Common Questions About Rainbow Ridge

Where is Rainbow Ridge located?
Rainbow Ridge lies approximately forty miles south of Eureka, and about eight miles inland from the Pacific Ocean. Humboldt Redwoods State Park, the largest tract of ancient redwood forest, is situated to the southeast.

How large is the Rainbow Ridge Forest?
The forest includes about 3,000 acres of old-growth Douglas-fir forest, some 2,000 acres of grassland, and about 9,000 acres of second-growth forest from logging carried out between 1960 and 1998. The forest includes two tracts, one in the Lower North Fork of the Mattole, where most of the old-growth is located, and the other, in the Upper North Fork, adjoining Humboldt Redwoods State Park.

Why is the Rainbow Ridge Forest so important?
Rainbow Ridge supports species such as the northern goshawk, the red tree vole (a small mammal), and many others which depend on ancient forests for their habitat. According to a map prepared in 1988 by the Mattole Restoration Council, 91 percent of the old-growth forests in the Mattole watershed were cut between 1947 and 1988. Of the 9 percent that remains, the largest block is located in the Lower North Fork of the Mattole, in the area known as the Rainbow Ridge Forest. Large contiguous blocks are especially important because they insulate the creatures that inhabit them from the edges of the forest — home to predators such as possums, great horned owls, and ravens.

The forests of Rainbow Ridge hold together the soil in what is likely the most seismically active area in California. Situated at the meeting of three tectonic plates, the area experiences frequent earthquakes and monsoon-like downpours, making it exceptionally vulnerable to the impacts of timber harvest. Clearcut logging leaves the land exposed to the full force of torrential rains, adding to already high background rates of erosion. Raw landslide scars caused by logging in the 1980s continue to bleed sediment into downstream tributaries, which support steelhead trout and coho and chinook salmon. Further logging would damage what little clean-water habitat remains.

Rainbow Ridge is significant beyond the Mattole as well. Old-growth coastal Douglas-fir forests are not as well protected as other types of forest in California, such as the coastal redwoods or the Sierran mixed conifer forest. Rainbow Ridge and the Angelo Preserve near Branscomb (Mendocino County), at the headwaters of the South Fork of the Eel River, contain the two largest expanses of old-growth coastal Douglas-fir in the state. This rare and magnificent habitat deserves protection.

Who owns Rainbow Ridge?
Houston-based Maxxam Corp. owns Rainbow Ridge through its subsidiary Scotia-Pacific, and manages it through another subsidiary, The Pacific Lumber Company. Rainbow Ridge represents less than 7 percent of the company’s 208,000 acres of timberland in Humboldt County.

What are Maxxam’s plans for Rainbow Ridge?
The company’s Sustained Yield Plan reveals that Maxxam intends to cut all of its old-growth Douglas-fir holdings in the Mattole over the next decade or so. In the short-term, Maxxam is pursuing seven timber harvest plans in the Rainbow Ridge area, covering nearly 300 acres.

A 53-acre plan, 1-99-475-Hum, was approved by the California Dept. of Forestry (CDF) on Sept. 8 but was immediately challenged in court by the Lost Coast League, the Environmental Protection Information Center, and the Humboldt Watershed Council. The plan’s execution was halted the same day by a stay granted in the state Court of Appeals in San Francisco. A court hearing on a temporary restraining order is set for Sept. 28, before Judge Cissna in Humboldt County Superior Court in Eureka.

As of September 27, 2000, CDF had approved only one other of the seven plans, 1-00-218-Hum, which allows the company to remove logs cut in 1998 under plan 1-96-413-Hum, during the days that passed after its approval and before it too was halted by court order.

Three other plans totaling 104 acres {142 with no-cut zones} — 1-00-020-Hum, 1-00-031-Hum, and 1-98-260-Hum — are expected to come up on CDF’s docket for decision during the week of October 9. Two other plans — 1-00-342-Hum and 1-00-309-Hum — are not far behind, which would subject more than 100 additional acres to the saw. 

What are the alternatives?
 A team of local citizens is developing an alternative vision for Rainbow Ridge, which includes protection for the old-growth, ecologically responsible harvest of the second-growth, and continued low-impact grazing of the prairies. They are in discussions with non-profit organizations that would be potential title-holders of the land, are seeking financial support for an acquisition, and call upon Maxxam to declare itself a willing seller of Rainbow Ridge.

For more information on Rainbow Ridge, please contact the following:


Ancient Forest International  707-923-3015


Environmental Protection Information Center  707-923-2931
Humboldt Watershed Council  707-443-7433
Lost Coast League  707-629-3500, 629-3679


Alliance for Sustainable Jobs and the Environment  509-994-4386, 503-736-9777
Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment 510-658-0702

Media Resources

Mattole Forest Defenders  707-441-3828


Mattole Defense
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