Trees Foundation’s Cereus Fund Bolsters Grassroots Perseverance in the Redwood Region

close up of a cereus flower
The rare flower of the Night-Blooming Cereus (Epiphyllum Oxypetalum). Trees Foundation's Cereus Fund, established in 1998, takes its name from this desert cactus that blooms just one night a year.

A theme of adaptation and perseverance runs through the following updates on projects supported by the Cereus Fund of Trees Foundation in 2020. With planned field trips and gatherings cancelled due to COVID-19, many grassroots environmental organizations supported by the Cereus Fund found other ways to further healthy land stewardship, ecosystem restoration, and environmental advocacy throughout the redwood region this year.

Established in 1998, the Cereus Fund is a part of Trees Foundation’s Donor Advised Program which allows individuals to donate and direct funding to projects of their choice, which Trees Foundation administers on their behalf. To learn more about these projects, or to start a Donor Advised Fund of your own, email [email protected].

On behalf of Trees Foundation and our many partner organizations, we once again extend our heartfelt gratitude for the generous support of the Cereus Fund.

Bay Area Coalition for Headwaters

The work of the Bay Area Coalition for Headwaters (BACH) has certainly been a departure from normal this year. But we have been so very inspired by the actions unfolding on multiple fronts even in the face of pandemic, fires, economic crisis, isolation, violent racism, blossoming uprisings in the streets, and surreal politics. People have been sitting in trees, protesting poisonous air drifting their way, and seizing the double-edged opportunity of the largest wildfire in the state’s history to drive home the issues of climate chaos in a more compelling way.

We feel privileged to lend a small measure of support, in the way of media outreach, public outreach, and organizational outreach in bouncing these stories out into the world—stories of forest defense, poisonous pellet plant emissions, logging in coastal wetlands, and native species in our National Parks. They are stories of connecting the dots.

Although events we would have brought grassroots media workshops to were cancelled, we engaged more one-on-one to help campaigns get messaging out. We found a greater and sometimes new audience receiving the information we put out in press releases, and direct outreach. Forest defenders recognizing their “essential” jobs, and other actions for the earth— even in a time of a stay-at-home lifestyle shift— provided huge inspiration to ordinary people and the media alike, thirsting for stories other than the pandemic and politics. People welcomed confirmation that it’s not necessary to give up the important work for the earth, even in these times. The feedback that looped back around to us illustrated that.

New talking points we’ve worked into our outreach narrative—the links between industrial forestry and lack of resilience, between human-caused climate change and the west’s wildfires; links between a “manifest destiny” mindset carried out in every corner of the planet, and pandemics and disease vectors. Changing those narratives has been part of our work during this time. The amazing network born of the North American Forest and Climate Movement Convergence (that BACH worked on and participated in) one year ago is also a hugely valuable megaphone.

So we persist—in our niche as a media consultant, advocate, and strategy collaborator for campaigns, as we look to use misfortune to create change. What else can we do?

Friends of the Lost Coast

The Cereus Fund of Trees Foundation has supported Friends of the Lost Coast’s invasive plant removal and native plant restoration programs since 2016. Thanks to this support, these programs have been growing.

COVID-19 limited our ability to convene public gatherings in 2020. Friends of the Lost Coast and our partners still made great strides forward in controlling pampas grass and other non-native plant species in Shelter Cove, California.

Happy volunteers pulling invasive iceplant at the Black Sands Beach Overlook Parking Lot in Shelter Cove. Photo by Sandra Miles

We removed invasive plants at beachfront sites in the King Range National Conservation Area including Black Sands Beach, Abalone Point, and at the Shelter Cove Lighthouse Beach and replanted these sites with native plants grown in our native plant nursery.

Our annual Earth Day celebration in Shelter Cove was cancelled this year, however we still managed to hold our annual Earth Day Poster Contest in cooperation with our partners. Our planned family day events at the Lost Coast Education Center and Native Plant Garden were cancelled for this year. Friends of the Lost Coast hopes to hold these Family Activity Days next year.

The Shelter Cove Invasive Plant Project (SCIPP) is a primary example of how Friends of the Lost Coast continues to build and broaden our partnerships in removing invasive plants, restoring native plants, and educating and engaging communities surrounding for the benefit of our public lands.

SCIPP is a joint partnership focused on removing pampas grass and other invasive plants in Shelter Cove. Friends of the Lost Coast and our partners, Bureau of Land Management, Shelter Cove Resort Improvement District, and Shelter Cove Arts and Recreation Foundation, conduct education and outreach targeting landowners and others in Shelter Cove encouraging the community to engage in the removal of pampas grass and other invasive plant species.

