Midpen Biologist Karine Tokatlian in La Honda Creek Preserve's redwood forest. (Kyle Ludowitz)

La Honda Creek Preserve Forest Health Project

Midpen Biologist Karine Tokatlian in La Honda Creek Preserve's redwood forest. (Kyle Ludowitz)

Mature forests are complex ecosystems that have survived for millennia. They teach us about living with fire and climate change, and how to care for the formerly logged, second-growth forests on Midpen lands. 

Building on the success of several partner projects in the region, Midpen is planning for a similar restoration forestry project to improve the health of approximately 700 acres of redwood forest in La Honda Creek Preserve and is currently developing a work plan based on current science and stakeholder input.

Natural Resources Protection and Restoration
Natural Resources
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Measure AA

Goals and Objectives

Forests throughout the Santa Cruz Mountains have been significantly altered by humans through intense historic logging resulting in dense regrowth, fire suppression resulting in fuels accumulation, rural development, introduced pathogens such as sudden oak death and the effects of climate change. 

The goals of this project are to:

  • Restore and promote healthy, resilient, mature forests
  • Improve watershed health and function
  • Enhance wildlife habitat and carbon storage
  • Increase the forest's resilience to fire, disease and climate change.

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This video highlights restoration forestry projects in the Santa Cruz Mountains and beyond completed by our partners at Save the Redwoods League, Sempervirens Fund, California State Parks and Peninsula Open Space Trust. It is a recording of a presentation given to Midpen's board of directors in July 2021.

Restoration Forestry Science

Current science shows us that diversity of age, species, size and genetics of trees are key to forest resilience and survival. Mature forests are spatially diverse with trees standing together and individually interspersed with fallen logs and natural openings.

Selectively removing some small trees in formerly logged second-growth forests can accelerate tree growth by reducing competition for sunlight and water, putting the forest on a path to return to mature, old-growth conditions sooner.

Selective Thinning is One Forest Health Strategy

Selectively removing some small trees in formerly logged second-growth stands is a restoration forestry technique that has been successfully used by Midpen’s conservation partners in the region, and is proposed as part of Midpen’s La Honda Forest Health Project. This strategy can accelerate tree growth by reducing competition for sunlight and water, putting the forest on a path to return to mature, old-growth conditions sooner.

Using Timber Harvest Plans for Conservation Projects

In order to implement this strategy Midpen will go through a public, environmental review and permitting process to have a timber harvest plan created. These plans are prepared by registered professional foresters and detail site-specific treatments for each forest stand to achieve desired ecological outcomes. The process for creating these plans typically takes two years with Cal Fire as the lead agency and includes a robust public process and inspection from local, state, and federal agencies prior to approval.

In some cases where feasible and ecologically beneficial, removing selectively thinned trees from the forest can reduce fuels for potential wildland fire while keeping the stored carbon intact. While most selectively thinned would be too small to have any commercial value, if such trees could be used as building materials, Midpen’s forest management policies require that any funds generated would be put directly back into supporting the forest restoration project.

Forests: A Powerful Tool for Climate Change Resilience

Forests actively clean the air and store carbon. Mature redwoods capture and store more carbon per acre than any other tree or plant. The trees in the La Honda Creek Preserve project area contain approximately 440,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide. They sequester approximately 16,500 metric tons of carbon each year, equivalent to avoiding the emissions of 3,600 cars driven in one year. The proposed project would increase carbon storage and sequestration over time by accelerating the growth of redwood trees.


More About Forest Health Projects


June 26, 2019

Public meeting: Award of contract for forest assessment and planning. (agenda and minutes)


La Honda Forest Health Assessment and Management Plan prepared. 

July 28, 2021

Public meeting: Midpen board adopts La Honda Forest Health Assessment and Management Plan and authorizes addition of newly purchased parcel to the project. (agenda and minutes)

Oct. 12, 2022

Public meeting: Midpen board review of Forest Health Plan. (agenda and minutes)

July 26, 2023

Public meeting: Study session with the Midpen board on the La Honda Forest Health Project. (agenda and minutes

Oct. 2, 2023

Request for proposals issued seeking a registered professional forester to prepare a timber harvest plan, conduct stakeholder and public outreach and support project implementation.

Jan. 10, 2023

Public meeting: Award of contract to registered professional forester. 

2024 - 2025

Preparation of timber harvest plan, stakeholder and public outreach.
2025-2026Timber harvest plan submitted to Cal Fire for review. 
2026-2028Pending approval from Cal Fire, initiate implementation of forest health treatments. 


Partners and Stakeholders

Midpen is working with several regional partners who have successfully completed similar projects and studies to develop a sound, science-based approach.