Humboldt Journal of Social Relations


In 1999, the Headwaters Forest Reserve was established in Humboldt County after more than 20 years of community activism, negotiations, and litigation. The ‘last stand’ of unprotected, privately-owned old growth redwood had finally been safeguarded, though many on the North Coast felt that the final deal fell far short of what was needed to protect the watershed’s ecological functioning. This article uses academic and journalistic research, supplemented by oral histories, to make three main points about the North Coast ‘post deal.’ One, forest management practices in the region have evolved to be more consistent with the practices of ecological forestry. Two, the emergence of a restoration-based economy has come to partially fill the void left by the exit of the extractive economy. And three, Headwaters Forest itself has evolved from a site of contention to one of collaboration. The piece argues that the ‘owls vs. jobs’ framework never quite fit the Headwaters saga, and ultimately concludes that despite its geographic isolation, threats to North Coast forest ecosystems are inimically connected with global forces like climate change that intersect with local, place-based advocacy efforts.

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