There are giants that remain on this Earth. They don't stand up and walk around, and they're not made of flesh. These behemoths are rooted in one spot like sentinels and are made of leaves, bark, and wood. They're not banished to some far away land or hidden grove. These titans exist along the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada in California’s Central Valley. They are the Giant Sequoias, the tallest trees on Earth.
These trees are truly natural wonders — their sheer size is just breathtaking — and they only naturally grow on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada.
Not only do these magnificent trees play an important role in the Sequoia National Forest’s (SQF) ecosystem, natural wonders like the Trail of 100 Giants bolster the local Tulare and Porterville economies.
The Castle Fire, as part of the SQF Complex Fire, burned more than 170,000 acres in the SQF and, according to a recent report, upwards of 10,000 large Giant Sequoias were killed in this fire. That’s between 10 to 14 percent of the world’s population of these trees.
In fact, the ninth largest Giant Sequoia, the King Arthur Tree, has reportedly been killed by this fire.
These losses are devastating.
And, the U.S. Forest Service has had to close a large portion of the SQF in Tulare County because of public health and safety issues, such as falling burned trees and mudslides, following the SQF Complex Fire. Getting these safety concerns addressed are critical so these areas can be reopened as quickly as possible, something I have personally spoken with the SQF Supervisor about.
That's why I have offered an amendment to legislation, which funds parts of the Federal government in Fiscal Year 2022, to support $13 million for work in the SQF to mitigate public safety hazards so the forest can be reopened, promote ecological restoration activities, including reforestation, and reduce the risk of future catastrophic fires killing additional Giant Sequoias. And I'm pleased to announce the amendment was passed by the House of Representatives.
All of these projects will go through the required National Environmental Policy Act or NEPA reviews and be conducted consistent with the Giant Sequoia National Monument Management Plan and the Sequoia National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan.
I remember when I first saw a Giant Sequoia on a family trip to the SQF. I also remember taking my kids to see these trees when they were growing up. It's something we all enjoyed, and I hope my amendment will play a small role in helping protect these Giant Sequoias for current and future generations to look at in wonder.
Kevin McCarthy is a U.S. Congressman and the minority leader in the House of Representatives. His district includes the Sequoia National Forest.