CALAVERAS BIG TREES STATE PARK — Representatives of the Tule River Tribe and Sequoia National Forest staff were among nearly 100 people who gathered on December 14 to hear — and provide — updates to efforts to save Giant Sequoias. Also speaking at the event was State Forest Program Manager Kevin Conway who shared information about work at Mountain Home State Forest.

The purpose of the meeting was to allow members of the Giant Sequoia Lands Coalition to report accomplishments in the group’s first full year of operation.

The coalition is a collaboration of public and non-governmental organizations committed to conservation of Giant Sequoia grove ecosystems. Members include the Tribe, Tulare County, CalFire, Sequoia National Forest/Giant Sequoia National Monument, Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park, the Bureau of Land Management, Yosemite National Park, Sierra National Forest, the University of California, Berkeley, Sierra National Forest and Calaveras Big Trees State Park.

All of the members have one or more Giant Sequoia groves on land they manage, as does Save The Redwoods League, a special coalition affiliate.

Along with other affiliate members, including the Giant Sequoia National Monument Association and U.S. Geological Survey (Western Ecological Research Center), the groups organized in 2021 to sound the alarm about the loss of Giant Sequoias to high intensity wildfire and other drought-related hazards.

Collectively, according to a report prepared for the event, coalition members conducted restoration treatments — including thinning and prescribed fires — on 4,257 of 26,000 acres in 36 of approximately 80 Giant Sequoia groves.

Although much remains to be done, this was more than twice the 2,000 acres set as a goal for the year.

Fuel was reduced around more than 4,000 Giant Sequoia trees and coalition members planted more than 248,000 native conifers, including Giant Sequoias.

In addition to the work in the field, the coalition reported numerous scientific studies were advanced this year and public outreach and education efforts resulted in placement of more than 10,000 stories about Giant Sequoia issues in the media.

The work cost about $10.5 million, according to the report, and involved 824 people.

LOCAL ACCOMPLISHMENTS

Teresa Benson, forest supervisor of Sequoia National Forest, was among representatives of the USDA Forest Service. Giant Sequoia groves are also found in Sierra and Tahoe national forests, but 33 of about 80 groves in the Sierra Nevada are found within Giant Sequoia National Monument, managed by SQF staff.

Benson described work done following last summer’s emergency declaration for 12 of the unburned groves within the national monument and portions of other groves at high risk of wildfire.

According to the report, more than 4,400 Giant Sequoias were created and more than 7,000 piles were created for burning. A contract for continued work in 2023 is out for bid and prescribed fires are being planned, the SQF report noted.

Overall, in 2022 the Forest Service reduced fuels on more than 1,500 acres in 11 groves. All but three are part of the national monument.

The agency spent more than $6 million and engaged a workforce of more than 500 people as part of its Giant Sequoia Emergency Response.

Work included planting 6,000 trees on 10 acres with support from volunteers and partners. Of those trees, 1,000 were Giant Sequoias. Additional planting is scheduled next spring on more than 1,000 acres that burned in recent wildfires.

SQF is working closely with the Tule River Tribe and Save the Redwoods League on Giant Sequoia projects in the local region.

These efforts include an $8.8 million project to accelerate restoration of Long Meadow and Packsaddle groves in a five-year stewardship agreement with Save the Redwoods League. And, Benson has reported, SQF and the Tribe recently assigned a memorandum of understanding focused on co-stewardship opportunities with collaboration of the management of several groves planned in the near future.

Among representatives of the Tule River Tribe was Natural Resources Director Roselynn Lwenya, who addressed the group about the tribe’s continuing efforts. The Tribe stewards portions or all of five Giant Sequoia groves including the Black Mountain, Red Hill, Peyrone, Parker Peak and Cold Springs groves.

According to the coalition report, ongoing restoration efforts in 2022 included treating about 400 acres of forestland using a combination of manual, mechanical and prescribed fire methods. Treatments included erosion control, reforestation, hazard tree removal and vegetation fuels reduction within and near grove boundaries.

Hand planting of 30,000 native conifers — including Giant Sequoia grown from seeds collected from Tule River Reservation sequoia trees — was part of the restoration work. About 22 experienced seasonal employees completed the work.

Conway, of CalFire, noted the 2020 Castle Fire did significant damage at Mountain Home State Demonstration Forest. About 7.2 percent of the old-growth Giant Sequoias died as a result — 349 trees.

Restoration efforts in 2022 included work by a 15-person crew to prepare about 400 acres for restoration treatment by conducting salvage logging and removing, piling and burning slash and post-fire woody debris.

Other work included planting 212,000 seedlings — including 25,000 Giant Sequoias — across about 400 acres of burned-over forest. The agency was able to sell timber from the salvage logging operations, recouping more than $385,000 and providing more than 7 million board feet of timber to the local economy.

Save The Redwoods League owns and manages portions of Alder Creek and Red Hill groves in the mountains east of Porterville. League-owned properties, including land near the community of Sequoia Crest, burned at high severity in recent wildfires. In collaboration with coalition partners, the League advanced post-fire restoration and stewardship work across 145 acres of the Alder Creek property, totaling $1.1 million. It plans to plant more than 50,000 native conifer seedlings on the property in the spring.

With contractors, including indigenous forestry crews from CHIPS, a nonprofit based in Calaveras County, the League has treated about 80 acres within the Long Meadow Grove, home to the Trail of 100 Giants.

The only local member of the coalition not represented at the meeting was Tulare County. The county owns Balch Park, which includes part of the Mountain Home Grove of Giant Sequoias. A report from the county indicated about half of the park was affected by the 2020 SQF Complex fires, one of the largest wildfires in the county’s history.

According to the report, “due to a subsequent change in park management in the county, only work to open the park for its normal operating season took place in 2022.”

MORE INFORMATION

More information about the Giant Sequoia Lands Coalition is available online at giantsequoias.org

Claudia Elliott is a freelance writer based in Tehachapi and a former editor of The Recorder. She also publishes a weekly newsletter about giant sequoias. Send email to: claudia@claudiaelliott.net.

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