According to Blom, whose group favors thinning dense stands of saplings and reducing clumps of vegetation and woody debris from the forest floor through prescribed burning or mechanical methods, there are about 26,000 acres of land to be cleared in the 80 forests. of redwoods on federal lands. , with some 8,000 hectares already treated.
On their reservation, the Tule River Indian Tribe has been managing eight redwood forests for 40 years. McDarment believes those efforts limited damage to trees when recent wildfires raged. The tribe plans to reintroduce beavers next spring; Their dams will help keep more water in the meadows near the groves.
Meanwhile, foresters are studying the best way to add trees to already burned areas. Researchers have established seedling plots to study which genomes, both from redwoods and other conifers, will survive best under predicted future conditions. “We’ll look at them over time and see which ones grow well,” said Joanna Nelson, director of science and conservation planning for Save the Redwoods League.
Earlier this year, U.S. lawmakers introduced a bipartisan bill called Save Our Sequoias that would provide additional funding for redwood thinning. The bill received support from forest products, ranches, farms and recreation groups. But a coalition of 80 environmental groups opposed the bill, in a letter to members of Congress, saying it would set a nationwide precedent that would allow federal agencies, under the guise of an “emergency,” to waive the environmental reviews required by the National Environmental Commission. Environmental Policy Act, Endangered Species Act and other environmental laws.
Without those reviews and scientific and community input, the group said, the bill “would lead to rushed and poorly planned projects with significant impacts to soil, streams and wildlife that would result in increased wildfire risk.” ”. No hearings have been held; the bill remains in limbo as the Forest Service and National Park Service continue to slim down.
But not without adverse reactions. In 2022, the Earth Island Institute sued the National Park Service to stop thinning activities in Yosemite National Park, alleging that the agency had bypassed environmental review. And in September, Wilderness Watch, Tule River Conservancy and Sequoia ForestKeeper filed a lawsuit against mechanized logging in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, alleging it violated the Wilderness Act.
The debate is sure to intensify as the Biden administration has committed $50 billion over 10 years to reduce fuel loads on 50 million acres in 11 Western states.
But advocates say urgent action is needed. “These forests that we care deeply about could turn into scrubland if high-severity fires like the ones we’re seeing repeat,” said Nelson of the Save the Redwoods League, citing a recent study that evaluated dry coniferous forests of the western United States. “We know what we must do to respond to climate disruption and we must do everything we know how to do. “We need limits on greenhouse gas emissions and we also need active management to have giant sequoias.”