University receives forest land for student research
Humboldt State University is about to receive an 884 acre forest 12 miles from campus with old growth trees.
The forest will be used for field work, research and revenue generation. The land, roughly the size of Central Park, is nestled along Jacoby Creek between Fickle Hill road and Kneeland road. The forest has stands of second growth coastal redwood and old growth western red cedar.
David Greene, forestry professor and the chair of the forestry department at HSU, said the new property will provide amazing opportunities for the College of Natural Resources and Sciences.
“The forest will be heavily used by our departments,” Greene said. “We now have a forest we can actually manage.”
Creek and riparian zone on HSU’s new Jacoby Creek forest on Nov. 25. | Photo by Walter Hackett
The university has been using the campuses neighboring Arcata Community Forest for much of its forest field work. Greene said the new site will eventually provide a means for revenue.
“Eventually we’ll create a timber harvest plan,” Greene said. “For now let’s let it grow.”
According to Greene, this will be great first hand experience for forestry students who can work on creating a timber harvest plan and see the whole process through. The harvest plan will leave the old growth trees alone and eventually take “a little” of the 60-year-old wood.
Greene credits the city of Arcata for creating the new opportunity for the university. After the land went up for sale, the city worked to secure it through funding opportunities from California Fish and Wildlife, Wildlife Conservation Board, grants, and a significant donation from the landowner R.H. Emmerson and Son LLC.
A giant moss covered old growth western red cedar along on HSU’s new Jacoby Creek forest on Nov. 25. Photo by Walter Hackett
Arcata Director of Environmental Services for Arcata, Mark Andre and his team have been working on this project since 2009.
He said the city has had a longstanding and productive relationship with HSU in regard to the Arcata Community Forest.
“This project will enhance and help continue that tradition,” Andre said. “HSU students and faculty are a tremendous and integral asset to the city’s forest management program.”
Andre and his team initially became interested in the property when they heard the landowners were planning putting the property up for auction. The city owns land that neighbors the new forest, and became concerned about potential subdivision and how it could affect the environment and wildlife.
“There are 10 separate parcels on the property so the project will prevent fragmentation and diversion in perpetuity,” Andre said. “We want to buffer our existing assets.”
During a sale, there could be 10 different owners each with different goals and management strategies. Andre said that this acquisition will prohibit subdivision and residential development, prevent significant water withdrawals, promote mature riparian and late succession forest reserves, and guarantee that these lands will be managed for sustainable forestry in conjunction with ecological land management.
“We mainly want to keep the integrity of resources land for coho and steel head as well as maintain a working forest,” Andre said. “We want to maintain wildlife corridor and ensure that the land remains a carbon sink over time.”
Wildlife-wise, the new forest provides habitat for threatened and endangered species including the Pacific fisher and the northern spotted owl.
Recent black bear tracks on HSU’s new Jacoby Creek forest on Nov. 25. Photo by Walter Hackett
“It’s a wilder feeling than our community forest,” Andre said.
Matthew Pedrotti, senior biology major with an ecology and biodiversity emphasis, said he was excited when he heard the news about the new forest.
“It will give biology students an opportunity to measure the impacts of a freshly logged forest,” Pedrotti said.
Currently the forest is in escrow. After it closes at the end of the calendar year, it will be transferred from the city to HSU to be jointly managed through a cooperative agreement. The city and the university will work together on the roads, forest data, scientific studies and public access.
“A bunch of us are alumni here so it was a pleasure to work on this because it felt like we were giving back to the university that set us up,” Andre said.
Fungus thriving on a fallen log in a bed of western sword ferns in HSU’s new Jacoby Creek forest on Nov. 25. Photo by Walter Hackett