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The Planet
Victory

Clinton Signs Sequoia Monument

by Jenny Coyle

Joe Fontaine was camping in California's Sequoia National Forest with a group of Boy Scouts in 1962 when he saw a clearcut that looked like "a war zone." First he got angry, then he got involved. And he's never let up the pressure to protect his beloved forest.

In her childhood, Carla Cloer, a fourth generation resident of Porterville - a small city just outside the national forest - used to ride her pony through the sequoias as far as she could go in a day. After riding through increasing destruction of the forest over the years, in 1979 Cloer joined the fight. She now serves as the Sierra Club's Sequoia Task Force chair.

For these two activists and many others, President Clinton's designation of 328,000 acres of these forests as Sequoia National Monument on April 15 was not just a victory for wild forests and future generations, but a personal one as well. They'd spent years writing letters, lobbying, organizing rallies, filing lawsuits, testifying at public hearings and challenging timber sales.

"John Muir was pushing for the protection of these groves a century ago," said Fontaine. "I like to think we've scratched something off his to-do list."

As Clinton said during the event, "This is not about locking lands up; it is about freeing them up for all Americans for all time."

Task force members are pleased with new regulations for off-road vehicles, which will be restricted to designated roads and banned from trails after Dec. 31. Recreational access for hunting, fishing, camping and horseback riding will be maintained, and existing camps and private inholdings will stay.

As for logging, by and large it won't be allowed after 30 months. Timber sales that were already under contract will proceed as will those that were selected for sale but have not yet been bid. And, activists note, there is a problematic clause in Clinton's proclamation that says trees can't be removed from the monument unless "clearly needed for ecological restoration and maintenance or public safety."

"I'm deeply concerned that the language controlling the removal of trees is extremely broad," said Cloer. "Now the ball is in the U.S. Forest Service court to manage these ecosystems in the spirit of this national monument designation. We'll be watching."

Cloer, Fontaine and other task force members and activists were there when Clinton made the April announcement in a grove of sequoias. Fontaine said he got teary-eyed. Cloer said she felt inspired and relieved, but she's still nursing the wounds borne by fighting for a cause that is unpopular in her local community. A grade-school teacher for 26 years, she was called names in letters to the editor and chewed out by strangers on the street. At a recent public hearing, audience members tried to boo her off the stage.

Firm in her resolve to protect the sequoias she loves, Cloer stood strong.

"I've been dealing with children too long to let the crowd take over," she said.


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