Conserving a Working Forest on Black Butte's Iconic Landscape - Pacific Forest Trust

Summer 2017 ForestLife

Conserving a Working Forest on Black Butte’s Iconic Landscape

Partnership with MCTC aims to ensure a legacy of Stewardship

Black ButteBlack Butte is a California icon. Thousands of hikers take the trail every year which starts at its base on land owned by Michigan-California Timber Company (MCTC) and travels up to its tallest peaks for fantastic views. Even more travelers pass by the Butte’s dark volcanic domes every day where it looms above Interstate I-5 like a shadow of Mount Shasta.

MCTC’s working forest of over 5,000 acres provides a vital natural connection between Mount Shasta City and the town of Weed. A conservation easement on the property will enable the land to remain a well-managed, fire-resilient forest, enhancing the ecological integrity of the surrounding Shasta-Trinity National Forest as well as providing recreational opportunities and forestry jobs that benefit the local community and the region.

But Black Butte’s famous landscape and recreational attractions also pose a major threat to its future, as the area attracts more recreational development. One forest near the Butte has already been slated for development with plans to put in a trailer park, a visitor center, and a golf course. That’s not what Joe Gonyea III, managing partner of the family-owned MCTC, wants to see happen to the land his company has carefully managed for many years.

“We’re proud of how we manage our lands, and this easement will ensure sound stewardship of those lands in perpetuity. We view it as a win-win,”

—Joe Gonyea III, managing partner MCTC


MCTC worker on Black Butte Working ForestMCTC is working with Pacific Forest Trust to secure a conservation easement to maintain the working forest and all its public benefits. Gonyea said one of the main advantages of the easement is that it will allow this forest to remain in sustainable production and give the company a chance to showcase how well it manages forests on a unique track of land well known in California and beyond.


Preserving water, wildlife, and wonder

The Black Butte Working Forest helps provide water sources that feed into critical California rivers. The land is part of the Spring Hill watershed, one of the sources of the Sacramento River, and home to the Black Butte Spring where an estimated 300,000 gallons of clear, cold water gushes out every day. The spring contributes to the Shasta River, which in turn is a tributary to the Klamath River, and a critical watershed for threatened salmon.

The forest also provides habitat to an estimated 136 wildlife species. Ten threatened or sensitive animal species are known to live on or near the property, including the gray wolf and Sierra Nevada red fox. Since it is located on the slopes of Black Butte, and interwoven with the Shasta-Trinity National Forest and wilderness area, the working forest represents a key piece of connectivity for flora and fauna alike.

Black Butte Working Forest provides key connection in Shasta area.It provides a key connection for people as well. The popular Black Butte trail begins on the private land of the working forest, taking hikers on a challenging 5-mile hike to the summit with its stunning views of the valley and Mount Shasta. The conservation easement will ensure that generations of hikers will have access to this experience.

Management of Black Butte under the terms of the conservation easement will make the forest more resilient, reducing fire risks through thinning and other forestry practices that will increase the diversity and age of the timber stands. The ongoing stewardship of the property will increase the forest’s ability to store carbon, playing an important role in combating the effects of climate change.

The partnership with MCTC will also ensure the land remains in production, providing forest jobs and a needed and sustainable source of timber products.

“This is a cooperative project that has benefits all around,” said Connie Best, who has led this project for Pacific Forest Trust. “It shows what we can accomplish when we work together. We can find natural solutions that help both the environment and the economy.”

Update: In August 2017, CAL FIRE announced a $4,072,000 California Climate Investment grant award to Pacific Forest Trust for our multi-partner Mt. Shasta Headwaters Forest Health and Resilience Project, which will help reduce the risk of wildfire across the iconic Black Butte and Mount Shasta forests. Find out more.


Black Butte is home to the Pacific fisher. Black Butte working forest is home to diverse flora. Dogwood are also on the Black Butte tract Sierra red fox have been seen in and around Black Butte

The conservation easement will keep the MCTC land as a working forest, providing jobs while
protecting habitat for the diverse range of flora and fauna found here.

Photo Credits: top right: MCTC; bottom far left: DLILLC/Corbis; bottom far right: US Fish and Wildlife Service