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Coalition Teams Up to Save Sequoias


Monday, December 19, 2022   

California's old-growth sequoia trees are dying at an alarming rate - so land managers across the Sierras are mounting an emergency response.

Many of the biggest, oldest trees on earth have fallen victim to mega-fires, bark beetle infestation and drought, all exacerbated by climate change.

Jessica Morse, deputy secretary for forest and wildland resilience at the California Natural Resources Agency, said multi-tree die-offs are rare among sequoias - with only about 2 dozen lost between the ice age and 2015 - but now more than 10,000 old-growth trees have died since 2020.

"This has been an all-hands-on-deck moment where we have state federal, local, tribal and nonprofit partners coming together to really address the sequoia crisis with urgency," said Morse. "You know, we've lost nearly 20% of the monarch sequoias in just two years."

This year, the California Giant Sequoia Land Coalition has cleared dead wood and burned piles from more than 4,200 acres, with about another 22,000 acres to go.

Sequoia groves range from Lake Tahoe down to Sequoia National Park.

Teresa Benson is forest supervisor of the Sequoia National Forest and Giant Sequoia National Monument. She said the work will ensure that the groves can be more resilient to fire in the future.

"That work on the ground will result in fires actually having a more beneficial effect," said Benson, "versus the high-severity fire effects that we've seen from the massive fire events that have been occurring in California."

Clay Jordan is superintendent at Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks. He said the coalition is working with the University of California at Berkeley, and others to measure the effects of fire to inform the work going forward.

"We are conducting research and then sharing that information among all the land stewards," said Jordan, "so that we can make science-driven decisions to protect the resource."

The coalition has already started planting 200,000 seedlings, including 25,000 baby giant sequoia, which will grow into the monarch trees of the next century.

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