What is taller than the Statue of Liberty, over three thousand years old, and more than thirty feet in diameter? You guessed it. The Giant Sequoias, the largest trees on earth. Millions of years ago members of the Sequoia family grew across much of North America. Today they are found only on the western slope of the southern Sierra Nevada.
On February 15 President Clinton proposed creation of a Sequoia National Monument to protect the Giant Sequoias found in Sequoia National Forest. Although some of the sequoias are protected in Sequoia National Park, half of them are found in Sequoia National Forest where they have no long term legal protection from logging. In the 1980s the Forest Service clearcut some of the groves and removed everything but the giant old monarch trees. They were left towering over piles of logging slash , bare dirt, and ashes, a scene of utter devastation. With a lawsuit the Sierra Club got the logging in the groves themselves stopped, but the Forest Service is still logging the surrounding forests.
A walk through a Giant Sequoia Grove is a humbling experience. The immense size and rugged beauty of the trees is overwhelming. Staring up into the canopy of these behemoths and realizing some of them were1000 year old giants at the birth of Christ, puts things into perspective. It should be a no brainer that these trees deserve the best protection we can give them.
We know that the Sequoias are part of the larger old growth ecosystem of the surrounding Sierra conifer forests. Many rare and sensitive wildlife species such as California spotted owls and Pacific fisher live in the ecosystem. The nest of the last California condor chick hatched in the wild was located in a cavity in a Giant sequoia. It was discovered while the forest surrounding its nest was being clearcut! The scientific community that knows the most about these trees and their ecosystem readily admits that we need to know much more to assure their survival as we know them today. And yet the Forest Service continues to log in the forest around the groves.
For almost ten years legislation has been before Congress to give the sequoias and their ecosystem permanent protection. Congressman George Brown from southern California, who was the chief sponsor of the legislation, unfortunately passed away last summer. Now the President has stepped in to finish what he started. He has given the Forest Service sixty days to report back to him with a recommendation based upon George Brownıs bill. If the Monument follows the design of the Brown bill, approximately 400,000 acres would be protected from logging, road building, off road vehicles, and other destructive influences upon the sequoias.
When the Sierra Clubıs honorary President, Dr. Edgar Wayburn, received the Presidential Medal of Freedom last summer he asked President Clinton to take action to protect the sequoias. In 1911 John Muir wrote, "Walk in the Sequoia woods at any time of the year and you will say they are the most beautiful and majestic forests on earth."
Auspiciously, the report from the Forest Service to the President is due on John Muirıs birthday, April 21, the day before Earth Day. Help us finish what John Muir started and give him a birthday gift and all of us a special Earth Day this year by sending a message to the President, your Senators, and your Representative asking them to support fully protecting the Giant Sequoias in a 400.000 acre National Monument.
President Bill Clinton (President@whitehouse.gov)
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
Washington, DC 20500
Dear President Clinton:
The giant Sequoias of Sequoia National Forest are a treasure I want to pass down to future generations. Please declare a Sequoia National Monument of at least 400,000 acres that preserves the groves and their surrounding watersheds and forest ecosystem. Be sure the sequoias are truly protected by eliminating commercial logging, new road building, off-road vehicles, mining, and all destructive influences on the forest.