Management Vision and Strategy
The primary site for the green burial activity of Sacred Groves is Rips Redwoods, a beautiful ridge-top redwood forest that borders the Gualala River in north-western Sonoma County.
Our vision and strategy for managing the land at Rips Redwoods is a holistic approach supporting an old growth forest mosaic of meadows, riparian zones, wetlands, as well as productive lands producing nourishment and materials for the humans in the mix. Fruit and vegetables, eggs, livestock, timber, and wildland food are all elements. Nourishing and encouraging an understanding and connection to the natural world and the earth are central themes in our practice, as seen with our green burial and educational programs.
The Land and forests
In mid 2013, Rip Goelet, a seasoned real estate investor and asset manager, as well as a dedicated conservationist, bought a substantial portion of the historic Don and Bessie Richardson Ranch on the Sonoma coast near Stewarts Point. The extended Richardson family is one of the pioneer families of the North Sonoma coast and have long been active as foresters, farmers, and community builders for the past 150 years. The property, which is 1620 acres in size, is located on both east and west sides of Miller Ridge east of the Gualala River, 2.5 miles east of California Highway 1 at Stewarts Point. It is accessed via Skaggs Springs Rd, a portion of which forms the southern boundary of the property. The property is an old ridge-top ranch with over 105 acres of virtually flat open land on top with good soils, surrounded by forests. Historically the ranch used to accommodate all manner of homestead farming and ranching, as well as timber harvesting. A fully permitted pond with 135 acre-feet of water storage serves the ranch as an agricultural water supply. The ranch has approximately 2 miles of frontage on the south fork of the Gualala River and includes the site of the historic Clipper Mill. There are eleven separate legal parcels on the property as established by Certificates of Compliance.
There are 1422 acres of forested land on the property, predominantly redwood, as well as large amounts of Douglas fir, red alder, tanoak, yew, and numerous other species. While the forest was harvested continuously until recently, there was no clear cutting and it now contains over 30 million board feet of harvestable redwood plus millions of board feet of fir. Long-term plans are to restore this forest to old growth conditions, and to fund ranch maintenance and property taxes through very light management of the lands as working forest, from carbon credit revenue, and from revenues from a green burial program. Rips Redwoods is committed to manage this long-term working landscape so that it will sequester carbon in perpetuity.
Fire is a core ecological process in most California ecosystems. For thousands of years, the Bay Area was home to some of California’s highest populations of Native Americans, who used fire for a multitude of reasons: to generate fresh forage for grazing and browsing mammals, to stimulate growth of valuable basket weaving materials, to control acorn weevil populations ensuring delectable acorns for wildlife and people alike, to reduce fire hazard around home sites, to clear walking paths, and so much more.
In the North Bay specifically, nearly all of our terrestrial ecosystems depend on site-specific fire regimes. Here, nearly all plant species depend on regular fire to thrive—each system with its own unique relationship with fire and specific fire needs. Our open spaces are adapted to a specific frequency, intensity and timing of fire as a result of those millennia of fire-adapted stewardship by people.
At Rips Redwoods, we are using prescribed burning to help reduce fuel build-up in our forest lands and to rejuvenate some of our grassland. Additional fuel treatments we utilize include mowing, grazing, vegetation thinning, pile burning of thinned or dropped limbs, as well as installing shaded fuel breaks (i.e. forested fire breaks) to help maintain access along our roads and ridgetops.
Very light harvest of down logs and some trees from the forest will be a component of our management practice, with the goal of encouraging a healthy forest with large trees. The ranch operates a portable saw mill to produce lumber for its needs to repair the old barns and build some additional housing for the ranch workers and visitors.
In October 2018 Rips Redwoods conveyed a conservation easement over the entire property to the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District. The easement eliminated subdivision and development of the property, extinguished the possibility of wine grape planting, and protected the forest and other natural resources in perpetuity. Prior to the easement the property consisted of eleven legal parcels, had approximately 105 acres of land perfect for wine grape planting, and had over 30 million board feet of harvestable redwood timber growing in its forests. In additional to the easement, Rips Redwoods is allowing the Sonoma County Parks Dept. to establish a trail for public use along the Gualala River on the property. The conservation easement allows for a wide variety of uses such as educational programs, nature study, certain cottage industries, and other earth-based activities as long as they don’t infringe on the conservation values being protected by the easement.
Carbon sequestration program
The Climate Action Reserve (CAR) is a highly credible nonprofit organization that promotes the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions using market-based solutions. CAR has established a voluntary GHG offset trading program in the U.S. Among its many protocols for quantifying emissions reductions, CAR has developed the Forest Project Protocol, which allows forest owners to offer carbon offsets in the form of Climate Reserve Tons (CRT’s), after applying a rigorous set of calculations that adhere to project development standards and a subsequent third-party verification process. These procedures assure CRT purchasers that their carbon offsets are real, additional, permanent, unambiguously owned, unique and traceable for 100 years. As with conservation easements, CRT’s and the Forest Protocol provide unprecedented opportunities for lasting native forest conservation, providing purchasers of forest CRT’s assurance that their energy use offset dollars are going to the durable cause of forest protection as well as carbon sequestration and other tangible environmental benefits. The carbon sequestration project at Rips Redwoods conforms to the requirements of the California Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32) cap-and-trade provisions that allows the carbon credits (ARBOCs) to be sold to entities wishing to offset carbon emissions to meet their legal compliance obligations. In addition, Rips Redwoods sells carbon credits on the voluntary market to anyone who want to offset their carbon emissions by investing in permanent carbon sequestration in the redwood trees on the property.