to repay the loans we took out to protect the properties, defer harvests when log prices are low and accelerate restoration activities for fish and wildlife.

Why This Project Matters

We believe that working forests can be financially self-sustaining and environmentally healthy. We’re demonstrating a new way to sustainably manage these famed forests, as a nonprofit owner that uses both sound environmental strategy and sound economics. We work with our partners to skillfully manage both forest growth and harvest to ensure that these forests remain viable ecosystems for generations to come.

Carbon Specifications

  • Standard: Climate Action Reserve, Forest Stewardship Council, and Sustainable Forestry Initiative Certified
  • Auditor: Scientific Certification Systems (SCS)
  • Project design documents

Big River And Salmon Creek Forests


Sustainable Forestry? How Does It Work?

Protecting and maintaining working forests, and the communities that depend on them, remains one of the Fund's top conservation priorities. Watch the video to learn why.

Why Do Forests Matter?

At The Conservation Fund, we believe that well-managed forests can be both economically viable and ecologically sustainable, but like all other necessary parts of our national infrastructure, they need to be invested in and maintained. That's why, since 1985, we've protected more than a million forest acres across America. Protecting and maintaining working forests, and the communities that depend on them, remains one of our top conservation priorities.

Learn More

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North Coast Forest Conservation Initiative