By Galen Doherty

Photo by Thomas Dunklin

“I grow some of the best cannabis in the world; but how do I reach the public/consumer? At Humboldt High Five, we are distinguishing ourselves from other groups by supporting the community, taking care of the environment, and doing things that stand for “goodness.” The Save Van Arken logo demonstrates that Huckleberry Hill Farms doesn’t only talk the talk, but I walk the walk.”Johnny Casali, Huckleberry Hill Farms and founding member of Humboldt High Five

In the heart of the Mattole River headwaters is the Van Arken Watershed. Untouched for the last 50 years, spanning 1,650 acres — completely free from residential development, it is the third largest tributary in the headwaters; and a salmon stronghold for wild runs of native coho, chinook, and steelhead. These lands are all that remain of over 4,000 acres of industrial timberland that, since the early 2000s have been fragmented and sold.

If not conserved, the last of these forestlands face a devastating timber harvest plan. The clearcutting and herbicide of native hardwood forests, tan oak, madrone, and chinquapin for conversion to monoculture conifer plantations evoke brutal memories of the Timber Wars. The plan also includes construction of new roads and landings, which pave the way for subdivision and development of over 25 parcels to fuel the last push of the green rush.

For 30 years the southern extent of the temperate rainforests of the Pacific Northwest, located on Northern California’s Lost Coast, Sanctuary Forest has been a strong voice for the ecosystem and community in which we live. We’ve worked hard to purchase land so as to forever protect its natural resources, and to create a place where people can live in harmony with the environment and steward the land to increase its health and vitality.

Photo by Thomas Dunklin

Our goal is to purchase the entire Van Arken watershed, permanently protecting it from the threat of timber harvest and development, and ensuring that it is actively and responsibly stewarded as a buffer against the ever more severe effects of climate change. Our vision is to create a community forest that results in a network of old growth forest, wildlife reserves and working forestlands that provide invaluable ecosystem services as well as a source of economic growth for the local community. The Van Arken Community Forest will be owned by Sanctuary Forest in perpetuity and will be cooperatively managed in partnership with our diverse community. It will forever be an open space for low impact recreation such as hiking and biking, educational opportunities, scientific study, and above all else a stronghold from which the recovery of our native runs of wild Mattole salmon can be achieved.

At a community meeting late last year, local landowners on Mattole Canyon Creek did the math and pledged, on the spot, to gift Sanctuary Forest the money to fund the purchase of one acre (approximately $5,500) of the Van Arken watershed. Thanks to them, our Fund-an-Acre campaign was born. Friends, neighbors, road associations, cannabis farmers and collectives have stepped up and pledged to fund an acre all at once or over the life of the campaign (5 years: $1,100/year; $92/month); and together we have funded approximately 48 acres, and have raised more than $320,000 in the last year!

“The Van Arken Community Forest Project is a unique opportunity for cannabis farmers to demonstrate their commitment to the environment, offset their impacts, and forever protect the few wildlands left in Humboldt County” – Heather Kornberg, Humboldt Sun Kissed Farms, and Board Member of the International Cannabis Farmers Association

Photo by Thomas Dunklin

“I’ve supported many projects over the years, but this is the one I’m most excited about. Protecting every environment is so important, but the Van Arken property especially has such a dramatic effect on the watershed bellow. The survival of so many species downstream are directly dependent on all of us stepping up and protecting this watershed!”— Johnny Casali

The Fund an Acre campaign was launched to raise money from the local community and beyond, and to demonstrate public support for the project. Our goal is to secure 90 Fund An Acre donors each year for the next five years, resulting in a total of $2,457,000, or approximately 28 percent of the estimated purchase price of 9 million dollars. Donations will leverage significant support from state grants (55 percent) and foundations (11 percent) to buy the land and create the Van Arken Community Forest.

To recognize the support of these individuals and businesses, we are launching the “Save Van Arken” logo (pictured above) as a tool to demonstrate exceptional commitment to the environment, permanently protecting one acre of incredibly rich and biodiverse land in the headwaters of the Mattole River! By donating or pledging to fund an acre, your business earns the right to use the Save Van Arken logo in your marketing, branding, consumer outreach, etc. In addition your organization will be listed on our website and in other Save Van Arken outreach.


“Like all agricultural industries, cannabis farmers are not outside of criticism about how their product is grown. Farmer support for this project will show consumers that we are reliable in our actions and are dedicated to doing the best we can in a “whole picture” view.” – Heather Kornberg

We are stronger when we work together as a community to protect the last of these precious places and preserve our way of life. With your help we can create a new paradigm, where your farm and this place are recognized by consumers as home to both healthy, intact ecosystems, and the world’s premier cannabis industry — thriving together in harmony!  

A huge shout out to all of the cannabis farms and businesses that have donated or pledged as of October 20th, 2017. To learn more about Sanctuary Forest and the Fund An Acre Campaign, please give us a call at 707-986-1087 or visit our website: Also check out our video on the Van Arken project on YouTube by searching “Save Van Arken.”

  • Huckleberry Hill Farms
  • Humboldt’s Finest
  • Humboldt Heritage Farms
  • Humboldt High Five
  • Humboldt Sun Kissed Farms
  • Mattole Farms
  • Moontime Medicinals
  • Rainbow Hill Farm
  • Tranquility Lane Farm
  • Hohstadts Garden Center
  • Sequoia Soil Co.


Emerald contributor since March 2012


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