We must save the redwoods of America

MMillions of people from all over the world come to visit our majestic giant sequoias every year. No photo can accurately describe the awe-inspiring natural splendor of a giant sequoia, soaring over 300 feet into the sky. They are wonders that have to be seen to be believed, and they have been symbols of America’s natural beauty for centuries.

Only 37,000 acres of giant sequoias exist in the world, all of them in California. These iconic trees reach thousands of years old and are extremely fire resistant under normal fire conditions. Their massive size and ancient history also means they are indescribably important in providing Californians with clean air, clean water, incredible wildlife habitat and natural carbon storage.

Historically, giant sequoia groves have experienced an average of 31 fires per century that removed smaller combustibles on the ground and allowed giant sequoias to reproduce and thrive. These “smaller fuels” are smaller trees and brush that grow enough to make fires burn harder and bigger, and in many cases reach the canopy. However, due to decades of fire suppression and misinformed policies that interfere with good forest management practices, fire has not touched some of these groves for over a century. This has caused a buildup of dangerous fuels that are fueling catastrophic fires that far exceed what the giant sequoias can tolerate.

That’s why we’ve seen catastrophic wildfires, such as the SQF Complex Fire and Windy Fire, kill giant sequoias at an alarming rate in recent years. In fact, over a 15-month period from 2020 to 2021, the world lost nearly a fifth of all giant sequoias to catastrophic fires. The intensity and frequency of these wildfires are exacerbated by worsening drought conditions and extreme heat. And these preventable, high-severity wildfires are making matters worse, dramatically increasing global emissions.

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 crown of roots in ‘space’ blankets for fire protection in a last ditch effort to avoid permanent damage.

This is an emergency that requires immediate action. America’s rich natural resources, including the giant sequoias, will not stay healthy if we just sit back and hope for the best. That’s why we’ve received insights from state, local, tribal, and industry experts on specific ways to protect giant sequoias. We also saw firsthand the devastation these fires wrought on the landscape when we led a bipartisan delegation into the groves themselves to learn even more from people on the ground about how to effectively care for these iconic trees. . These listening sessions led to the introduction of our bipartisan legislation, the Save Our Sequoias Act, which builds on this wide range of input to codify a plan of action that can be implemented immediately by our land managers.

Our bill would codify the current Giant Sequoia Land Coalition and task it with creating a giant sequoia health and resilience assessment to inform future management decisions. The bill would then streamline regulations while maintaining strong environmental protections to ensure that recommendations from this assessment can be implemented quickly and effectively by land managers. Finally, our bill dedicates the necessary personnel and funding resources to ensure a dedicated effort to safeguard our giant sequoias for generations to come.

By proactively managing California’s forests, we can mitigate the severity of wildfires before they even start. Instead of firefighters resorting to desperate measures to fight the uncontrollable infernos in the groves of giant sequoias, we can take action to stop the fires from spreading there in the first place. This is the only way to ensure long-term forest health and avoid losing more trees in the future.

Given the strong bipartisan support the Save Our Sequoias Act already enjoys, there’s no reason we can’t quickly pass it through Congress and get it signed into law so that forest managers can have the mitigation resources at their disposal. forest fires that they so badly need. We’re racing against the clock of another historic wildfire season, and the giant sequoias are under increasing threat.

This is just the first step in a much broader bipartisan effort to improve the health of our nation’s forests. Year-round wildfires are the new normal for California residents, and it’s unacceptable. They threaten lives, homes, wildlife, businesses, property and more every year, costing the state billions of dollars and forcing people to pick up the pieces of their lives from the ashes. We are committed to championing real solutions in Congress that would address the fundamental issues driving these fires, 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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