Coalition makes great progress in protecting giant sequoias from wildfire threats

Group treats more than double the acres originally targeted for restoration in 2022 and plants more than 248,000 trees

One hundred human generations can come and go in the lifetime of a giant sequoia. This forest ecosystem has been here on the west slopes of the Sierra Nevada—and only here—for millions of years, and we lost nearly 20% in two years of unprecedented, intense wildfires. After millions of years of stability, the trajectory of this extraordinary forest ecosystem has taken a drastic and devastating turn—on our watch. And how the giant sequoia species emerges from this existential threat will be determined by the choices that we make now. We, collectively, must take responsibility for what happens next.

Save the Redwoods League and the other organizations of the Giant Sequoia Lands Coalition sounded the alarm. The Coalition is rallying the science community to prioritize and guide timely action. We are actively treating groves, and we are shouting from the rooftops to get this crisis in every news outlet and on every kitchen table in the country.

In its first year of large-scale collaboration, the Coalition far exceeded its goals, treating 4,257 acres ‒ more than double the acres originally targeted for restoration in 2022 ‒ in 36 of approximately 80 groves. Coalition members also planted more than 248,000 native conifer seedlings, including giant sequoias, in groves that had burned in recent years. On Dec. 14, the Coalition gathered at Calaveras Big Trees State Park to issue a progress report on the work conducted throughout 2022 by the public and non-governmental organizations.

Crew at prescribed burning
Organizations of the Giant Sequoia Lands Coalition in May 2022 conduct a prescribed fire to reduce the buildup of fuels and lower the risk of severe wildfire in Calaveras Big Trees State Park. Photo by Smith Robinson Multimedia, courtesy of Save the Redwoods League

Additional highlights from the 2022 progress report

Coalition organizations successfully protected Placer County Big Trees Grove in Tahoe National Forest from the Mosquito wildfire and Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias in Yosemite National Park from the Washburn wildfire. Research lead by Coalition partners and their academic and nonprofit affiliates continued to investigate giant sequoia health and changing ecology, documenting new phenomena driving fire behavior and tree mortality and completing post-fire assessments.

Two researchers hang from climbing ropes in a giant sequoia.
Researchers collect cones from a giant sequoia in Calaveras Big Trees State Park as part of a project to better understand how to steward the iconic species. Photo by Jiyi Jun, Save the Redwoods League.

Public outreach and education included electronic and print publications, community meetings, webinars, field trips, media events and news releases that resulted in more than 10,000 stories in the media. In total, the Coalition’s work in 2022 was conducted by 824 people at a cost of $10.5 million.

As we advance the work of this impressive coalition and strive to meet our collective responsibility, we are determined to ensure that these irreplaceable natural treasures are better prepared for the fires of our new reality. And our work is just beginning.

We again urge decision makers to take further action to provide funding and personnel, enact policy changes, and help us reduce fuels now so we can address the problem at scale.

 

Map of giant sequoia groves and major land managers
Map of the approximately 80 giant sequoia groves and major land managers. Map by Save the Redwoods League

 

 

About the author

President and Chief Enthusiast for the Outdoors (CEO) of Save the Redwoods League, Sam brings more than 25 years of experience in overseeing land conservation programs from the remote wilderness to the inner city.

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