Protecting the Monument
Sign our Letter to President Obama requesting that he transfer the Giant Sequoia National Monument into the care of the National Park Service today!
The primary goal of Sequoia ForestKeeper’s Protect the Monument Campaign is to ensure that logging and other activities that could negatively impact the Giant Sequoia National Monument are prohibited and that the Monument is truly protected as intended by the Monument Proclamation.
The Giant Sequoia National Monument is located within the Sequoia National Forest in south-central California and encompasses approximately 327,769 acres of federal land managed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service (USFS). Giant sequoias are the largest trees on earth and are among the oldest. Heights of 300 feet and diameters of 30 feet are not uncommon for giant sequoias, and their ages commonly range from 2,000 to 3,000 years (only bristlecone pines are older). Although once widespread, giant sequoias are now found naturally only on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada in central California.
The Monument was created in 2000 from about one quarter of the forest within the Sequoia National Forest to forever protect the Giant Sequoia groves and their surrounding ecosystems from the logging-oriented management practices currently governing our National Forests. As stated in the Presidential Proclamation creating the Monument, monument status was necessary “to counteract the effects of a century of fire suppression and logging” that had occurred within Sequoia National Forest and to increase protection for the objects and species within the Monument. The Proclamation directs that the Monument lands are not within the timber base, commercial logging is not to occur within the Monument, and trees within the Monument are not to be removed except in extraordinary circumstances.
Despite the clear, protective intent and language of the Proclamation, on January 16, 2004 the Forest Service released, for public review, the Giant Sequoia National Monument (Monument) Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and Record of Decision (ROD), which selected the management direction the Forest Service intended to implement in the Monument. Both the FEIS and the ROD failed to implement the protective purposes of the 2000 Presidential Proclamation that created the Monument. In fact, the Forest Service chose the most ecologically damaging and costly alternative as the management plan for the Monument. Specifically, the Monument FEIS and ROD would have allowed the logging of up to 30 inch diameter trees, supposedly to prevent catastrophic fires, and trees of any size, supposedly to protect public safety, and the FEIS failed to analyze an alternative that would remove the brush, lower branches, and small diameter trees (up to 4 inches in diameter) which are the most flammable materials in the forest.
Sequoia ForestKeeper filed one of two lawsuits in conjunction with five other organizations on January 27, 2005, in the Northern District Court of California in San Francisco against the harmful Monument Management Plan. We received notice on August 22, 2006, that we had won the suit on all points, against the original USFS Monument Management Plan, which would have continued harmful forestry practices and projects that would negatively impact water quality, wildlife viability, soil function, forest structure, canopy cover, and the natural fire prevention characteristics of the forest in the Monument in addition to the objects protected by the Proclamation. As a result, the court ruled that the plan is incomprehensible and not readily understandable. . . [and] [t]hus the Monument Plan broadly violates NEPA. (SFK’s case 3:05-cv-00397-CRB 08/22/2006 and the related case by the Attorney General of California, ex rel. Lockyer v. U.S. Forest Service Case No. C 05-00898 CRB). The USFS was forced to rewrite the Management Plan to provide actual protection for the Giant Sequoia ecosystems and the species and objects they contain.
The USFS initiated a collaborative effort to get input from stakeholders to create a new management plan for the Monument. Based on the USFS’ misconception of fire science and grove enhancement, the new proposed USFS plan, released Sept. 2010, is as bad as, if not worse, than the plan SFK defeated in court. Many of the collaborators are representatives of the timber industry, off highway vehicle lobby, and ranching industries, who would manage the Monument for those purposes rather than for the protective purposes of the Proclamation that created the Monument.
SFK has been collaborating with activists or representatives from seven conservation organizations (California Attorney General, Natural Resources Defense Council, Cal Fish, Sequoia Task Force of the Sierra Club, Sierra Forest Legacy, and The Wilderness Society) (collectively referred to below as the Monument Group) regarding the development by the US Forest Service (USFS) of the second Giant Sequoia National Monument management plan. The process undertaken by the USFS to create this second management plan has been so disjointed and unscientific that even the right-wing media has been complaining about the confusing and complicated process being used. The main issue has been the failure of the USFS to assemble a Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) to guide the development of the initial management plan as is required by the Proclamation. Since the Monument Supervisor issued a Draft Environmental Impact Statement without first convening an SAB, there is a great likelihood that the Monument Group will file suit for failure to comply with the Proclamation that created the Monument.
SFK utilizes a multi-pronged approach that focuses on activating and educating the public and decision makers, utilizing the best available science, and utilizing a strategic litigation policy to ensure that the Protect the Monument Campaign forces the creation of a Monument management plan that truly protects the Giant Sequoia National Monument. Critical elements of SFK’s approach include:
- Recruiting Forest and Wildlife Volunteer and Student Intern Monitors to determine the current conditions of forest health in logged versus unlogged areas;
- Working with scientists to study the Monument’s sensitive fisher and spotted owl populations and their habitat to support SFK’s position for a more protective Management Plan;
- Utilizing GIS technology to show true forest health conditions in areas that have been logged versus areas that have been untouched;
- Reviewing, commenting on, appealing, and when necessary, litigating against all potentially harmful projects initiated by the FS that are within the Monument boundaries;
- Issuing press releases and public service announcements to local and national media outlets, as well as opinion pieces and letters to the editor about the threat to the Giant Sequoia National Monument;
- Attending local fairs and festivals, as well as community meetings, to educate the public about the Monument management plan and all aspects of FS policy;
- Circulating a petition to transfer management of the Monument from the U.S. FS to the U.S. Park Service, as the Park Service has been more effective in environmentally sensitive stewardship of the land they manage;
- Utilizing the power of the internet and social media to reach a broad audience with our message.
- Working with other groups like the Sierra Club and Natural Resources Defense Council to collaborate on other strategies to protect the monument; and
- Shifting the emphasis of the Monument Management Plan from fuels reduction via logging of large trees to less harmful, sustainable, community-protection alternatives by scientifically proving that these alternatives are more effective in natural forest regeneration.