Thanks to the Cereus Fund of Trees Foundation, our efforts to educate and engage local communities culminated in a highly successful pampas grass seed-head bounty program outcome in 2020. The program offers local households and residents twenty-five cents for each seed-head of pampas grass collected and brought in for tally.

After holding two well-attended public meetings in Shelter Cove, eight households participated in our pampas grass bounty program, resulting in the collection of 9,521 seed-heads!

Thanks to contributions from the Cereus Fund of Trees Foundation, our work, and our organization continues to grow and thrive despite the many challenges presented in 2020.

Friends of the Van Duzen

By Sal Steinberg

Because of the pandemic, many changes took place in the world. Schools, zoos, and parks were forced to close. There were three main emphases for my Nurturing Nature project, funded by the Cereus Fund of Trees Foundation. I was able to accomplish the primary goal of placing 18 temperature probes in the Van Duzen Watershed. Working with Pat Higgins of the Eel River Recovery Project, we once again traveled to the Van Duzen River below the Van Duzen Elementary School, witnessing 200 Rainbow trout. Under the Dinsmore bridge, we found a 50-60 year old western pond turtle. Photos can be found on the Eel River Recovery Project Facebook page. Check it out! Data that is collected is shared with the California Water Quality Control Board and has been collected for the past decade.

Locally, Friends of the Van Duzen was able to work with young children at several locations. For the third year in a row, first grader Clyde and I placed and recovered a probe at his home at Shakefork Farm in Carlotta. We recruited three of his friends—Leela, Santino, and Malachi—to explore the Van Duzen Watershed and retrieve probes at Swimmers Delight, Hely Creek, and the main stem of the Van Duzen River. Photos will be posted at

The Kids in the Classroom director, Sal Steinberg, retrieving a temperature probe that was stored under a tree for three months at Hely Creek, with Leela, Sal, Malachi, Santino, and Clyde. photo by Andrea Hargadon

My students became explorers and young scientists taking temperature, pH, and turbidity measurements. They learned to use a metal detector to help look for the probes. Additionally, while studying nature, we included botany
and made beautiful leaf prints. The kids were great!!!!

Over the past decade I have taken thousands of pictures documenting “Kids in the Woods” and other environmental projects. This year with the Trees Foundation’s Cereus Fund, I am looking into updating my cameras, and researching a new iPad and an Olympia underwater camera.

Special thanks to the Cereus Fund of Trees Foundation for their continual support of the Friends of the
Van Duzen, the Van Duzen Watershed, and the community!

Humboldt Baykeeper

Humboldt Baykeeper launched the King Tides Photo Initiative to increase awareness of sea level rise. King Tides are extreme high tides that occur when the gravitational forces of the sun and moon magnify one another. They tend to be more dramatic in winter, when storms cause increased wind and waves. King Tides provide a glimpse into the future, highlighting areas most at risk, where we most need to plan for flooding and erosion.

Last winter, we coordinated volunteers who photographed strategic points around the Humboldt Bay. This winter, the highest tides are predicted on Nov. 15-16, Dec. 13-15, and Jan. 11-12. More than 100 volunteers have contributed to our photo collection, which helps residents, planners, and government officials gain insight into how rising sea levels will impact coastal areas.

The old railroad dike is all that stands between Highway 101 and Humboldt Bay. Just south of Arcata, a large gap has formed where the King Tides erode the dike with each passing year. photo by J. Kalt, Jan. 11, 2020

Sea level in the Humboldt Bay area is expected to rise much faster than in the rest of the state: one foot by 2030, two feet by 2050, and three feet by 2060. That’s because the land is sinking due to tectonic activity at the same rate that the sea is rising. As a result, we are experiencing twice the relative rate of sea level rise as the rest of California: 4.73 mm per year. While that might not seem like much, sea level today is 18” higher than it was a century ago, when most of the earthen dikes were built to cut off tidal action.

Many former tidelands were converted to farmland or filled and developed. Lumber mills built in these areas left contaminated soil and groundwater that continue to threaten the bay. As sea level rises, larger areas are more vulnerable to flooding and erosion during major storms, as well as saltwater intrusion into groundwater.

Government agencies have been slow to plan for sea level rise, despite the risks. By 2030, the section of Highway 101 between Arcata and Eureka is predicted to flood monthly. By 2040, Arcata’s Wastewater Treatment Plant and Wildlife Sanctuary will likely flood monthly, and the neighborhoods of King Salmon and Fields Landing could be completely inundated during King Tides. PG&E’s nuclear waste storage facility at King Salmon is buried near the edge of a coastal bluff that is in the path of storm waves coming through the bay entrance. Without proactive planning, we’ll inevitably find ourselves reacting to emergencies that put public safety and property at risk.

