More Facts About The Giant Sequoia of the Southern Sierra

 

Note: This article was written in 1999, prior to the establishment of the Giant 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 remain true.

For more current information, see our home page.


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 uses.

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.'

 

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