National & State Parks
Established: August 27, 1969
Annual Visitors: 536,297 (2016)
Official Site: https://www.nps.gov/redw/index.htm
The Redwood National and State Parks (RNSP) are old-growth temperate rainforests located in the United States, along the coast of northern California. Comprising Redwood National Park (established 1968) and California's Del Norte Coast, Jedediah Smith, and Prairie Creek Redwoods State Parks (dating from the 1920s), the combined RNSP contain 139,000 acres (560 km2). Located entirely within Del Norte and Humboldt Counties, the four parks, together, protect 45% of all remaining coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) old-growth forests, totaling at least 38,982 acres (157.75 km2). These trees are the tallest and one of the most massive tree species on Earth. In addition to the redwood forests, the parks preserve other indigenous flora, fauna, grassland prairie, cultural resources, portions of rivers and other streams, and 37 miles (60 km) of pristine coastline.
Lack of money has precluded major improvements, however, and timber companies have replanted much of the logged area with non-native tree species. Coastline areas, including dunes and coastal prairie, have been invaded by exotic species, partly due to the suppression of forest fires until the 1980s. A fire management plan now allows controlled burning as one method to return the parkland to its original state. Since the redwoods were logged on the basis of accessibility, with inaccessible areas being cut last, large old-growth forest sections were isolated from one another, sometimes by many miles. In these cases it will be decades more before mature forest can return, regardless of the amount of money used to rehabilitate the ecosystem.
The park has transformed a few logging roads into scenic public drives. These do not meet current safety standards, but funding to improve them is not available at present. Park structures such as visitor centers and employee housing also need updating to meet increasing demands. Park employees perform air and water quality surveys, monitor endangered and threatened species, and work closely with the California Coastal National Monument, which is managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. In 2005, the parks were authorized to expand another 25,000 acres (100 km2) to include the Mill Creek watershed.