Giant Sequoia National Monument Sign

Giant Sequoia National Monument

A Citizen's Guide

by Sierra Club Sequoia Task Force

Map of giant Sequoia National Monument

The fight to protect the giant sequoias of California’s Sierra Nevada range began in the late 1800s, when Sierra Club founder John Muir sought and won the establishment of Sequoia National Park. Over one hundred years later, President Clinton established the Giant Sequoia National Monument to protect nearly half the giant sequoias left in existence. Yet these groves of towering trees are still threatened. The Sierra Club has listed the Giant Sequoia National Monument as one of the 52 most important places to protect in the next 10 years.

Thousands of hikers, campers, horseback riders, anglers, hunters, and skiers visit the Giant Sequoia National Monument each year. These magnificent forests provide essential habitat for the California spotted owl, Pacific fisher, and myriad other plants and animals. But the Forest Service has called for extensive logging of this natural cathedral, under the guise of fire protection. The Forest Service’s own scientists have found that logging large, fire-resistant trees like those in the Monument does little to prevent catastrophic wildfire. Prescribed fires and careful thinning of small trees and underbrush- especially near communities-have proven to be much more effective at preventing tragic wildfires.

Sequoia National Park, adjacent to the Monument, already provides a good example of how the forest should be managed. The Park is successfully restoring its giant sequoia ecosystem through the careful use of prescribed fire and a conservative small-tree thinning. Over several decades, the Park Service has made considerable progress in restoring a natural fire cycle to the forest without logging. That same careful stewardship should be applied inside the Monument. That’s why the Sierra Club is calling for the transfer of the Monument’s management to the National Park Service.

Conservation Groups Point to Neighboring National Park for Better Way to Manage National Treasure

Sierra Club Press Release: January 27, 2005

The Sierra Club is leading five other conservation organizations to challenge the Bush administration's decision to log Giant Sequoia National Monument in federal court. The groups also encouraged the administration and the court to look to neighboring Sequoia National Park for a better way to manage the rare forest.

The Sierra Club, Sierra Nevada Forest Protection Campaign, Earth Island Institute, Tule River Conservancy, Sequoia Forest Keeper, and Center for Biological Diversity jointly filed the complaint in San Francisco Federal District Court.

"These magnificent giant Sequoia forests are found nowhere else on earth," explained Bruce Hamilton, Sierra Club Conservation Director. "It makes no sense for the Bush administration to sacrifice such a spectacular national treasure. It also happens to be illegal."

Giant Sequoia National Monument boasts one half of all the Sequoia redwoods in the world, with most of the remainder found in the adjacent National Park. The popularity and awe-inspiring beauty of the Sequoia forest and its wildlife led President Bill Clinton permanently protect the forest as a National Monument under the Antiquities Act. Earlier, President George Bush Sr. had proclaimed the Sequoia groves off limits to commercial logging.

In January, 2005 , the Bush administration officially reversed those policies by finalizing plans to allow what amounts to commercial logging in the Monument, including the prized Giant Sequoia groves. The administration's plan would allow 7.5 million board feet of timber to be removed annually from the Monument, enough to fill 1,500 logging trucks each year. This policy would include logging of healthy trees of any species as big as 30 inches in diameter or more. Trees that size can be as much as 200 years old.

"This plan opens up huge areas to logging and specifically targets trees big enough to sell, undermining the whole purpose of the Monument. The Bush administration is shirking its responsibility to current and future generations to take care of this ancient and treasured forest," added Carla Cloer, representing the Tule River Conservancy.

As a model for better management, the Sierra Club and others are asking the Bush administration to look to nearby Sequoia National Park, where innovative conservation and fire prevention strategies have reinvigorated the Sequoia groves and made nearby communities safer. "In stark contrast to the very successful management techniques used for decades by the National Park Service in the Sequoia National Park," reads the complaint, "[the Bush administration] approved a Giant Sequoia National Monument Management Plan... that would permit extensive logging and cause the degradation of old forest habitat and irreparable harm to the Monument’s wildlife, directly conflicting with the purposes of the Sequoia Monument."

"The plan proposed by the Forest Service reverts back to an outdated strategy that ignores the clear recommendations of fire scientists on the Monument Science Advisory Committee, that fire risk reduction is not about logging large trees," stated Craig Thomas, Director of the Sierra Nevada Forest Protection Campaign.