Mattole Restoration Council

With funding from the Cereus Fund of Trees Foundation, the Forest Practices Program (FPP) of the Mattole Restoration Council was able to continue its watchdog efforts of our industry-owned timberlands in 2020. Though we have three industrial timber managers in the Mattole River watershed, Humboldt Redwood Company (HRC) has again received most of our attention. Early in 2020, FPP organized a group of interested parties to attend a tour hosted by HRC. Twelve of us joined two HRC drivers/managers and loaded into vans at Scotia for a full day tour. As a note, no participants were allowed if they had been recently arrested or thought to have provided materials to any recent protests on HRC land due to an ongoing lawsuit. Suffice to say, this area of the Mattole watershed has been a focal point of active protests and treesits by forest defenders since the late 1990s because of the rich, older forest stands that shelter a myriad of native botanical, aquatic, and terrestrial life.

Humboldt Redwood Company’s Area Manager, Ben Hawk, points to some herbicided stands on the next ridge. photo by Thomas B. Dunklin

If you have read these Cereus Fund grant reports previously, you might remember my frustration that HRC’s Mattole-area manager, John Andersen, had not delivered on his promise to take people out to the recently harvested areas of the Mattole. This trip was the delivery and he was willing to go anywhere we suggested, which included: units where herbicide was used; units where cable yarding was done; the unit that was not harvested due to the discovery of a Northern Spotted Owl, and a newly-constructed road through ridgeline meadows, tan oaks, and Douglas-fir. We also visited the High Conservation Value Forest (HCVF) for a tour wrap-up. HRC staff explained how they designated the 200-acre HCVF to ensure conservation of habitats for at least as long as HRC was part of Forest Stewardship Council’s certification.

Everyone on the tour seemed engaged and open to learning the forest practices of Humboldt Redwood Company. Several of us revisited the ‘takeaways’ at a casual potluck about a month later. There were varying opinions; most felt the new road was egregious and that designating more older stands as HCVF in the area was necessary. Ironically, in July, FPP was solicited for our comments on a document entitled, “High Conservation Value Assessment Mendocino-Humboldt Redwood Companies.” We fiercely advocated for more HCVF stands in the Mattole to be designated. Our request was denied. They felt the present HCVF designation in the Mattole was sufficient.

We are very grateful to the Cereus Fund of Trees Foundation for supporting these watchdog efforts.

Mid Klamath Watershed Council

Funding from the Trees Foundation’s Cereus Fund for 2020 was intended to support the Mid Klamath Watershed Council’s (MKWC) Klamath-Siskiyou Outdoor School (KSOS). KSOS is an overnight summer experience designed for local mid-Klamath youth, and a staple program in our community that has been offered every year for over 10 years.

As was the fate of many plans in 2020, MKWC cancelled KSOS due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Ultimately, bringing a large group together for an overnight trip was too risky this year for our rural community, and we tabled our plans for a future summer.

After receiving approval to use the Cereus Fund grant for other projects, our staff started brainstorming. How can we support hands-on, meaningful environmental learning experiences for youth, all while following COVID-19 safety measures and limiting the amount of screen time required? We came up with a few ideas, and Trees Foundation’s Cereus Fund directly supported the planning and launch of two new projects.

First, MKWC organized a multi-school, multi-grade art contest. The theme of the art contest is “Natural Resilience: Where in our natural surroundings do you see examples of resilience? How can we help the environment or individual species be more resilient? Where in your life have you or your community embodied resilience to get through challenging times?” The intent of this art contest is to encourage local youth to seek inspiration from the natural environment as we navigate these stressful times. Local artist jurors will judge submissions and pick winners from each age category in early November.

An open journal with an apple leaf rubbing on the lefthand page and and a pressed and taped apple leaf on the righthand page, with handwritten notes
Excerpt from Mid Klamath Watershed Council’s Adopt-A-Site nature journaling curriculum.

Second, MKWC staff are working with local schools to distribute curriculum to students. Our “Adopt-A-Site Project,” where students pick one location to visit once a week over a 10-week period, includes over 100 students from four different schools. Each week, students complete a different activity at their site, which they document with their field journal (provided by MKWC). Activities include: insect observations, trash pick-up, invasive plant removal, bird watching, and soundscape drawings. The goals of this project are to encourage outdoor observations and increase connectivity to the natural world and other students participating in the project.

