Kern-Kaweah Chapter

 
 

Logo - Sierra Club Kern Kaweah ChapterThe Kern-Kaweah Chapter serves the California Counties of Kern, Kings, and Tulare. Visit Our Local Groups in:  

 

 

 

Our Chapter Newsletter - The Roadrunner

Updated Information about our Group and Chapter outings, events, meetings, and news is provided in the Kern-Kaweah Chapter's bi-monthly newsletter, The Roadrunner. Current and recent issues are now available online: https://csub.box.com/s/af9t02vs95j5tfnyo9t8 (copy link into your browser)


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Sequoia Groves in Peril – but not from fire

The biggest threat to every grove in our Southern Sierra is destructive, counterfeit 'restoration!' THE GROVES NEED OUR HELP!

By Carla Cloer, Sequoia Task Force, January 2024

Yes, fires raged through our Sierra forests and the Giant Sequoia National Monument and burned in a mosaic through many of our iconic sequoia groves; but unlike most conifers, giant sequoias are uniquely adapted to survive and reproduce especially after severe fire. As heat rises to the sequoias’ canopies, cones dry and release millions of seeds, the first to germinate on the burned soils. And seeds continue to fall even after several seasons. Giants surviving today were already growing in those same groves when Cleopatra was born; they and their progeny have made it through countless cycles of fire, drought and even nuclear winters caused by volcanic eruptions-- all with no human assistance.

IT’S A FOREST MIRACLE! There are now millions of sequoia seedlings in the groves - some in a continuous carpet, some in dense thickets and others in patches scattered across burned groves; in the Black Mountain Grove today, after the 2017 Pier Fire, seedlings leap from the ash-enriched soil and many are over 10 feet tall. Every huge sequoia we revere today began life in a similar post-fire seedling bloom and survived eons of fire and drought cycles with genetic superiority and luck. Other species including dogwood, wild roses, elderberries and bear clover are back. It’s the life cycle of forests, driven by millions of years of fire that created these forests we love today.

NOW WE ARE HORRIFIED! The Sierra Club fought for decades to stop industrial-commercial logging in grove ecosystems and in 2000 helped create the Giant Sequoia National Monument. BUT RIGHT NOW the Forest Service has approved more damage on more acres than were logged in the decades prior to the creation of the Monument! AND some of these projects are already happening because the Bush administration gave agencies so-called “emergency powers” so they could skip usual legal requirements.

BUT THERE WAS NO EMERGENCY: the fires were out! Trees in danger of falling on roads were removed right after the fires. Furthermore, burned forests are fire resistant; large dead trees are difficult to ignite as anyone knows who has tried to light campfire logs without kindling. Dead trees are not only habitat for post - fire dependent species but fallen trees stabilize soils and provide the nutrients for future forests. But tragically, projects going on right now have dragged thousands of logs out of the groves using 56,000 pound tracked machines ripping through forest soils, destroying thousands of young sequoias and creating hundreds of slash burn piles on top the seedlings: seedlings that were the last gift from burned sequoias.

WORSE IS COMING!! Two HUGE projects with even worse impacts have been approved for over 50,000 acres inside the Monument and will invade 15 giant sequoia groves. These projects will use commercial logging methods with “tracked equipment such as masticators, skidders, excavators, feller-bunchers, and chippers” within one-quarter mile (1320 feet) of roads: (there are 822 miles of Forest Service roads inside the Monument; most are LESS than a quarter mile apart.) There is no mention of protecting natural sequoia seedlings. They will ‘try’ not to cut sequoias over 12 inches in diameter; those fire survivors are many decades old! Much of the remaining vegetation, except for sequoias big enough to be called ‘giants,’ will be crushed, ripped or covered with chips and then replaced with planted seedlings in densities the USFS deems to meet ‘desired stocking standards.’ Planted seedlings will be “protected” from “competing vegetation” with glyphosate. This is industrial tree farming and has nothing to do with understanding or respecting natural ecosystems and their cycles of life! It is NOT restoration.

The Clinton Proclamation that created the Monument in 2000 protected not just the biggest giant sequoias, but a myriad of species and an entire ecosystem; it also mandated that the forest be restored FROM a century of fire suppression and logging. Now there has been fire – but the Forest Service’s plan is to use fire as an excuse for MORE LOGGING and create a perpetual cycle of tree ‘management.’

WE WILL TAKE THE FOREST SERVICE TO COURT! The Forest Service has approved these projects with a “Finding Of No Significant Impact! (FONSI)” We demand that projects be withdrawn or studied in a full-scale Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) with scientific studies and full public input before any approval. These projects are within the area of the Kern-Kaweah Chapter, the smallest Sierra Club Chapter in California with no staff and a huge array of issues from oil drilling, air pollution, sprawl and southern Sierra issues. We are small but mighty. We fought the Mineral King Ski proposal, worked tirelessly to gain many Wildernesses including the Golden Trout and helped create the Giant Sequoia National Monument. We will not stop.

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THE GROVES NEED YOUR HELP! The timber industry and the Forest Service lost no time to greatly exaggerate the number of sequoias killed and to promote the idea that only by logging dead trees and replanting nursery-grown seedlings can the groves be saved. Many are unaware of miraculous natural forest life cycles or of the drastic consequences of this scheme to get around Monument protections. We need public education, newsletters, interviews and special programs; furthermore we cannot fully pursue this essential lawsuit without assured funding. The National Club will approve the lawsuit but cannot fund it.

To help us or for additional information, please contact:

Stephen A. Montgomery, Chair of the Kern-Kaweah Chapter at chair@kernkaweah.sierraclub.org Carla Cloer, Sequoia Task Force at <cac@ocsnet.net>

 

Photo:  Black Mountain Grove, Giant Sequoia National Monument, December, 2023. One of many piles of logs dragged from the grove to be taken to the timber mill with no studies or public input and falsely claimed to be an ‘emergency.’

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Photo: Black Mountain Grove December, 2023: pile of logging debris in a burn pile on top and adjacent to thriving sequoia seedlings. There is no mention of protection natural seedlings in the recently approved Windy and Castle projects that we intent to fight.