We Need to Save America’s Sequoias

MEvery year, countless people travel from around the globe to see our Giant Sequoias. A Giant Sequoia towers over 300 feet high, and no photo could capture its amazing natural splendor. These amazing wonders must be experienced to be believed, and have been symbols for American natural beauty over the centuries.

There are only 37,000 acres worldwide of Giant Sequoias, and all of them are located in California. The iconic tree can live for thousands of year and is extremely adaptable to fire in normal conditions. Because of their size and history, they have an incalculable impact on Californians’ ability to provide clean air, water, amazing habitats for wildlife, and carbon storage.

Giant Sequoia Groves have had an average of 31 fires a century. These would burn down smaller fuels, allowing Giant Sequoias the opportunity to grow and reproduce. These “smaller fuels” are smaller trees and brush that grow enough to make fires burn hotter and bigger, and in many instances, reach into the canopy. Due to decades of fire suppression and misinformed policies that stymie good forest management practices, however, fire hasn’t touched some of these groves in over a century. The result is a buildup in hazardous fuels, which can cause catastrophic fires far beyond what Giant Sequoias are capable of sustaining.

That’s why we’ve seen catastrophic wildfires, such as the SQF Complex Fire and Windy Fire, kill Giant Sequoias at an alarming rate over the past few years. The world actually lost almost one-fifth (or nearly) of its Giant Sequoias over the 15-month span from 2020-2021 to these fires. These wildfires have a tendency to be more intense and frequent due to extreme heat and worsening drought. Global emissions are increasing at an alarming rate due to these wildfires, which can be prevented.

Conditions on the ground were so dire last year that heroic firefighters had to work around the clock to save trees like the famous General Sherman, wrapping the root crown in fire protective “space” blankets in a last-ditch effort to prevent permanent damage.

It is an urgent situation that requires immediate attention. America’s rich natural resources, including the Giant Sequoias, won’t stay healthy if we just sit back and hope for the best. It’s why we’ve received input from state, local, tribal, and industry experts on specific ways to protect Giant Sequoias. When we led a bipartisan delegation that visited the groves to get more information from people on the ground on how to care for the iconic trees, we also witnessed the destruction these fires caused to the environment. This listening session led us to our bipartisan legislation, Save Our Sequoias Act. We drew on the wide array of inputs and codified an action plan which can be immediately implemented by land managers.

This bill would codify existing Giant Sequoia Lands Coalition and charge them with creating a Giant Sequoia Health and Resiliency Assessment that will inform future management decisions. It would streamline regulations, while also maintaining strong environmental protections. This will ensure that the Assessment recommendations can be applied quickly and efficiently by land mangers. The bill provides funding and personnel resources to support a focused effort to protect our Giant Sequoias, for future generations.

By proactively managing California’s forests, we can mitigate the severity of wildfires before they even begin. We can prevent wildfires from starting by taking proactive measures, rather than firefighters using desperate methods to control out-of-control infernos within Giant Sequoia trees. It’s the only way to secure long-term forest health and prevent losing more trees in the future.

With the strong bipartisan support that the Save Our Sequoias Act has already received, it is not unreasonable to pass it in Congress this Congress and get the law signed into effect so that forest managers have the necessary wildfire mitigation resources at their disposal. Giant Sequoias, which are now at greater risk due to the approaching historic wildfire season are being raced against the clock.

This is just the first step in a much broader bipartisan effort to improve the health of our nation’s forests. Californians have become accustomed to year-round wildfires. This is unacceptable. Each year they threaten the lives of people, their homes, and wildlife. We’re committed to championing real solutions in Congress that would address the root issues causing these blazes, and the Save Our Sequoias Act is proof that we can create a collaborative model that can work for the rest of our public lands.

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