Though it was a challenging year, we are excited about the new projects created this year through the flexibility of the Cereus Fund of Trees Foundation. Stay tuned for art contest winners, to be announced on this winter.

Sanctuary Forest

The Cereus Fund of Trees Foundation has generously supported Sanctuary Forest’s Collaborative Stewardship Education Project over the years, and while COVID-19 threw a curveball in everyone’s plans for 2020, Sanctuary Forest persevered with our ongoing mission to protect and restore land in the Mattole River watershed in cooperation with our diverse community.

The Mattole River and Range Partnership (Sanctuary Forest, Mattole Restoration Council, and Mattole Salmon Group) continued holding regular phone meetings to discuss current and future restoration projects aimed at recovering fish populations while reducing the threat of catastrophic wildfire. With record-low stream flows and wildfires that surrounded our communities, it has become critically important to implement projects that directly address these threats.

Sanctuary Forest board & staff masked up for a socially distanced outdoor Stewardship Committee meeting.

To this end, Sanctuary Forest completed the Baker Creek Terrace Pond Project this year, a pilot project consisting of off-channel ponds intended to store rainwater during the winter, then slowly release the water into the stream. The goal is to ensure enough water is available to maintain pool habitat for salmon through the dry season. This project was developed with a team of local restorationists, engineers, and scientists. It is just one example of the innovative strategies generated by a collaborative effort to restore our rivers. With extended dry periods and winter rainfall totaling only about half of what is considered normal last year, streams are critically dry. Forward thinking projects to address water scarcity are necessary today as we face these extreme drought conditions. The Cereus Fund of Trees Foundation and other donor funds are joined by public funding agencies that invest into our communities for these vital projects that create jobs and improve the watershed.

We are continuously learning from nature and from each other— from the design phase to years after implementing a project— and we continue to share lessons learned from the Mattole River watershed in order to develop solutions to water scarcity locally, regionally, and statewide. Sanctuary Forest graciously thanks the Cereus Fund of Trees Foundation for continuing to support our efforts to work with our watershed and regional partners. We know we can’t do this alone.

Salmon River Restoration Council

This has been a year unlike any other. It has largely been about figuring out how to adapt, how to reach people in new ways, and how to get important work done while still protecting the health of our employees and community. The Salmon River Restoration Council (SRRC) was built around the belief that actively engaging our community, from youth to elders, in experiential learning and hands-on restoration is how we will sustain this watershed into the future. When suddenly people can no longer join hands to get that work done, an integral part of community restoration is missing— the community part. But it quickly became clear that the restoration part still had to go on, or else we risked leaving fish barrier removal projects unfinished, sliding backwards on years of work controlling noxious weeds, and losing critical data in our efforts to restore spring-run Chinook. So we rolled up our sleeves and spent the spring figuring out how to keep our crews safely in the field, sadly without our normal contingent of community volunteers. Instead, we encouraged volunteers to get outdoors on their own to pick up trash, dig noxious weeds, and fire safe their properties.

When wildfire threatened our community this fall, SRRC’s staff and vintage fire truck joined volunteers to help with community protection. Our Community Liaison Program works to facilitate the communication of critical wildfire information between the community and fire management teams.  photo from SRRC
When fire threatened our community this fall, SRRC’s staff and vintage fire truck joined volunteers to help with community protection. Our Community Liaison Program works to facilitate the communication of critical fire information between the community and fire management teams. photo from SRRC

As early summer came on, our biggest outreach event of the year was rapidly approaching— the annual Spring Chinook Dive and a concurrent Spring-run Chinook Symposium that we were putting on with Salmonid Restoration Federation. After weeks of agonizing over whether we’d be able to hold an in-person event, we finally decided to start planning a virtual symposium. You can’t count spring-run Chinook sitting behind a computer though, so we were going to have to find another option for the Spring-run Chinook Dive. In the end, the symposium was a big success, with 10 presenters and over 130 attendees focused on many important aspects of spring-run Chinook conservation. The Dive, although unable to include volunteers, was safely completed with the help of our cooperator’s self-contained fisheries crews. Sadly, we found the second lowest run of spring-run Chinook on record, with only 106 of the last wild spring-run Chinook in the Klamath returning to the Salmon River.

We reached out to the public during these socially distanced times with our monthly e-newsletter, Salmon River Currents, which this year included topics such as snow pack conditions, spring-run Chinook conservation, and living with wildfire. We also worked on a newsletter entitled “Climate Change: Forging a More Resilient Future,” which will be published at the end of October. It focuses on how climate change is impacting our watershed and what SRRC is doing to increase its resiliency. From floodplain restoration, to prescribed fire, to native seed collection and planting, to mountain meadow assessments, we are doing our best to develop projects that restore as much natural function to the ecosystem as possible.

