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July, 2006


Giant Sequoia National Monument: Our Struggle to Save The "Saved" Sequoias

Try to imagine the almost unimaginable: the race of Mammoth red trees that dominated temperate-zone forest all the way around the Northern Hemisphere long before the arrival of humankind on Earth; their escaping, somehow, countless millennia of Pleistocene Ice; their eventual survival here and there among the pines and firs in about seventy "groves" in what would become California; in the19th and 20th centuries, the assaults by ax and saw, in the greatest orgy of forest destruction the world has ever known.
There are about 32,000 acres-thousands of them logged off-of giant Sequoia occurrence. One-third of them are in Sequoia, Kings Canyon, and Yosemite National Parks. Other "ownerships" (state, county, federal, and private) account for nearly six thousand. But the greatest area of all-a good 49 percent of the worlds native Sequoia grove acreage went into the Giant Sequoia National Forest in 2000 by presidential proclamation as part of the Clinton environmental legacy.

So there you have it: final protection for the "noblest forest of the world," 36 Sequoias groves, big and small, logged and virgin, everything left that wasn't already protected. Time to relax and enjoy the scenery, right?

From the time the Forest Service began offering timber sales (including giant sequoias) in the sequoia groves in 1982, shocked citizens had been objecting, on the ground, in court, in Congress, and at the White House. Although the damage was, and still is, severe, the Forest Service, perceiving in Washington's growing interest, a threat to its wheeling and dealing, began to reduce the volume of timber taken from Sequoia National Forest. Between 1991 and 1999, the volume cut annually was reduced by 90 percent. But the Nation still needed something permanent, locked into law.

Then the White House door opened and we got a national monument.

Or did we?
Instead of going into the care of the National Park Service, which traditionally manages our national park and monuments, the GSNM was left to the mercy of the Forest Service. The presidential proclamation actually authorized an immediate 50 percent increase in logging "to help the local economy." Various Sequoia National Monument logging options are touted in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, the pages of which weigh four and three quarters pounds.

Our work is cut out for us; delay can be deadly. California Congressman George Miller has a bill in hand to transfer the national monument to the National Park Service. We hope for 150 sponsors in the House of Representatives. But we have to ask every one of them. Meanwhile, litigation and media exposure may slow the Forest Service's intensified flouting of the law, yet the abuses continue. The required management plan for the national monument is nonexistent, and logging trucks loaded with "hazard trees" keep rolling out of the monument every working day. With every day that the monument remains under the secretary of agriculture, its precious resources are diminished. If it is to be saved, it must take its rightful place among the natural treasures protected within our national park system. For more information please go to

By Martin Litton, 89 year old conservationist

James Fox Executive Director 415.519.9631 [email protected]

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