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Our History

The Friends of Del Norte (501c4) was started in 1973 by a group of concerned citizens who had a passion for protecting our more than human relatives and natural environment. The founders, Joe and Don Gillespie, have grown the organization to now consist of six board members and one part-time staff member who is an environmental advocate for both the Friends of Del Norte and the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC). This allows the Friends to create an alliance with our sister organization and strengthen our advocacy efforts.

In 2012, the group activated a new, related 501c3, the Friends of Del Norte Conservation Council, to assist in organizing capacity and funds. The Conservation Council has built a separate board and taken over 501c3 grant-

funded programs. It is has sponsored several successful outreach and education events, drawing several hundred people, and plans to pursue a variety of community and fund building endeavors all related to our long-term advocacy projects.

Throughout the years, we have been instrumental in the resolution of numerous environmental issues, successfully enhancing the quality of life for Del Norte County residents. Below, we have a partial list of our accomplishments over the past five decades.


Redwood National Park | By


Redwood National Park Expansion & Smith River Clear-cut Prevention

  • The Friends supported the 40,000-acre expansion of Redwood National Park.

  • Maintained the health and scenic quality of the Smith River watershed and the Highway 199 corridor through successful appeals that prevented clear-cut logging.


Lobbying, Myrtle Creek, More Logging Prevention & Fighting the proposed Mine on Gasquet Mountain

  • Lobbied successfully for Federal Wild & Scenic Rivers protection for the Smith River

  • Lobbied for the inclusion of the 200,000-acre Siskiyou Wilderness Area into the Federal Wilderness System

  • Protected the Myrtle Creek watershed from clear-cut logging and proposed historic design for the Myrtle Creek bridge.

  • Protected the confluence at the iconic "Forks" of the Smith River from logging

  • Defeated the construction of a nickel and chromium strip mine on Gasquet Mountain


Myrtle Creek | By


Highway 101 winding through old-growth redwoods along the 101 |  By EPIC


More Lobbying, Protecting Fish & Wildlife in the Smith & Saving Old Growth Redwoods

  • Lobbied for federal legislation that established the Smith River National Recreation Area

  • Supported increasing levels of protection for fish and wildlife habitat in the Smith River and its tributaries

  • Planned and worked with CalTrans to save old-growth redwood trees bordering a Highway 101 realignment project


Lake Earl, Point St. George, Mill & Rock Creek Watersheds & Rare Shore Pine Forest

  • Conserved 90 acres of diverse coastal forest bordering the shore of Lake Earl Coastal Lagoon through state acquisition

  • Advocated for long-term protection of Point St.George Heritage Area through acquisition by Del Norte County.

  • Advocated for successful public access and aquisition of the Mill Creek and Rock Creek watersheds

  • Laid groundwork research that saved rare shore pine threatened during Crescent City's airport design.

  • Campaigned against and defeated the installation if a solid waste incinerator proposed for Del Norte County

  • Successfully lobbied for public support of Senator Mike Thompson's Wilderness Bill. Now law of the land.

  • Submitted extensive research data and successfully lobbied in support of higher water levels for management of Lake Earl Coastal Lagoon, resulting in higher biodiversity.

  • Participated at the stakeholder level to successfully promote the Marine Life Protection Act for Del Norte, Humboldt, and Mendocino Counties.


Point St. George Heritage Area | By Aron Bosworth


Lake Earl Wildlife Area | By

2020 | Present

Smith River National Recreation Area | By Nicole Petersen

Restoring the West’s Largest Coastal Lagoon to Wildness &
Protecting the Smith River National Recreation Area's Roadless Areas
  • The Friends of Del Norte is continuing in the fight to win permanent protection of the Lake Earl Lagoon and its wetlands and uplands. We are bringing this issue home at last, ending 150 years of environmental degradation dating from the time of first contact.

    • Acquisition of the private properties in the Pacific Shores subdivision has reached nearly 80%, but large Sitka spruce forests along the eastern shoreline of Lake Earl remain in private ownership and advocacy is required to assist State acquisition and permanent protection.

  • We are continuing to protect roadless areas on the Smith River National Recreation Area by advocating for the closure of eroding logging roads while defending against local and Blue Ribbon Coalition proposals to keep environmentally-destructive roads and create new trails for Off-road vehicles.

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