To view maps of the areas within the Monument where logging will be permitted, go to: http://www.sierraclub.org/wildlands/sequoiaplan

The Intent of the Proclamation

In his Proclamation, President Clinton protected not only the Giant Sequoia groves but the entire range of ecosystems within Monument boundaries, "Oak woodlands and chaparral to high-elevation subalpine forest, numerous meadows and streams .. an interconnected web of habitats for moisture-loving species." He specifically included wildlife such as the Pacific fisher and the California spotted owl, along geological and archaeological resources. He pointed out that the forest needed to be restored from the effects of a century of fire suppression and logging.

Further, he directed in the Proclamation that the removal of trees, except for personal use fuel wood, may take place only  if clearly needed for ecological restoration and maintenance or public safety.

That language seems pretty straight forward. The forest needs to be  restored and trees can only be removed for very good reasons.

The Final Management Decision

Somehow the Forest Service interprets this stricture on tree removal to  mean they can continue logging and sell 7.5 million board feet of timber every year, enough to fill 1500 logging trucks, for each of ten years. They say they can justified removing ANY species of trees up to 30 inches in diameter from the Monument's forests and Sequoia Groves. The Sierra Club fought to stop such management practices with a lawsuit in the mid 1980s.

How do they justify all this tree removal? They say that this heavy manipulation is needed to thin the trees that have grown too thick and close together  creating a fire hazard and for "ecological restoration." This is the same  excuse for logging they used a quarter of a century ago!  

Harmful Logging Miles Away from Structures

How to best protect structures in a forest?

The Sequoia Task Force supports removal of easily ignitable brush and small trees, those 4-8" in diameter from within about 200 feet of developed areas and structures. That should be the first priority in reducing fuels and promoting  public safety. Cooperative projects with private property owners and home construction using  less flammable materials is the real key.
Bushes and small trees, the ones that carry fire, are almost never taken to the sawmill because they are too small. They are not merchantible and are NOT included in the 75 Million  Board Feet of timber the Forest Service plans to sell from the Monument in  the next ten years.  Scientists tell  us that large trees are almost NEVER a flammability problem;  they are very  difficult to ignite!

 So where is all the projected commercial timber coming from if not for protection of structures and public safety?

The Forest Service will "develop" huge so-called "threat and defense zones"  that will extend more than 1 1/2 miles from structures, and, in addition,  they will thin many south and west facing slopes.

There is no justification for heavy forest manipulation in areas up  to  3  miles in diameter centering on developed areas. There is no evidence that intense thinning of the forest does anything except make the forest hotter, dryer and more flammable; further, it destroys the old-forest habitat  that is already deficient on Monument lands because of past logging. As  one Sequoia expert pointed out, this Monument has a serious deficit of large trees i.e. those 40 inches in diameter and larger. He astutely notes that it would seem  reasonable to protect, not log, 30 inch trees if one hopes to quickly restore  40 inch trees.

While there may be limited situations that require tree removal instead of prescribed fire alone, cutting and removing trees must be the last resort, not the first. That is what the Proclamation clearly says. That is what we  demand.

Sequoia National Park's Long History of Successful Management

How could the Forest Service insist that wide spread removal of large trees  is "clearly necessary" and is their only option, when Sequoia National Park,  with the same objectives, successfully avoids tree removal on forests adjacent  to Monument lands, in the same Giant Sequoia groves and Sierran forest ecosystem?  The Park has been using prescribed fire for decades to protect communities,  reduce fuels, create diversity, stimulate the growth of young sequoias and  enhance wildlife habitat in a healthy forest. They seldom resort to tree removal. The results have been excellent. If you have not driven or hiked through Sequoia National Park recently you should. Prepare for a treat. You will see a healthy beautiful forest with redwoods and other species looking much like the forest John Muir described in his ramblings through the Sierra in the 19th century with a full range of healthy forest conditions including  evidence of recent fire. You will find yourself wondering why the Forest Service can't do the same thing in the Monument.

The Monument Should be Managed by the Park System

Because the Forest Service refuses to comply with the spirit of the Proclamation, the Sierra Club's position is that Monument should be managed by the National Park Service--specifically Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Park-- instead of  by the Forest Service. We are NOT recommending that the Monument become a  Park; it should remain a National Monument, managed in strict accordance  with the Proclamation that created it. Almost all the nation's National Monuments are managed by the Park System; the Giant Sequoia National Monument should be too! The Park Service would comply with the intent and spirit of the Proclamation.  After many field trips to Sequoia National Park, the Sequoia Task Force believes  the results of their management are excellent. Sequoia National Park has a proven track record and offers the nation's highest standards in resource  management. The Monument deserves nothing less.

Monument Management Planning

Monument Litigation

Environmentalists have had to fight to protect the Giant Sequoias ever since the Giant Sequoia National Monument was proclaimed in April of 2000, and are still fighting!



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