Redwoods and Restoration Stewardship

Filigreen: An Expanding and Holistic Landscape

We are honored and awed by the generosity, patience, and good fortune that conspired to allow Living Lands Trust to complete the purchase of over 300 acres of redwood forest (see Filigreen Forest Storymap).  At the end of January, the Trust completed its second installment payment successfully!  This land will no longer be just another marketable commodity but will be protected and honored for the natural gift that it is, filled with abundant life including one of the longest-lived species on Earth.  But protecting land is not enough.  It is the skilled stewardship of those who know how to work in harmony with nature to foster the health of both ecology and local economy that holds the promise of creating community resiliency.  Living Lands recently received a brief report from our friends and partners at Filigreen Farm, which indicates that the love and care of their regenerative stewardship has indeed begun to spread to the forest.  Thanks to the growers and land stewards at Filigreen for bringing their incredible skill and experience to bear on this newly protected parcel of forest!

Click to Read Filigreen Farm's Restoration Start-up Report


A recent acquisition on the part of Living Lands Trust (formerly Yggdrasil Land Foundation, and the farm’s lessor) has greatly expanded the landscape and, indeed, the horizon of Filigreen Farm.

The purchase was the 318-acre forested ridge that runs the entire western boundary of the farm, and the south boundary of the farm’s small stand of second-growth forest known as “Velma’s Grove”. Much of the original old-growth forest on the property had been logged with the arrival of early European settlers in the late 1800’s, then logged, again in the 1960’s. At the time, a two-acre stand of old-growth trees were left standing in a low-lying area with a high site-class (rich alluvial soils that yield the finest trees).  The land was later bequeathed to a local religious group for their use as a recreational site, with particular attention to the conservation of its old growth. In 1989, the church sold the property to a local logger, who did an extensive cut that included clear-cutting the two-acre stand of ancient trees, the last such old growth Redwood on Anderson Creek. It was from this logger that Living Lands purchased the forest, now over thirty years later, just as he was preparing to conduct another extensive timber operation on the ridge.

Observation of the ridge through the years of drought has brought into focus the alarming rate of forest tree mortality, particularly in the Douglas Fir species. To mitigate this and to keep pace with potentially dramatic climate shifts, the farm is beginning to proactively propagate new forest seedlings- initially Redwood and Incense Cedar- hoping to make up for the ongoing tree mortality. The intention is not to rely heavily on Douglas Fir in future plantings, but to moderately change some of the composition of the forest towards Incense Cedars, because of their ability to withstand heat and drought, efficiently. They are native to this watershed but would likely be a new species introduction into this particular forest, with a focus on its more exposed, southern aspects.

The farm will be relying on the most productive method of silviculture propagation, developed in the 1930’s by Alfred Dunemann, known as the Dunemann Seed Bed. These seedbeds are constructed, primarily, with the use of leaf litter, as opposed to the more typical mineral soil mix, to germinate and grow conifer species. The use of leaf litter is among the best means of inoculating a seed bed with suitable fungi for mycorrhizal associations, mimicking the forest floor with its natural seedbed of leaf litter, duff and similar detritus. Published results have indicated that one-year-old forest seedlings from a Dunemann seedbed are 30% taller than seedlings from mineral soil seed beds.

The leaf litter, unlike mineral soils, offers very light resistance to the formation and ramification of fibrous root hairs, which spread without difficulty in every direction such that plants grown in this way have remarkably bushy root systems. During the ongoing decomposition of the leaf litter, nitrogen is constantly being released and this is freely absorbed into the plants, giving rise to unusually strong shoot growth development, as decomposition heat is constantly being generated. The period of growth in a Dunemann Bed does not finish with the normal growing season, but continues well into late in the year, leading to sturdier woody stems and much stronger seedlings than those grown in traditional soil conditions. In addition, this system dramatically reduces the emergence of weed seedlings, compared to weed growth in mineral- based soils.

The farm has fabricated a specially elevated Dunemann Bed. The twelve-inch-deep bed includes an open mesh bottom so that the young tap roots are “air-pruned”, encouraging a strong, natural, fibrous root system. The seedlings stand closer together than in an orthodox nursery bed, lined out only six inches apart. This close proximity offers protection and produces a kind of a microclimate, while enabling a more intensive production of young trees. Their harvest, in advance of planting out, is easily accomplished by pulling the stems up with a mass of new roots as one unit, then gently pulling apart each individual tree. The seed bed will be shaded by 50% shade cloth in the hot summer months to simulate growing conditions under a natural forest canopy.

The goal is to transform areas of the forest that have been heavily cut in the past and have reverted to shorter-lived Tanoak species. This site, historically, has seen the biggest and the best trees cut, a practice known as high-grading, whereby the largest and finest trees are removed with each successive timber operation. Consequently, there are no seed-bearing Redwoods in the forest and, therefore, no Redwood seedlings. The intention is to plant Redwoods underneath the Tanoak canopy to become the ultimate succession and climax species, as was the case for millennium, prior to the arrival of the European.

In addition, these redwood seedlings, with their extensive root system ready for transplant, can also serve to further the four decades of riparian reforestation on the half-mile extent of Anderson Creek that bisects Filigreen Farm, helping to return shade canopy and foster habitat for the local salmonoid species and myriad other forms of biotic life on and in the creek. Existing reforestation efforts on this stretch of the creek have demonstrated that Redwood trees can grow as a riparian species that can withstand the direct onslaught of a winter flood. Newly deposited silt from such flooding can be captured by the trees’ advantageous rooting up the stem, a distinct characteristic of many riverine species.

Filigreen is propagating these redwood seedlings from seed collected by Carl Jackovitch, a seed collector with four decades of cumulative knowledge of California’s tree species, their diverse habitats and climatic adaptations, and their place-based characteristics. His clients include forest tree nurseries and seed companies in both hemispheres, universities,

The Nature Conservancy, timber companies, and the National Park Service. For this endeavor, the farm is utilizing seed collected from a hotter and drier provenance than Mendocino County, in the Santa Cruz mountains, as a hedge against the ecological realities of a warming planet.