Startling Report Highlights Issue of Air Pollution Among National Parks

Sequoia National Park. Photo by Anthony Ambrose
Sequoia National Park. Photo by Anthony Ambrose
Sequoia National Park is Among Those Greatly Affected

When people visit California’s giant sequoia, they expect to gaze in wonder at the majestic trees as they walk soft trails and breathe fresh mountain air. According to a recent report from the National Parks Conservation Association, that last part of the equation is problematic at several national parks, including Sequoia, Kings Canyon  and Yosemite National Parks. Startlingly, the report names Sequoia and Kings Canyon as among the parks with the worst air pollution in the country, meaning that the parks “had unhealthy air for most park visitors and rangers to breathe for more than two months of the year, mostly in the summer months.”

Because connecting Californians with enjoyable experiences among our spectacular redwoods is a core part of Save the Redwoods League’s mission, we take studies like this one about air quality in the giant sequoia seriously.

According to the report, poor air quality in the Sierra Nevada Mountains is being driven primarily by emissions from vehicles and the agriculture industry in the San Joaquin Valley, already known to be one of the worst areas for air pollution in the nation. Thankfully, California’s recent push to set ambitious goals for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions particularly targets these sources of air pollution. However, some proposals at the federal level are concerning.

In April of this year, the Bureau of Land Management proposed a new plan to open up more than 1.6 million acres of public land in central California to oil and gas production, including hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, putting nearby communities and the national parks in the mountains above, at risk of increased air pollution. BLM is not proposing extraction in the parks themselves, but on lands near enough that it could exacerbate air pollution and negatively impact wildlife, water quality, and sensitive habitats. The planning area defined in the environmental impact statement spans from the mountains of the southern Sierra, across the Central Valley, to the central California coast.

The BLM’s proposed plan would lift a federal moratorium on leasing federal land in California to oil and gas developers, which came in 2016 after a federal judge ordered similar leasing efforts to be postponed until the BLM could better evaluate the environmental risks of fracking. The government will attempt to address the court’s concerns in an updated EIS slated for later this summer.

Save the Redwoods League is monitoring all of this closely. We encourage the creation of comprehensive plans to address pollution in our parks under the Clean Air Act, which requires states to work with polluters to reduce emissions and clear the skies in and around national parks and wilderness areas.

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About Shelana deSilva


Shelana recently joined Save the Redwoods League as the Director of Government Affairs and Public Funding. She has a strong track record helping national and statewide nonprofits develop partnerships, lead campaigns and initiatives, and secure public funding to achieve their missions.

2019 Redwoods Rising Apprentices.

Students from Humboldt State to Help Restore Redwood National and State Parks


Eighteen students from Humboldt State University (HSU) are participating in a collaborative restoration project known as Redwoods Rising, gaining valuable knowledge and work experience studying the historically logged coast redwood forests in Redwood National and State Parks this summer.

Redwoods Rising Apprentices 2019

Redwoods Rising Apprentices Team Building


Earlier this season, Redwoods Rising apprentices toured the Greater Miller Creek Project Area to get a sense of the work they would be doing later in the summer. They also did a team building activity, where they established a circle in the grass, and then had to retrieve a piece of redwood branch that they placed outside of the circle without touching the ground. The larger lesson was that growth requires teamwork. All in all a fun day.

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