Does Monument management plan do enough?
The last time the Forest Service attempted to come up with a plan to manage the 300,000 acre Giant Sequoia National Monument, the plan was cut apart by environmentalist and was dead on arrival.
That was more than six years ago and this week the USFS made its second attempt with a plan that may pass muster with environmental groups, but appears to fall far short of attacking the problem of protecting Giant Sequoia groves from fire and improving the health of those groves.
In short, the plan relies far too much on fire to clean out the forest that hasn’t burned in decades and, according to scientists, is in poor health, including some of the thousand-year-old Sequoia groves.
Forest officials acknowledge that the forest and groves are overgrown with what are now fully grown non-Sequoias. Those trees not only compete with the majestic Sequoias for water and nutrients, but they pose a major fire hazard in they provide the ladder of fuel that could lead to a crown fire, the only way to truly kill an old-growth Sequoia tree.
Officials note in the plan that “mechanical fuel removal” will be needed, but limits that to trees no more than 20-inches in diameter. What about those bigger trees? The plan does not address those.
The plan also did not address costs to clean up the forest, both areas within the groves and outside of the groves where thinning is imperative to reduce the chance of a catastrophic fire that could wipe out a grove or several groves in a matter of a few days. Will taxpayers be asked to pay to remove that fuel load when a planned and monitored logging operation would not cost taxpayers at all?
We acknowledge the difficult task the Forest Service had in coming up with a plan that would have the least resistance and this plan may meet that criteria. But it appears to fall far short of what is needed to restore the health of the forest and to protect those beautiful giant trees.