Exhibits: The Lands: National Landscape Conservation System
Headwaters Forest Reserve
The Headwaters Forest Reserve stands alone in the National Landscape Conservation System. This parcel of land, near the ocean in Humboldt County, California, was formerly owned by a timber company, who sold it to the Bureau of Land Management and the State of California in 1999. Environmentalists had been opposing the logging of the central stands of old-growth forest, so the government negotiated its purchase, and is now planning restoration of habitat and watersheds. About 40% of the 7400 acres is old-growth forest, and is crucial habitat for several threatened species: the bald eagle, the marbled murrelet, the northern spotted owl, and the coho salmon.
Old-growth habitat provides a cool, moist environment for a variety of wildlife species, several of which can only find their nesting or foraging grounds within this habitat type. Moisture-loving animals, such as insects, amphibians, and mollusks, tend to thrive in old-growth forests. Banana slugs and other detritus feeders are an important and conspicuous component of this habitat because they process organic material throughout the forest floor. Several salamander species live in the old-growth section of the reserve, as well as pileated woodpeckers, numerous songbirds, peregrine falcons, silver-haired bats, and the northern flying squirrel. Aquatic habitats in the Reserve include the headwaters of Salmon Creek, approximately five miles of the South Fork Elk River, including its headwaters at Elkhead Springs, and the entire Little South Fork Elk River. South Fork Elk River supports coho salmon, chinook salmon, steelhead, and cutthroat trout within the Reserve boundaries.
Another interesting feature of the Reserve is the ghost town of Falk, which lies in the northwest section, about 6 miles southeast of Eureka. The town was built in 1884 and deserted by 1937. Little remains of the old town, but it is an interesting reminder of the transience of boom towns. Other historic sites include a military route from 1850 (which may have been a prehistoric trail used by local Native Americans), and the Elk River Mill and Lumber Company buildings.
This area had been heavily logged for over 100 years, and the land is scarred by roads, clearcutting, and other disturbances. Noxious weeds and other invasive species have sprung up in distubed areas, and species sensitive to human distubance, such as the northern spotted owl, have suffered greatly. Watersheds have become silted from road building and clearcutting, degrading habitat for salmon and steelhead.
The BLM is working with the Fish and Wildlife Service to improve vegetation and watersheds, and to create a suitable environment for the recovery of the threatened wildlife. The final plan is still under consideration, but the interim management plan restricts the number of visitors to the Reserve each day and also prohibits hunting, mechanized and motorized vehicle use, camping, or horseback riding. Visitors are asked to stay on existing trails to minimize impact on the old-growth habitat. Collecting plants is allowed only with a special use permit. Trails are closed during wet weather to minimize sediment in the streams and trail damage. Eventually, the BLM hopes to create two trails through the Reserve, which would follow old logging roads and skirt the old-growth area, protecting a large area of old-growth forest from human disturbance.
The BLM and the State of California are developing a coordinated management plan, in cooperation with other interested agencies, private groups, and individuals, to guide the future management of this special area. Although some initial restoration work, signing, and other necessary steps will be taken immediately, the cooperative management planning process, which will guide all other activities is expected to take about a year. All suggestions and ideas from interested members of the public are welcome. Comments can be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or sent by regular mail to P.O. Box 189445, Sacramento, CA 95818-9445.
All material copyright ©2002 - 2018, Public Lands Interpretive Association except photographs where ownership is otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.