The First Movements
The first group to argue for the protection of the northern California redwoods was the Save-The-Redwoods League, founded in 1918 by prominent conservationists John C. Merriam, Madison Grant, and Henry Fairfield Osborn after the trio were inspired to investigate the state of the redwood forests in northern California. Upon experiencing the majestic beauty of the Humboldt County redwoods, the three men decided that a state or national park was needed to protect at least a part of the ancient redwood coastal forest for future generations.
However, there was more to the creation of the Save-The-Redwoods League than just the idea that the ancient trees needed to be protected so they could be experienced by the public. The earliest arguments about the need to protect the ancient redwoods stemmed from the ideas that the study of the coastal redwoods that had been around for almost 20 million years, making them the oldest living things on the earth, was critical to the emerging fields of paleontology and paleobotany. Both John C. Merriam and Henry Fairfield Osborn were prominent paleontologists.
Another motivating factor, albeit a small one, in protecting the ancient redwoods was the eugenics movement. Several prominent men of the Save-The-Redwoods League, including founders Madison Grant and Henry Fairfield Osborn were well known published eugenicists. For them there was a parallel between ‘conservation of humans,’ and ‘conservation of other members of the environment.’
According to the early Save-The-Redwoods League arguments the coastal redwoods in California were among the largest and oldest living things on earth and as such, they needed to be protected. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s the Save-The-Redwood League raised money through donations to purchase several groves in Humboldt and Del Norte Counties. These purchases would later become the foundations for various Redwood State Parks in Northern California.