According to Blom, whose group favors thinning the dense stands of young trees and reducing accumulations of vegetation and woody debris from the forest floor through prescribed burns or mechanical methods. , there are about 26,000 hectares of land to be cleared of all 80 sequoia groves on federal land. , with about 8,000 hectares already under treatment.
On their reservation, the Tule River Indian Tribe has managed eight sequoia groves for 40 years. McDarment believes those efforts limited damage to trees when recent wildfires broke out. The tribe plans to reintroduce the beavers next spring; their dams help to store a lot of water in the pastures near the woods.
Meanwhile, foresters are studying the best way to replant trees in burned areas. Researchers are establishing seedling plots to study which genomes, from sequoias as well as other conifers, will survive best in expected future conditions. “We’ll evaluate it over time and see which ones grow well,” said Joanna Nelson, director of science and conservation planning for the Save the Redwoods League.
Earlier this year, US lawmakers introduced a bipartisan bill called Save Our Sequoias that would provide additional funding for sequoia thinning. The bill received support from forest products, ranch, farm, and recreation groups. But a coalition of 80 environmental groups opposed the bill, in a letter to members of Congress, saying it would set a national standard that allows federal agencies, under the an “emergency,” which would waive environmental assessments required by the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, and other environmental laws.
Without reviews, and community and scientific input, the group said, the bill “will lead to hasty and poorly planned projects with major impacts on land, streams, and wildlife resulting in more fire hazard.” No hearings were held; The bill remains in limbo while the Forest Service and National Park Service continue to be stretched thin.
But not without pushback. In 2022, the Earth Island Institute sued the National Park Service to stop thinning activities in Yosemite National Park, claiming the agency had short-circuited environmental review. And in September, Wilderness Watch, the Tule River Conservancy, and Sequoia ForestKeeper filed a lawsuit against mechanized logging in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, claiming it violates the Wilderness Act.
The debate is sure to intensify as the Biden administration commits $50 billion over 10 years to reduce fuel loads on 50 million acres in 11 Western states.
But advocates say action is needed. “These forests that we care for so much can become reforested with repeated severe fires of the kind we’ve seen,” said Nelson, of the Save the Redwoods League, citing a recent A study examining dry conifer forests in the western United States. . “We know what we need to do to respond to climate change, and we need to do everything we know how to do. We need limits on greenhouse gas emissions, and we also need active management to have more sequoias around.