What's Happening With California's Redwood Trees?

Mapping genomes of Redwood Trees

CBS "Sunday Morning" will feature the latest efforts to restore old-growth redwood forests. (Sidebar is from state Senator Mike McQuire (D)-Healdsburg

Posted: Jun 30, 2018 3:12 PM
Updated: Jun 30, 2018 6:19 PM

PROGRAM ALERT: CBS will feature a story about mapping the genome of redwoods in Northern California on "Sunday Morning," which will be broadcast Sunday, June 30, 2018 at 7:00 a.m. on Channel 12-KHSL.

CBS "Sunday Morning" will feature scientists recent work on redwood trees on the June 30, 2018 broadcast. It airs at 7:00 a.m. Sunday.

The"Great Redwood Trail" bill is making its way through the state legislature

From Thursday, May 31, 2018 - By California State Senator Mike McGuire

Sacramento, CA – Senator Mike McGuire’s groundbreaking bill that will create the Great Redwood Trail, which will extend from the San Francisco Bay to the Humboldt Bay, is one step closer to reality after it was approved with a unanimous 36-0 vote in the State Senate last night.

“There is tremendous support for this trail project both in the state Legislature and on the North Coast and we couldn’t be more grateful for the support thus far,” said McGuire, noting the strong bi-partisan vote in the Senate and significant local backing. “However, there is still major work to do and we know that anything that makes a big difference is never easy. We need to resolve the significant financial debt that NCRA has racked up over the years as our first step.”

McGuire is continuing to meet with state government agencies, land owners, trail advocates and transportation officials on a plan to work out the agency’s financial debts and chart a way forward for the popular trail system. 

The bill, SB 1029, has become one of the top priorities for environmental organizations around the state, making the Green California “Hot List” of critical bills this year. This list is compiled by leading environmental organization like the League of Conservation Voters, the Sierra Club, Trout Unlimited and dozens more. The California Transportation Commission is also in support of this important bill.

“From the San Francisco Bay, through the incredible beauty of wine country, alongside the glistening banks of the Russian and Eel Rivers, into the stunning old growth Redwood forests, and up to and around panoramic Humboldt Bay – this is truly an incredible piece of earth. SB 1029 sets the stage to turn this 300 mile long-suffering train track into a world renowned trail system that will benefit locals and visitors alike and be a boon to our local economies,” Senator Mike McGuire said.

The Great Redwood Trail will be a significant economic driver for the rural North Coast communities it would wind through. California outdoor recreation is one of the fastest growing sectors of the Golden State’s economy. It generates over $92 billion a year here in California, is responsible for nearly 700,000 jobs with over $30 billion in wages, and brings over $6 billion in tax revenues back to state and local communities. The trail will attract hundreds of thousands of locals and visitors alike to hike this spectacular landscape and inject needed funds into our small, rural economies.

The North Coast Railroad Authority will be dissolved through SB 1029, and the 300-mile-long right-of-way will be segmented roughly at the halfway point. The Northern Segment, from Willits to Arcata, will be transferred to the newly created Great Redwood Trail Agency who will begin railbanking the right-of-way and start the planning for the trail, including a significant community input process. The Southern Segment will be transferred to Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit who will be responsible for passenger and freight trains, and will build the southern section of the Great Redwood Trail.

There are not many old growth redwoods left in the world. They are among the oldest living things on the planet. Scientists are trying to bring these majestic trees back.

"Sunday Morning" Correspondent Lee Cowan visits California's Big Basin Redwoods State Park to report on a movement to map the genome of the coast redwood tree and its relative, the giant sequoia, in order to restore old-growth forests.

Did you know that the California Senate has declared 2018 “The Year of the Redwoods?"

A resolution authored by State Senator Mike McGuire reads, “Be it further resolved, that the Senate hereby declares 2018 as the year of the Redwoods.” McGuire’s resolution honors the California redwood, the state tree.

Click here for a link to the CBS "Sunday Morning" web page.

See sidebar on the right for information from State Senator Mike McGuire (D)-Healdsburg about his "Great Redwood Trail Bill." At the end of June 2018, it was still making its way through the legislative process.

MORE ON REDWOOD TREES from the National Park Service

California's North Coast provides the only such environment in the world. A combination of longitude, climate, and elevation limits the redwoods' range to a few hundred coastal miles. The cool, moist air created by the Pacific Ocean keeps the trees continually damp, even during summer droughts. These conditions have existed for some time, as the redwoods go back 20 million years in their present range.

Growth Factors

Exactly why the redwoods grow so tall is a mystery. Theories continue to develop but proof remains elusive. The trees can reach ages of 2,000 years and regularly reach 600 years.

Resistance to natural enemies such as insects and fire are built-in features of a coast redwood. Diseases are virtually unknown and insect damage insignificant thanks to the high tannin content of the wood. Thick bark and foliage that rests high above the ground provides protection from all but the hottest fires.

The redwoods' unusual ability to regenerate also aids in their survival as a species. They do not rely solely upon sexual reproduction, as many other trees must. New sprouts may come directly from a stump or downed tree's root system as a clone. Basal burls — hard, knotty growths that form from dormant seedlings on a living tree — can sprout a new tree when the main trunk is damaged by fire, cutting, or toppling.

Undoubtedly the most important environmental influence upon the coast redwood is its own biotic community. The complex soils on the forest floor contribute not only to the redwoods' growth, but also to a verdant array of greenery, fungi, and other trees. A healthy redwood forest usually includes massive Douglas-firs, western hemlocks, tanoaks, madrones, and other trees. Among the ferns and leafy redwood sorrels, mosses and mushrooms help to regenerate the soils. And of course, the redwoods themselves eventually fall to the floor where they can be returned to the soil.

The coast redwood environment recycles naturally; because the 100-plus inches of annual rainfall leaves the soil with few nutrients, the trees rely on each other, living and dead for their vital nutrients. The trees need to decay naturally to fully participate in this cycle, so when logging occurs, the natural recycling is interrupted.


Many different shrubs populate the understory of old-growth redwood forests. Among them are berry bushes such as red and evergreen huckleberry, blackberry, salmonberry, and thimbleberry. Black bears and other inhabitants of the forest make use of these seasonal food sources.

Perhaps the most famous and spectacular member of the redwood understory is the brilliantly colored California rhododendron. In springtime, the rhododendrons transform the redwood forests into a dazzling display of purple and pink colors.

Role of Fog

Especially during summer, the North Coast is often gray with a thick layer of fog. When inland temperatures are high, the fog is drawn in from over the ocean. This natural cooling and moistening system is beneficial to the redwoods near the coast.

Fog precipitates onto the forest greenery and then drips to the forest floor, providing a small bit of moisture during summer dry periods. Fog accounts for about 40 percent of the redwoods' moisture intake.

Root System

Aside from logging, the most frequent cause of death for mature redwoods is windthrow. The reason for this is that redwoods have no taproot. The roots only go down 10 to 13 feet (3-4 m) deep before spreading outward 60 to 80 feet (20-27 m).

Large redwoods move hundreds of gallons of water daily along their trunks from roots to crown. This water transpires into the atmosphere through the trees' foliage. Powered by the leaves' diffusion of water, water-to-water molecular bonds in the trees' sapwood drags the moisture upwards.

During the summer, this transpiration causes redwood stems to shrink and swell with the cycles of day and night.

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