Native to the moist foggy coasts of the Pacific Northwest, Redwood trees are legendary for their size and the quality of softwood they provide. Redwood trees are the tallest living things on Earth. Currently, they average eight feet in diameter, but can reach as much as 20 feet. Some reach over 375 feet in height--taller than the Statue of Liberty. Old growth redwood trees can be well over 1000 years old.
Because of careless exploitation and the abusive logging practices of invading settlers from Europe, less than 2 million acres of the original redwood forests remain. This tragic history has given the harvesters of redwood building materials a well-deserved stigma.
Today, logging restrictions have been enacted to protect old growth forests. In theory, more than 95% of the remaining ancient redwood forests are thus protected from harvesting, however willfully lax oversight, in particular during the Reagan and Bush decades, resulted in further massive environmental degredation and habitat loss. Current laws require companies owning more than 50,000 commercial acres of redwood forests to prepare a sustained yield plan that ensures an equal balance of growth and harvesting over a 100-year period.
Environmentalists and other patriots have made great strides in protecting what is left, however as the hostile takeover of Pacific Lumber by Maxxam illustrates, greed often triumps over common sense. The Forest Stewardship Council independently certifies four out of every five acres of commercial redwood forest.