They Might be Giants (Thanks to Him)
It looks like the record books will soon have to be changed to reflect a new discovery: The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the tallest tree in the world is no longer the coast redwood known as the Stratosphere Giant. That 370-foot sequoia sempervirens in Humboldt State Park has been bested by not one, but three spectacular specimens recently discovered in Redwood National Park. The tallest of those has been dubbed Hyperion and reportedly soars to an incredible 378.1 feet.
The old-growth giants are located in an extension of the park which was added belatedly under the Carter Administration, thanks in large part to pressure from the Sierra Club (which proposed giving the redwoods national park status in the first place) and the visionary leadership of past Club president, Dr. Edgar Wayburn.
Wayburn, who turns 100 later this month, was instrumental in the preservation of more than 100 million acres of American wilderness. In his autobiography, Your Land and Mine, he called campaign to save the redwoods the toughest of his conservation career, recalling that:
Saving the redwoods for posterity also meant challenging the belief that nature exists exclusively for the present generation to exploit -- a belief that had gone relatively unquestioned for thousands of years. Our first eight years of travail achieved a park in name but not in the spirit of our original vision. It was the result of a compromise... The second redwood legislation a decade later, by contrast, served ecological purposes, primarily by recognizing the need for watershed protection. In expanding Redwood National Park, the nation recognized that great natural legacies are not created simply by reserving small plots of land. Watersheds, not property lines, should determine the extent of an important, enduring park.The newly discovered tallest trees are testimony to greatness of Wayburn's vision. As biology professor George Koch tells the Chronicle, "With so much of the old-growth redwoods gone -- more than 90 percent -- you wouldn't necessarily expect a discovery like this. ... They aren't all that far from an old clear-cut," he said. "Basically, they were almost nuked. The fact that they weren't is amazing." Amen.