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
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
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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