by Briana Burns, August 24, 2016
I was recently chatting with Jan Pallazola and she mentioned the current project of the Save the Redwoods League purchasing a conservation easement on the Maillard Ranch. So I found the flyer online and was delighted to read about this project. It is exactly, on a large scale, what we were trying to do, on a minuscule scale by comparison, with Tony Delaqua’s 115 acre homestead on Peachland Road when we donated an easement on it in 2005.
Like the Maillards, we wished to protect our 40 acres of redwoods and Douglas Fir, none of it old growth, but good second growth, from ever again being clear-cut. I have only recently learned from the Land Trust Alliance’s “Conservation Easement Handbooks,” that ours (and Maillard’s) is called a “working-forest easement,” providing for managed forest harvest into the future. Our easement is also a working farmland agricultural easement, allowing continued use of the open acres that Tony used for vineyard, orchard, and animals. These were all commercial endeavors that Clem Heryford from 1910, Tony from 1917 to 1949, and Taylor who logged the canyon in 1952, pursued to make a living from the property. Like the Maillards who raise cattle and do sustainable logging, our easement provided for these activities that had been practiced for 100 years. Clem and Tony probably harvested one old growth redwood per year, to split into stakes or rails which they hauled to the Valley on horseback to sell. By the time Wes Smoot worked with Taylor on the logging of our property in 1952, he has told me recently that in 1952 the redwoods were all gone. I wonder if he meant just the old growth, as there were, as of 1995 when I did a timber survey, 769 redwoods of over 18-inch dbh [diameter at breast height]. I have no idea how many that size there are nowadays. But our easement limits timber harvest and specifically says that nothing over 36-inches dbh may be cut. We have no idea if a conservation easement will last for 1000 years, but we did our best to ensure that some of those old growth trees Clem and Tony cut down will be replaced 1000 years from now.
I know that Anderson Valley residents are concerned also about “dangers to the Navarro River from erosion.” We, too, were concerned about the erosion of Tony Creek. When we bought the property in 1970, there had been a landslide following the 1952 logging, where a whole hillside had slid, leaving a bare swath maybe 50 feet wide and 100 feet high. We owners planted 500 Douglas Fir seedlings on this hillside and now, 45 years later, it is a nice stand of trees. But the creek-bed, which was an eroded gully from 4 to 8 feet deep in 1970, has not healed. We thought if we left the land alone, the erosion would fill in. Instead, the eroded creek bed is now in some places 8 or 12 feet deep. Prudee Heryford, who lived as a girl on this property in 1910, told me that when she was a girl, before the post-WWII logging boom, the creek ran at ground level. And on a USGS map of the 1940s, the creek was a blue line creek through Tony’s property and above, meaning it ran year round. Plus we know there was enough water in Tony Creek for Tony to have a water ram that pumped water up to a tank above his house.
By the time we bought the property in 1970, the creek did not run all summer. And by now the USGS shows Tony Creek as blue-line only half-way up through our property. We’d like to do anything we could to restore the creek and its bed but obviously leaving it alone hasn’t helped. Now, with increasing drought weather, we wonder if anything can be done. The erosion continues. It is sad to see. Prudee told me that when she saw the canyon in the 1970s, after the logging, she felt her dad in 1910 had had no idea what his timber harvest had begun! Her sad words were, “He didn’t know what he was doing.”
Our goal was the same as the Maillards’, to continue to allow limited timber harvest and agricultural use, which provided a homesteader’s living over the past 100 years. Our easement was written to allow Wendy Rowe to make a living on the property, as Clem and Tony had done before, with her ventures of organic farming, pony breeding, and weekend classes for city dwellers to come and camp and learn country living skills that Wendy taught, such as soap-making, wool-spinning, herbal extracts, etc. There were already three cabins on the property that she used for weekend rental, as well as for housing for WWOOFRs, Willing Workers on Organic Farms, farm laborers who helped her in return for room and board.
As many of you no doubt know, Wendy is now married to an Austrian and lives happily outside of Vienna, with one of her Highland ponies providing compost for her organic garden there.
I know I used to enjoy Charmian Blattner’s contributions to the AVA years ago. I hope you enjoy mine.
Love and best wishes to all in Anderson Valley, from Black Earth, Wisconsin, a place with some of the best soil in the whole United States!