More Facts About The Giant Sequoia of the Southern
Note: This article was written in 1999, prior to the establishment of
Sequoia National Monument. Although we hoped the Monument would protect
the Sequoias, it has not. So, this article's comments about how Forest
Service policies change on a whim and with every new Presidential administration
For more current information, see our home
Since the horrific logging at the turn of the century until the 1980's, the Forest
Service generally protected the Sequoia Groves. In the 1950's the first written Forest
Service Policy designated various groves as Type 1, which prohibited logging, road
building, or any other destructive activity in these areas. B this was policy, not law,
and it was soon ignored! In 1982, a new policy allowed clearcut logging inside Sequoia
groves, destroying and logging every living thing - except the largest Sequoias - from 15
to 75 acre patches scattered within at least 10 groves.
Only vigorous efforts taken by concerned citizens since 1986 have prevented this
massive clearcutting of other tree species within Sequoia groves, as well as the
conversion of the Sequoia groves to fir and pine tree plantations The Sierra Club has used
every available tool, including administrative appeals, lawsuits, negotiations, and
national media attention to force protection for these magnificent giants and their
surrounding ecosystem. A 1987 lawsuit filed by the Club resulted in an injunction against
the destructive practice of clearcutting in the Sequoia groves. A mediated settlement
agreement arising out of an administrative appeal on Sequoia Forest's Land Management Plan
gave temporary respite to the onslaught within Sequoia groves themselves, but the forest
as a whole is still, part of the timber base. Logging continues throughout the Sequoia
ecosystem, without any scientific basis for knowing whether the logging will ultimately
destroy the Sequoia ecosystem or how it will affect the groves. Promised remedial actions
and studies go unfunded and have not been carried out. Only strict vigilance prevents
blatant settlement violations.
Numerous problems exist today regarding USFS management of the groves. The term 'grove'
is narrowly defined to include only the area 500 feet outside the farthest tree in any
given grove. Logging is permitted outside this boundary leaving small, isolated islands of
Sequoias, There is no consideration given to what happens upstream from the groves.
Upslope logging roads, culverts, and clearcuts change the flow of surface and subsurface
water that, sustains the groves, Logging destroys trails, damages soils, and disrupts the
ecological balance of the biological communities. The ancient forests located in Sequoia
National Forest are not merely a collection of trees - they are parts of a complex living
ecosystem - the home of many endemic, rare, and endangered species of plants and wildlife.
Continuing destruction of the forest can only accelerate the extirpation of these species.
SIDEBAR: The National Pork Service vs. the U.S. Forest Service: Sequoia
National Park is administered under the Department of the Interior. Park lands have been
set aside and are protected from logging and other destructive uses. The mission of the
Park Service is to protect and perpetuate the ecosystems within the Park boundaries.
Sequoia National Forest, on the other hand, is administered by the Department of
Agriculture. These lands can and have been logged, mined, roaded, and grazed as well as
used for recreation and management. While the mission of the Forest Service is to make the
lands available for multiple use, but in reality one use, logging, has surpassed all other
Newly stated Forest Service policies which purport to protect the Sequoias are subject
to change with every change of personnel or political power. In the past decade we've
heard of 'sustained yield', 'the new forestry', 'reinventing the Forest Service', and most
recently, 'ecosystem management'. As misdefined by the USFS, these terms are merely
excuses for various forms of logging; none of them consider the option of preserving the
Sequoia ecosystem in anything close to the manner in which the National Park Service does.
The most recent proposals which purport to improve the forest through the guise of
'ecosystem management' bring new threats to the Sequoia ecosystem by encouraging massive
and highly experimental modifications to the natural ecosystem. Ecosystem management can
be perverted to mean business as usual by managers who stick their heads in the sand and
refuse to recognize any value in a forest other than commodity production.
Only after the passage of legislation which removes these forgotten
Southern Groves from the hands of the Forest Service will we be able to
say, finally, that 'The Sequoias are saved, and John Muir's most noble
forest is safe.'