My encounter with Charlotte Mailliard Schultz was brief but spectacular.
The legendary San Franciscan and I had two long telephone conversations 30 plus years ago. I have never forgotten them.
The first was brief, and business like. Mendocino County’s Mailliard Ranch had been cited by state officials for being an outstanding example of timber harvest management across its 14,000-acre family ranch along Fish Rock Road. The honor came during the height of tensions on the North Coast over logging of the last remaining stands of old growth redwoods.
Family member Larry Mailliard is general partner of the Mailliard Ranch in Yorkville, but Charlotte, the savvy socialite, at the time was an equal after her first husband Jack Mailliard died. Charlotte had Jack Mailliard buried in Cathedral Grove at the ranch, his favorite place to be.
I sought out Charlotte Mailliard for a story because I was intrigued how a high-profile San Franciscan was engaged in a family-owned timber operation in an era when logging practices were under intense scrutiny. At first, Charlotte was agreeable. She saw the relevance of how the family’s long-term management practices worked, and how they might set an example statewide. We agreed to do a follow up, formal interview for The Press Democrat. A few weeks later, however, Charlotte in her ever so charming way backed out. She and the family decided they did not want to be drawn into the fiery public debate over logging practices that was unfolding around them.
In 1954 the 242-acre Mailliard State Natural Reserve inside the ranch was donated to the state by John Ward Mailliard Jr. a conservationist and longtime member of the Save the Redwoods League. In February of this year, Save the Redwoods League announced it was paying Mailliard family descendants $24.7 million to buy a conservation easement over the sweeping Mailliard Ranch. The 14,838-acre property is believed to be the largest family-owned coastal redwood forest remaining in California.
I recall Charlotte and I spending an hour in 1990 debating the merits of her decision to not sit down for an interview about the Mailliard logging operations. While Charlotte rightly credited nephew Larry with implementing and managing the family’s redwood logging operations, she clearly was informed about the environmental related issues and how the ranch managed them.
Charlotte was proud of the Mailliard family legacy, but she concluded that a full blown profile on the ranch’s current logging operations might exacerbate public tensions locally. “Whatever I say might come off as pointing fingers at others. That is not now, or ever will be my intention. The Mailliard practices speak for themselves,” she declared diplomatically.
I pushed for the story as any good journalist would. But in the end, I agreed to back off. In between we had a rambling, delightful conversation including stories about our backgrounds. She was a small-town girl from the Texas panhandle. I was a country boy from the Sacramento Valley. We understood that when opportunities present themselves, you grab them. I still remember Charlotte’s enthusiastic comments about finding herself living with Jack Mailliard in an old San Francisco house with a knock-out view of the Golden Gate Bridge. “I wake up, look out and thank God every morning,” Charlotte said.
Our long conversation ended about an hour later. I felt like we had become friends. It was a great gift of hers. I am glad I was a recipient.