It’s Not Too Late to Save Giant Sequoia National Monument
Nearly 20 years ago President Bill Clinton designated the 328,000-acre Giant Sequoia National Monument within the boundaries of Sequoia National Forest. The decision was not made lightly, but after careful consideration and a strong science based approach to assess the boundaries necessary to protect the numerous groves of Giant Sequoia within the Monument.
Giant sequoias are the largest and among the oldest trees in the world, and this species—known around the globe—only grows in this narrow band along the western slope of California’s Sierra Nevada mountains. The Giant Sequoia National Monument protects half of the surviving giant sequoias in the world.
Now, 17 years later, President Trump has issued an Executive Order directing Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to consider shrinking the boundaries of 22 national monuments, amongst them the Giant Sequoia National Monument.
During the recent public comment period on the shrinking or elimination of some of the monuments more than 2.5 million people commented and 98% of the comment opposed any changes to the monument designation.
Sierra Business Council submitted comment opposing changing the borders of the Giant Sequoia National Monument. We not only stand by that recommendation, we urge businesses, residents of the Sierra and friends of the Sierra to continue to weigh in opposing changes to the monument.
Giant Sequoia National Monument is good for business. The Giant Sequoia and Kings Canyon region attracts millions of visitors a year who stay in hotels, buy gear, eat in local restaurants and patronize local businesses. According to research conducted by Visit California tourism in the four-county Central Valley gateway to the Giant Sequoia is a $2.3 billion industry generating 24,000 jobs. In Tulare County alone travel dollars generated $37.8 million in local and state tax receipts.
Critics have stated that shrinking the national monument, (by as much as 200,000 acres) is necessary to deal with the threat of wildfire in the region. We disagree.
The reality is the 2012 Giant Sequoia National Monument Management Plan specifically supports a number of fire prevention activities and projects including forest thinning, prescribed burning, managed fire, mechanical treatment, and removal of felled trees. The problem is not that the plans don’t allow for fire prevention and management it is that the USFS does not have enough money to do the preventative management necessary. Fifty percent of their money gets diverted every year to respond to wildfire instead of being used for preventive management.
The solution in the long run is to retain the Giant Sequoia National Monument as an economic engine and redouble our efforts to reform how we fund fire prevention and response.
Over the next several weeks we are going to ask friends of Sierra Business Council to stand up for the Giant Sequoia National Monument and the other five California monuments at risk.
We want our friends to let their local, state and federal political leaders know that the region supports public lands.
In particular we are going to ask business owners who support the monument to speak up. Public lands are an economic engine that are often only seen through and environmental lens, when in fact they benefit surrounding communities, economy, and environment simultaneously.
It is not too late to protect the Giant Sequoia National Monument.