Lush sorrel among a coast redwood grove at San Vicente Redwoods.
(Ian Bornath)
Promoted content

Protecting Redwoods in the Santa Cruz Mountains

Presented by Sempervirens Fund

Since the late 1800s Sempervirens Fund has protected more than 35,000 acres of coast redwood forests. Today, they’re working with folks like you to pioneer new models of land preservation and introduce a new era of diverse, well-funded State Parks.

California’s First Land Trust: Sempervirens Fund

Imagine “Silicon Valley” in the late 1800s. Local residents of the rural valley watched in horror as 300 square miles of ancient redwood forests blanketing the Santa Cruz mountains were logged down to bald hills. What could they do?

They joined together in 1900 and protected the largest remaining area of old growth forest, which became Big Basin Redwoods State Park.

Since then, Sempervirens Fund has protected more than 54 square miles of redwood forest and pioneered new models of land management.

Plaque noting Big Basin's creation as California's first State Park thanks to Sempervirens Club (Sempervirens Fund)
The plaque noting Big Basin Redwoods State Park’s creation as California’s first State Park thanks to conservationists who founded Sempervirens Club which is known today as Sempervirens Fund.
(Sempervirens Fund)

CONCERNED CITIZENS: Early Leaders of the Sempervirens Club

In 1899, San Jose photographer Andrew P. Hill was on assignment in Northern California’s Santa Cruz mountains, covering a recent fire in the redwoods that had been put out using wine from a local vineyard. Although he hadn’t thought of himself as an activist or conservationist, he was so moved by his experience with the redwoods that he returned to San Jose and started a campaign to save the remaining coast redwoods—and make sure local residents could see and appreciate them first-hand.

At the time, redwoods were being logged at a frantic pace to build new towns and cities. Hill convened a meeting to discuss what could be done to protect the redwoods. Led by Hill and Carrie Stevens Walter from the San Jose Woman’s Club, this group went camping along the banks of Sempervirens Creek—in what is now Big Basin Redwoods State Park—and formed the Sempervirens Club. The Club committed to contact elected officials and demand protection for the remaining redwoods and for the creation of a public park at Big Basin. They passed a hat, collected $32 to finance their efforts, and launched a fundraising and lobbying campaign to protect the redwood forest from further destruction.

Early Sempervirens Club members pose in the "Auto Tree" in what is now Big Basin Redwoods State Park.
(Sempervirens Fund)

Many of them had seen and experienced the vast, pristine, ancient redwood forest here—before massive logging of the Gold Rush era felled the forests of these mountains. Knowing today what thrived here for millennia—and what can be brought back to life and health—we work to protect and connect the redwood forests of the Santa Cruz mountains into a vast, magnificent, life-giving redwood world that can inspire people and support wildlife for countless generations to come.


AP Hill students visit Big Basin Redwoods State Park as part of a Web of Life School program, sponsored by Sempervirens Fund
For the last 121 years, Sempervirens Fund has worked to establish and expand public parks so that all people have access to redwood forests.
(Wayland Shih)

Pursuing Nature for All

Exploring the diverse ecosystems and marvels of coast redwood forests can be a rich, rewarding, and life-changing experience. But not everyone feels welcome in nature or comfortable visiting our region’s parks. We believe everyone deserves safe, welcoming, and inclusive access to the coast redwood forests of the Santa Cruz mountains. Learn more.

Pioneering New Models of Land Management

Coast redwoods standing tall at San Vicente Redwoods.
(Ian Bornath)

San Vincente Redwoods is a visionary conservation project. In 2011, Sempervirens Fund and its partners came together to purchase the largest unprotected property in the region, saving it forever. A visionary conservation plan addresses each area to protect old-growth redwoods, help overcrowded trees grow, enhance habitat in creeks and forest floors, improve water quality in the creeks, reduce major wildfire risks, and monitor wildlife to help inform future stewardship projects and public access. Learn more.

Advocating for a New Era of State Parks

Sempervirens Fund exec director Sara Barth tours Big Basin State Park following the CZU Lightning Complex wildfire in 2020.
Sempervirens Fund executive director Sara Barth tours Big Basin Redwoods State Park following the CZU Lightning Complex wildfire in 2020.
(Ian Bornath)

Over the past several decades California’s magnificent state parks have been underfunded, understaffed, and on the brink of ruin. For Sempervirens Fund, our state parks are interconnected with our legacy and with the permanent protection of many of the state’s most important redwood forests. We work to ensure that California State Parks is not only functional, but thriving. Over the last decade we worked to save Castle Rock State Park from financial ruin. And following the wildfires that engulfed the state’s forests in 2020, we believe there is a unique moment to re-imagine how state parks—and the risks of wildfire—are managed, and to improve safe, welcoming, and inclusive access to nature for all. Learn more about the future of state parks, including Big Basin Redwoods State Park.

How You Can Help

Following the CZU Lightning Complex wildfire in 2020, resilient redwoods begin to recover in Big Basin Redwoods State Park.
(Ian Bornath)

Protecting the remaining old-growth redwoods and second-growth redwood forests of the Santa Cruz mountains relies on your support, cutting-edge science, and robust and dynamic partnerships with public agencies and landowners, to ensure public parks and protected forests are unified into a resilient, protected, and thoughtfully-managed system. Support Sempervirens Fund today.