Help save the redwoods

Ancient redwood forests are one of the earth's most spectacular natural wonders, yet after years of logging, over 96 percent of North America's ancient redwoods have been lost.

provided by Rainforest Action Network


he ancient redwood forests are the southern-most tip of a great temperate rainforest that once spanned the Pacific Coast from Alaska to Northern California. In the continental United States, this ancient forest is all but gone. A scant four per cent of our original redwoods are still standing but logging in the ancient forests continues, and millennia-old trees are being turned into products for projects.

To rescue the last remaining unprotected redwoods from the chain saw, Rainforest Action Network is calling on concerned citizens, lumberyards, contractors, architects, interior designers, and other building professionals to pledge not to buy old-growth redwood products. Never again should furniture, window frames, hot tubs, decks, and other structures be made from old-growth redwood trees. We have the power to save these ancient forests: if we don't buy it, they won't cut it down.

The largest threatened ancient redwood forest is the 60,000-acre Headwaters Forest, near Eureka, California. Pacific Lumber has clear-cut sections of it, and is currently removing old growth.

If people stop specifying and buying lumber taken from old growth redwood forests, remaining forests will be saved from logging. The ancient forests will still be around for future generations to enjoy and will continue to provide a home for the endangered species that live there.

RAN has sent letters to thousands of professional builders, and our activists have taken to the streets to stop the sale of old growth redwood products. Demonstrations in San Francisco, Sacramento, and Los Angeles, among other locales, have produced an immediate response from the building industry.

Over two-hundred architects, interior designers, contractors, landscapers and lumber yard owners have signed Rainforest Action Network's redwood pledge: "I pledge to protect our last ancient redwood forests by not buying old growth redwood products. I will encourage others to do the same." However, lumber yards and builders that refuse to take the pledge continue to be demonstration targets.

Old growth redwood is sold primarily under the wood grade "Clear Heart." It is most commonly used for paneling, decorative trim, siding, moldings, decks, and hot tubs. There are viable, competitively priced alternatives to using old growth redwood. Certified sustainably harvested wood provides a chain of custody to allow consumers to track the wood from the forest to the store. Reclaimed lumber - salvaged from houses, railroad tracks and other sources helps reduce waste while taking a burden off existing forests. Composite lumber made from wood and recycled plastics is affordably priced, will not rot, does not require finishing or sealing, and is widely available.

Public relations flacks for the lumber industry maintain the fallacy that it is okay to cut down the giant redwoods because wood is a "renewable resource." However, to cut down ecosystems that have been eons in the making, and calling the practice "renewable," makes as much sense as filling in the Grand Canyon because, given enough time, the Colorado River will carve another one. Some of the ancient redwoods are 2,000 years old, and as tall as a 30-story building.

"There are things our society has outgrown," observes Rainforest Action Network founder Randall Hayes. "We no longer make ashtrays out of gorillas' hands. We no longer hunt whales to extinction for oil. We no longer approve of killing elephants for ivory. Now to this list we add lumber derived from majestic ancient redwoods. We can no longer buy old growth redwood products with a clear conscience."


How to identify old-growth redwood

  Biologists define "old-growth" redwood as coming from trees which have been growing for approximately 200 years or longer. The lumber industry defines trees by lumber grades, not age. As old-growth redwood provides the highest quality lumber, it accounts for much of the "upper" or "architectural " grade redwood. Nearly all of the highest grade redwood - clear all heart and clear heart comes from old-growth redwood. Lumber from old-growth redwoods can often be identified by its dark red color; it generally has upwards of 12 rings per inch.


Lumber grades (upper & architectural grades)



  • Clear All Heart: This grade is the most premium grade, all heartwood and free of knots. It is kiln-dried and then used for premium interior/exterior applications such as siding, paneling, trimming, decking, molding and cabinetry.
  • Clear: Similar to Clear All Heart, but contains sapwood.
  • B Heart: Contains limited knots and characteristics not permitted in clear grades; uses similar to Clear All Heart.
  • B Grade: Similar to B Heart, but contains sapwood. Uses are similar to those of Clear All Heart.

Other "Common" or "Garden" grades of redwood lumber include "Construction" and "Merchantable" grade lumber, either heartwood or sapwood. The primary difference between the upper and lower grades are appearance, number of knots, size of growth rings, and structural strength. The common grades probably do not come from old-growth trees, but may come from clear-cut forests.


Sustainable solutions

Certified sustainably harvested redwood

  Around the world, hundreds of private landowners, forest managers, manufacturers and retailers now produce and supply wood products from well-managed forests. They are supported by a network of independent certification organizations that assess their management practices against a stringent set of environmental and social criteria. Producers and manufacturers who satisfy these criteria may apply the certifier's label to their product. So, forest product certification provides a "chain of custody" to allow consumer tracking of products from forest to market, ensuring accountability of producers and cultivating trust among buyers. Certified harvested redwood is competitively priced with non-certified redwood.
Reclaimed/recycled lumber
  For non-weight-bearing features (window framing and decks, for example) consider reclaimed or recycled lumber. Reclaimed lumber, from houses, railroad tracks and other sources, help reduce waste while taking a burden off forests. It is cheaper than certified redwood, but can be harder to find.
Composite lumber
  The term "composite" lumber does not describe one specific product, but rather a broad range of materials with various qualities and characteristics. In general, it is made from recycled plastics and wood, although the amount of recycled content may vary widely. Competitively priced, it does not require finishing or sealing, won't rot and is widely available.
Non-wood choices
  Along with using certified, recycled or composite lumber, there is a growing list of non-wood options. In construction, lumber may be replaced with other materials such as concrete, stone or straw bale as structural components. Earthen building techniques and other enviro-friendly technologies are continually being refined. Reconsidering our habits of consumption and lifestyle can open up many new and creative choices to help improve our world and the world of our children.


For more information

  Contact the organizations listed below to find out more about the growing movement towards alternative construction materials and sustainable forest management.


Good Wood Alliance


289 College Street Burlington, VT 05401
Tel: (802) 862-4448
Fax: (802) 658-4443
Email: warp

The Good Wood Alliance is an association dedicated to serving the needs and promoting the interests of the emerging sustainable forest products industry which follows the principles and criteria of the Forest stewardship Council.


Sources of alternative redwood products

EcoTimber International

  1020 Heinz Avenue Berkeley, CA 94701
Tel: (510) 549-3000
Fax: (510) 549-3001
Email: ecotimber


Harwood Mackenzie

P.O. Box 694 Redding, CA 96099
Tel: (916) 247-1727
Fax: (916) 247-1728
Email: MacKenzie