Emergency measures have been taken by the U.S. Forest Service to preserve the world’s biggest trees from wildfires by accelerating the start of projects that may begin in a matter of weeks to remove underbrush.
The decision to bypass some environmental review could shorten the normal approval process for cutting smaller trees in national forests and using intentionally lit low-intensity fires to reduce dense brush that has helped fuel raging wildfires that have killed up to 20% of all large sequoias in the past two years.
Forest Service Chief Randy Moore stated in a statement, “Without prompt action, flames might remove thousands more iconic giant sequoias.” Before a wildfire can take hold, “this emergency operation to decrease fuels will save unburned giant sequoia groves.”
Even the world’s biggest trees, which are measured in terms of volume, are in danger. Forests burdened with thick foliage, felled logs, and millions of dead trees killed by bark beetles due to more than a century of vigorous fire control are now more vulnerable to wildfires caused by drought and climate change.
Central California’s Sierra Nevada mountain area is solely home to a single type of plant, and the Forest Service’s statement is only one of several attempts to safeguard it. Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are home to the majority of the approximately 70 tree groves, although some extend into the north and east of Yosemite National Park.
As a result of fires destroying giant trees in Sequoia National Park, a new and controversial idea is being considered to plant sequoia saplings in their place.
Congressmen from both parties have recently filed the Save Our Sequoias (SOS) Act, which contains a provision to speed up environmental studies like the Forest Service’s proposal, in an effort to save the sequoias.
More must be done to make it simpler to trim trees after Moore’s pronouncement Friday, the organisation said in a statement.
It’s a major step forward for Giant Sequoias, but unless other hurdles are addressed, this situation will only become worse, the organisation said. For the sake of California’s sequoias, it’s time to formalise this action via the SOS Act and build a genuine comprehensive solution to fireproof every grove in the state.
The Sequoia National Forest and the Sierra National Forest plan to spend $21 million to remove “ladder fuels” such as brush, dead wood, and smaller trees that allow fires to spread upward and torch the canopies of the giant sequoia trees, which can reach heights of 300 feet (90 metres). This work is expected to begin as early as this summer.
To clear the forest floor of rotting needles, sticks, and logs, the plan includes for chopping down larger trees and plants and lighting and monitoring managed fires during moist conditions.
Forest thinning has been attacked by certain environmental organisations as a pretext for logging.
Sequoia ForestKeeper’s executive director, Ara Marderosian, dubbed the announcement a “well-orchestrated public relations effort.”
He said that it doesn’t take into account how logging might intensify wildfires and contribute to climate change.
“Fast-tracking thinning fails to recognise that highways and logged areas… enable wind-driven flames because higher airflow is generated by the opening in the canopy, which boosts wildfire speed and severity,” he said.
According to Rob York, a professor and cooperative extension specialist at the University of California-forests, Berkeley’s the forest service’s strategy might be useful, but it would take a lot of follow-up work.
When it comes to protecting the world’s largest trees, “to me it symbolises a triage strategy to deal with the imminent danger,” York said in an email. Treatments must be followed by regular controlled burns to ensure the groves’ long-term restoration and protection.”
Even though its thick bark and leaves were formerly believed practically indestructible, the sequoia was once regarded nearly indestructible.
Even low intensity blazes, like those traditionally ignited or tolerated by Native Americans, which clear off trees vying for sunshine and water, help the trees grow. Using fire to heat up the cones releases seeds, allowing them to spread.
Even though these trees may survive for 3,000 years or more, recent fires indicate that they are not indestructible, thus more must be done to safeguard them.
Firefighters at Sequoia National Park utilised foil and flame retardant to preserve the park’s most iconic trees during a blaze last year.
During the Mariposa Grove fire at Yosemite National Park earlier this month, crews installed sprinklers.
The first wildfire in more than a century ravaged the grove, although there was no severe damage. The controlled fires, according to a park forest scientist, are what kept 500 huge trees safe.