This 2,000-Year-Old Redwood is One of the Tallest in Sonoma. It May Finally Get Protection.

The Clar Tree rises through the canopy on the Russian River Redwoods property. It is one of the oldest and tallest coast redwood trees in Sonoma County, California. Photo by Smith Robinson Multimedia.

In a major conservation effort, Save the Redwoods League has recently secured a critical agreement with RMB Revocable Family Trust to acquire the stunning 394-acre redwood forest in Sonoma County known as Russian River Redwoods. This landmark deal aims to preserve the cherished Clar Tree, one of the county’s oldest and tallest coast redwoods, along with a mile of the breathtaking Russian River frontage near Guerneville.

To make this vision a reality, the League has set a goal to raise $6.5 million for acquisition and project costs by September 30, 2023.

The Clar Tree is believed to be one of Sonoma County’s oldest and tallest trees. Vivian Chen, courtesy of Save the Redwoods League.

“This stretch of the Russian River is one of the most beloved scenic recreation areas in Northern California, and that’s due in large part to the redwoods that line its banks,” said Sam Hodder, president and CEO of Save the Redwoods League. “This opportunity to protect the Russian River Redwoods property is a rare chance to safeguard 1 mile of this scenic riverfront and put nearly 400 acres of redwood forest on a restoration trajectory.”

While most of the old-growth redwood trees in Russian River Redwoods were tragically logged over a century ago, the Clar Tree stands as a resilient testament to the forest’s ancient past. Estimated to be over 2,000 years old, this towering giant boasts a diameter of 16 feet and reaches a height of 278 feet, even after losing about 30 feet during the intense winter storms of 2023. The Clar Tree stands amid younger redwoods that are sprouting from the roots of their ancient predecessors, with numerous mature century-old trees adding to the awe-inspiring landscape of the property.

Save the Redwoods League staff admire the Clar Tree, the last remaining old-growth giant on the 394-acre Russian River Redwoods property. Vivian Chen, courtesy of Save the Redwoods League.

An exciting development is that the RMB Revocable Family Trust will generously donate the Clar Tree to Save the Redwoods League to ensure its lasting protection. The significance of this acquisition extends beyond the preservation of the Clar Tree, as the coastal redwood and Douglas-fir forest also plays a vital role in the traditional lands and Southern Pomo territory of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria.

“Saving this forest and protecting the Clar Tree has been a dream of the local community for years,” said County Supervisor Lynda Hopkins, Sonoma Board of Supervisors, District 5. “And now, thanks to Save the Redwoods League, this property?will be?protected forever.?I’m so grateful that when we reached out to Save the Redwoods League, they stepped up in a critical moment.?We look forward to contributing funding to support this project.” 

This 394-acre coast redwood and Douglas-fir forest has approximately one mile of riverfront along the Russian River near Guerneville, California. Vivian Chen, courtesy of Save the Redwoods League.

Looking ahead, Save the Redwoods League plans to transfer the land to Sonoma County within a year, allowing for long-term stewardship and restoration to bolster wildfire resilience and nurture the forest back toward its majestic old-growth state. Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District will provide support and financial assistance for the transfer, while also receiving a conservation easement and recreational covenant over the property to ensure enduring protection and future public access.

“The benefits of conserving the Russian River Redwoods property are vast,” highlighted Misti Arias, general manager of Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District. “This forest helps recharge our groundwater, sequesters carbon, provides habitat for plants and animals, and so much more. With this acquisition, we are helping to ensure the land is responsibly managed for both natural resources protection and for the health and resilience of our community.”

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