Giant Sequoia National Monument
USFS Fire Plan Declared Illegal
Sequoia Monument Fire Plan Declared Illegal!
July 16, 2005 - The California Attorney General has won a landmark lawsuit
against Sequoia National Forest. A Federal judge has found that the Sequoia
National Forest Fire Management Plan, the basis for much of the
management of Sequoia National Forest and the Giant Sequoia National
Monument is illegal. This victory doubtless will influence the Sierra
Club's lawsuit against the Monument Plan, but the greatest winners are
those beleaguered sequoias of Sequoia National Forest.
We are extremely pleased by the AG's victory! Bill Lockyer's staff did
an outstanding job with this complicated lawsuit. We have been holding
our breath for the outcome knowing that it was an essential key to
winning the battle for sound ecosystem management of the Monument.
What was this lawsuit vs. the Sequoia National Forest's Fire Plan all
about? We here locally had been fighting to get Sequoia Forest to write
a Fire Management Plan for many years, ever since the 1988 Land
Management Plan ordered that a Fire Plan be written. When we raised
the issue of the lack of a Fire Plan during the Monument planning process,
we were stunned to learn that they suddenly had this Fire Plan. We had
seen no public notice, no requests for comments, and no environmental
documentation. From somewhere in the bowels of the Supervisor's office
the Fire Plan emerged as a final document-- a done deal.
Apparently, in 2003, three years after the creation of the Giant Sequoia
National Monument, Sequoia National Forest thought it could get away
with writing a Fire Plan in their back room even though this Fire Plan
dictated and constrained almost every aspect of their supposedly public
Giant Sequoia National Monument (GSNM) planning process that was
The management of fire is central to management of sequoias, indeed the
entire Sierra Nevada ecosystem. For decades Sequoia National Park has
been successfully using fire - and very little logging- to manage and
protect sequoias and related forests. In contrast, the Forest Service
decided that logging, not fire, was the way to restore and protect their
sequoias in the new Monument. To this end, they did not allow even the
Scientific Advisory Board, who had the responsibility for guiding the
formation of the GSNM Management Plan, to give any input about this
inadequately prepared Fire Plan. The Fire Plan underlies almost every
aspect of the Monument Plan as it dictates if, where, and when fire may
be used as a management tool. It disallows natural wildfire in nearly
all of the Monument--yet the public was not told this nor allowed to
comment on fire management because, as the Forest Service put it, "the
subject is beyond the scope of this (Monument Plan) document." Can
imagine the audacity to tell the scientists and the public that a
discussion of fire was not appropriate when planning for the fate of
over half of the earth's sequoias?
Even before the Monument Plan was final, the State Attorney General
filed a lawsuit on just this one discrete issue alleging that Sequoia
National Forest's Fire Plan was illegal because it was not approved
subsequent to the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act
and several other Federal regulations.
The Federal Judge agreed.
Now that the Attorney General has won his lawsuit against this illegal
Fire Plan, it is my personal opinion that the Giant Sequoia Monument
Plan, which stands on the shoulders of that bogus Fire Plan, must be
withdrawn. There has not yet been any decision on what remedies will
follow. The AG's office will be working on that in the next few weeks.
The Forest Service manages only a few National Monuments and we are
seeing that they have a long way to go in learning how to manage lands
for the perpetuation of ecosystems instead of for logging. Now they
have a second chance; they need to go back to square one in planning
the Monument's future.
We are very impressed by Sequoia Park's success in managing their
sequoias and by their open attitude. The Sierra Club recently has been
urging that Sequoia National Park, instead of the Forest Service, be
given the responsibility for managing the Giant Sequoia National
Monument. The Park system already manages more than 80 National
Monuments in addition to the National Parks.
Chair, Sequoia Task Force