Efforts Underway to Save Sequoias, Anti-Forestry Groups Sue to Block Projects

From 2020 to 2021, the Castle and Windy Fires in California combined to burn 154,000 acres of National Forest System lands (excluding designated Wilderness areas). Both fires caused extensive deforestation. Half of the acres burned in the Castle Fire alone resulted in 100 percent tree mortality, and notably, it burned through ten giant sequoia groves.

Together, the fires killed as many as 11,000 Sequoia trees, and in just two years, incinerated 20 percent of the forests’ largest and oldest trees. The fires also burned large areas of wildlife habitat for vulnerable, old-growth dependent species, including the California spotted owl and Pacific fisher.

The director of science and conservation planning for Save the Redwoods League described the urgent need to save California’s iconic Giant Seqouia:

“This is an emergency…If we were in the process of losing 20 percent of the Grand Canyon — or the Library of Congress, for that matter — we would expect people in positions of power to spring into action. We shouldn’t expect anything less with our beloved giant sequoia.”

In response to the fires, the U.S. Forest Service authorized the Castle Fire Ecological Restoration Project and the Windy Fire Restoration to restore the forests, promote a healthy ecosystem, promote resilient forest conditions and establish and maintain low fuel conditions. It would also remove dead and dying trees that would otherwise fuel the next big wildfire.

It’s just the latest effort to save forests in the southern Sierra Nevada, where 85 percent of pine has already died.

Despite the accelerating destruction to old growth and wildlife habitat in a short period of time, anti-forestry groups recently filed lawsuits to stop the Castle and Windy restoration projects from being implemented. The groups allege the Forest Service failed to conduct sufficient environmental analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act.

They claim the losses of giant sequoia are ‘exaggerated,’ and the severe wildfires are helping to “restore forest areas that have recovered naturally for millennia without logging.” Yet many forests in this era of mega-fires are not recovering naturally. According to a reforestation manager at American forests:

“Wildfires have existed and benefited this landscape for many thousands of years. But the fires that we’ve been seeing in the last five to 10 years are outside of the natural range of variation. We’re concerned because fires are increasing in intensity and size, and in those scars we are unlikely to see trees naturally regenerating.”

One anti-forestry attorney said he wasn’t concerned with the loss of 20 percent of the area’s giant sequoias, because 80 percent of them did not die. But that assumes these overstocked, unhealthy and fire-prone forests will not see any more severe fire, ever. Others, like registered professional forester Jeff Gletne understand the risk of doing nothing:

“It is sickening to see the results of the fires. And as a forester, all that fuel remaining on site is also very frightening. Because if we don’t treat these fuels, Mother Nature certainly will.”

Our National Forest lands are at risk and need proactive, science-based forest management. You can make a difference. Join us un urging the President and your members of Congress to pass reforms to address anti-forestry lawsuits and obstruction so we can reduce wildfire risks on federally-owned forest lands. You can send a message from our website by clicking here.

Efforts Underway to Save Sequoias, Anti-Forestry Groups Sue to Block Projects