Rep. Peters Urges Protections for Giant Sequoias at Natural Resources Committee Hearing
May 10, 2023
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, Representative Scott Peters (CA-50) highlighted his bill, the Save Our Sequoias Act, with Speaker McCarthy and Chairman Westerman to give land managers the tools and resources to save the iconic giant sequoia and reduce the severity of wildfires that contribute to climate change. Key moments from his question line are included below.
- “Do you agree that ecological thinning, mechanical and hand-crew treatments, and pile- and prescribed-burning are critically important to protect sequoia groves from the risks of wildfire?”
- “I do. You listed a suite of tools and we’re going to have experts such as registered professional foresters giving specific prescriptions to specific places and yes, they’re going to be drawing on those tools.” (Dr. Joanna Nelson, Save the Redwoods League)
- “How is the Forest Service balancing the need to conduct forest treatments quickly while still conducting sound environmental analysis?”
- “We think it’s important to have sound environmental analysis. What we also think is important is to have a streamlined approach to how we do that analysis and looking at the traditional ways we do business is: categorical exclusion, environmental assessment, environmental impact statement and each of those depends on the level of significance. We’re finding that we’re able to streamline our processes and to give you an idea: 85% of all our projects are done with categorical exclusion. That’s up from about 70% as long as 10 years ago. A big part of that is just streamlining the process but also educating the workforce on when and where to use the right tools.” (Chief Randy Moore – US Forest Service)
- “The Save Our Sequoias Act provides over $200 million in funding to support Giant Sequoia protection projects. How would this funding help scale the Park Service’s existing efforts to protect Giant Sequoias from extreme fire?”
- “We need money, a combination of Congress appropriating money and the Administration what they have releasing to these agencies for the National Park Service. They have the three-year action plan in Sequoia but this work is going to continue. It’s not just ‘we’re doing it for three years, or doing it for seven years.’ It’s going to continue over the long-term and really bringing back the combination of traditional ecological knowledge, the work these agencies have been doing to keep fire into this environment. The money is needed, it needs to be appropriated and as soon as it can, I think it gives these agencies certainty.” (Mr. Neal Desai - National Parks Conservation Association)
Rep. Peters is not a member of the Committee, but was waived on to be able to participate in this specific hearing. You can watch his full question line here.
Over the course of two years, catastrophic wildfires wiped out nearly one-fifth of the world’s Giant Sequoias. Covering only 37,000 acres in California across roughly 70 groves, Giant Sequoias are among the most fire-resilient tree species on the planet and were once considered virtually indestructible. However, more than a century of fire suppression, mismanagement, and climate change have led to unnaturally intense, high-severity wildfires. The emergency now facing Giant Sequoias is unprecedented – the last recorded evidence of large-scale Giant Sequoia mortality due to wildfires occurred in the year 1297 A.D., more than seven centuries ago.
Despite the looming threat to the remaining Giant Sequoias, federal land managers have not been able to increase the pace and scale of treatments necessary to restore Giant Sequoias’ resiliency to wildfires, insects, and drought. At its typical pace, it would take the U.S. Forest Service approximately 52 years to treat just their 19 highest-priority Giant Sequoia groves at high-risk of experiencing devastating wildfires. Without urgent action, we risk losing our iconic Giant Sequoias in the next several years. Accelerating scientific forest management practices will not only improve the health and resiliency of these thousand-year-old trees, but also enhance air and water quality, and protect critical habitat for important species like the Pacific Fisher.
The SOS Act has 50 bipartisan cosponsors and will provide land managers with the emergency tools and resources needed to save these remaining ancient wonders from the unprecedented peril threatening their long-term survival. The bill would:
- Enhance coordination between federal, state, tribal and local land managers through shared stewardship agreements and the codification of the Giant Sequoia Lands Coalition, a partnership between the current Giant Sequoia managers.
- Create a Giant Sequoia Health and Resiliency Assessment to prioritize wildfire risk reduction treatments in the highest-risk groves and track the progress of scientific forest management activities.
- Declare an emergency to streamline and expedite environmental reviews and consultations while maintaining robust scientific analysis.
- Provide new authority to the National Park Foundation and National Forest Foundation to accept private donations to facilitate Giant Sequoia restoration and resiliency.
- Establish a comprehensive reforestation strategy to regenerate Giant Sequoias in areas destroyed by recent catastrophic wildfires.
One year ago, Rep. Peters, Speaker McCarthy, Chair Westerman, and others visited Sequoia National Forest as part of a congressional delegation. Members saw the first-hand damage of wildfires on sequoia trees, viewed examples of active forest management to make groves more resilient to wildfire, insects, and disease, and participated in a roundtable discussion on the future of the giant sequoias with local organizations. To watch the members' live announcement, click here.
One pager here.
Full bill text here.