Sequoia trees are seen amid smoke from wildfires near the Sequoia National Forest in 2021. REUTERS/Fred Greaves
Rep. Scott Peters has introduced a bipartisan bill in Congress to protect California’s giant sequoias from damage as climate change increases the severity of wildfires.
The Save Our Sequoias Act introduced on Thursday creates a comprehensive approach to protect the towering trees against fire and restore recently burned groves.
While these trees can live for more than 3,000 years and are among the most fire-resilient tree species, catastrophic wildfires have destroyed 19% of the population in recent years.
Peters warned that fewer than 75,000 giant sequoias remain, and without decisive intervention, those remaining trees could be lost within 25 years.
“The giant sequoia is an iconic species that has provided cultural, environmental, and recreational benefits to humans for generations,” said Peters, who represents the 52nd District in coastal San Diego County. “Poor land management and climate change are driving forces behind severe fires that threaten the survival of giant sequoias and the stability of the climate. “
He said the proposed legislation “charts a new path forward in federal forest and wildfire policy to combat climate change and ensure the giant sequoias stand safely in their natural habitat for years to come.”
Peters was joined in support of the bill by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy; California Reps. Jim Costa, David Valadao and Jimmy Panetta; and Rep. Bruce Westerman of Arkansas.
The bill has five primary goals:
- Enhance coordination among federal, state, tribal, and local land managers through shared stewardship agreements.
- Create a giant sequoia resiliency assessment to prioritize forest management projects, track implementation, and study tree health over time.
- Fund a new grant program to support forest restoration projects in and around giant sequoia groves.
- Declare an emergency in the groves to codify existing emergency procedures, expedite environmental reviews, and maintain robust scientific analysis.
- Establish a comprehensive reforestation strategy to regenerate giant sequoias in groves destroyed by catastrophic wildfires in 2021.
In 1890, Congress created Sequoia and Yosemite as the second and third national parks, in part to protect the giant sequoias in recognition of their significance. The massive size and long lifespan of the trees can be attributed to their unique characteristics, such as thick and spongy bark and tall branches, that make them highly resilient to fire, insects, and disease.