Support from the Cereus Fund of Trees Foundation goes a long way to making this important work possible. It provides the foundation for accomplishing the on-the-ground community restoration work that has and will continue to be one of our overall goals.

Southern Humboldt Organic & Regenerative Education

Southern Humboldt Organic and Regenerative Education (SHORE) was founded in 2018 to inspire and empower local residents with educational programs on living and gardening in harmonious coexistence with our region’s native plants, fish, and wildlife.

When quarantine restrictions began in March of 2020, SHORE had just secured an office space in downtown Garberville that was to serve as a hub for regular SHORE classes and meetings. We were also in the final two weeks of preparing for 2020 Vision Southern Humboldt, our hallmark event of the year, which was to be held at the Mateel Community Center. It was to include a broad range of workshops and discussions on community resiliency, disaster preparedness, sustainability, and more. We continue to hold a vision of resurrecting the event in 2021.

With our signature event cancelled, the Trees Foundation’s Cereus Fund was truly a lifeline for SHORE to continue programming and advocacy. Starting in June, we strengthened our capacity to organize programs with full consideration of inclusivity and racial justice by participating in several trainings. SHORE founder Kerry Reynolds took an online anti-racism course taught by Reverend Deborah Johnson of Inner Light Ministries; and joined a team of Humboldt County activists in adapting an in-person workshop titled “Whiteness Within – Challenging White Supremacy Culture” into a two-day virtual workshop. She promoted and helped facilitate four Whiteness Within workshops, one of which was fully sponsored by SHORE. Kerry also took online classes from June through August that qualify her for a certificate in Advocacy and Water Protection in Native California from Humboldt State University’s Native American Studies Department.

Example of a completed huglekultur bed. Photo by Kelly Karaba

In August, SHORE hosted its first online workshop on huglekultur gardening, led by gardening instructors Kelly Karaba and Wendy Kornberg. The workshop can be viewed on SHORE’s Facebook page, and to date has received over 150 views. Huglekultur gardening is the use of effective regenerative garden beds that are built by mounding soil over logs, branches, leaves, and other natural biomass that is widely available on local homesteads. The gradual decay of wood is a consistent source of long-term nutrients for the plants, and a large bed can provide a constant supply of nutrients for 20 years or more. Advantages to this method of gardening include carbon sequestration, affordability, and excellent water retention.

SHORE would like to thank the Cereus Fund of Trees Foundation for making all of these projects possible this year.

Womens Forest Sanctuary

In 2020, the stewards of The Sacred Grove composed a sign to express our shared value of protecting the land. We were grateful that Will Bell, a former Executive Director of Sanctuary Forest, with the assistance of Jeffrey Ruffner, elegantly crafted the sign: “The Sacred Grove-Protected Nature Preserve-Women’s Forest Sanctuary.”

Youth and staff of Youth Spirit Artworks in Berkeley led our annual outing to Redwood Regional Park in Oakland. Youth were eager to alleviate stressors which included Shelter in Place and racial injustice. Within the redwoods the youth addressed “What is healing?”: the need to be seen and understood within the larger community. Support emerged among them to let go the struggle to be understood and to validate one’s own self and each other. Inti Gonzalez reflected, “I was glad the focus was on a healing, relaxing experience. It was therapeutic to share what we feel and think about our lives and social justice.” Omari Scott drew himself and a friend among redwoods, “This is a nice environment to be in and to remember.”

Stewards of The Sacred Grove

During our summer visit to the grove we celebrated avid supporter Cathy Lentz, and held a Ceremony to express our thankfulness for donors and
ongoing partnership with nature. As we sat with the Grandmother Trees, we experienced healing connections to the earth, ourselves, one another and collective wisdom.

We shared in a message to donors the importance of mycelia: the underground fungal biomass that serves as a communication and transport system between organisms. We embrace being embedded in a network that is fluidly interactive, that challenges concepts of separateness and individuality, and hope that our realization of interrelationships serves a future where all life thrives.

Also, during the past year we were in conversation with Hawk Rosales, Director of the Intertribal Sinkyone Wilderness Council, and furthered our understanding of the grove’s connection to Native peoples and their culture. In light of historic violent destruction of nature and Indigenous peoples we seek to restore sacred bonds of relationship and reciprocity with nature and local Native people.

We are grateful for the Cereus Fund’s support of our efforts in 2020. With attention to inclusivity and reverence, we join with all in harnessing collective wisdom and energy to birth a new world.