A conservation group is about to donate and transfer ownership of a 523-acre section of land in northern California to the descendants of Native American tribes who lived there for thousands of years before being displaced.
Save the Redwoods League has announced it will transfer the land on California’s so-called “Lost Coast” in Humboldt and Mendocino Counties to the InterTribal Sinkyone Wilderness Council. The group of 10 tribes will then be responsible for protecting the land.
“As an act of cultural empowerment and a celebration of Indigenous resilience, this forest will again be known as Tc’ih-Léh-Dûñ, pronounced tsih-ih-LEY-duhn and meaning ‘Fish Run Place’ in the Sinkyone language,” Save the Redwoods League explained.
“The Sinkyone Council has designated Tc’ih-Léh-Dûñ as a Tribal Protected Area,” Priscilla Hunter, a tribal citizen of the Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians and chairwoman of the Sinkyone Council, said. “This designation recognizes that this place is within the Sinkyone traditional territory, that for thousands of years it has been — and still remains — an area of importance for the Sinkyone people, and that it holds great cultural significance for the Sinkyone Council and its member tribes.”
Hunter, who is of Northern Pomo and Coast Yuki ancestries, said this “is a real blessing,” in an Associated Press article.
“It’s like a healing for our ancestors,” Hunter said. “I know our ancestors are happy. Tc’ih-Léh-Dûñ was given to us to protect.”
The partnership between Save the Redwoods League and the Sinkyone Council ensures lasting protection for Tc’ih-Léh-Dûñ, as well as “tribal stewardship of the forest, and the prevention of habitat loss, commercial timber operations, construction, and development,” they explain.
A Strategic Move
The land now known as Tc’ih-Léh-Dûñ “is a coastal conifer forest with 200 acres of old-growth, coast redwoods, and 1.5 miles of Anderson Creek, a Class I fish-bearing stream and tributary to the South Fork Eel River,” Save the Redwoods League explains. “Second-growth redwoods, Douglas-firs, tanoaks, and madrones also tower over a lush understory of huckleberries, elderberries, manzanitas, and ceanothuses. This habitat corridor supports coho salmon, steelhead trout, marbled murrelet, and northern spotted owl — all of which are listed under the Endangered Species Act.”
Save the Redwoods League purchased the property in Mendocino County in 2020 for $3.5 million to improve ecosystem connectivity across adjacent protected lands and the coast.
The acquisition was fully funded by Pacific Gas & Electric Company’s (PG&E) Compensatory Mitigation Program as part of its Multiple Region Habitat Conservation Plan to meet the company’s 30-year conservation goals. Those goals, by the way, were developed with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS).
“The Sinkyone Council today represents the Indigenous Peoples who are the original stewards of this land,” Sam Hodder, president and CEO of Save the Redwoods League, said. “Their connection to the redwood forest is longstanding, and it is deep. The League is honored to support a return of Native people to this place and to partner with the Sinkyone Council in their management and stewardship of Tc’ih-Léh-Dûñ.
“We believe the best way to permanently protect and heal this land is through tribal stewardship,” Hodder continued. “In this process, we have an opportunity to restore balance in the ecosystem and in the communities connected to it, while also accelerating the pace and scale of conserving California’s iconic redwood forests.”
A Valuable Addition
As a Tribal Protected Area, Tc’ih-Léh-Dûñ is a vital addition to 180,000 acres of adjacent conserved lands along the Sinkyone Coast. The area is east of the 7,250-acre Sinkyone Wilderness State Park and just north of the 3,845-acre InterTribal Sinkyone Wilderness, which the Sinkyone Council acquired in 1997.
Tc’ih-Léh-Dûñ actually is Save the Redwoods League’s second land donation to the Sinkyone Council. The first, in 2012, was what’s known as the Four Corners property, north of Tc’ih-Léh-Dûñ.
That 164-acre property, located between Sinkyone Wilderness State Park and the headwaters of the Mattole River, is also home to many threatened species, including the coho salmon, steelhead trout, western tailed frog, marbled murrelet, American peregrine falcon, northern spotted owl, and the pallid bat.
And for more about redwoods on California’s coast, be sure to read: