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Ancient Forest Society scientists collecting giant sequoia seed cones in Merced Grove, Yosemite National Park. Photo by Ancient Forest Society.
Ancient Forest Society scientists collecting giant sequoia seed cones in Merced Grove, Yosemite National Park. Photo by Ancient Forest Society.

Officials from the State of California, USDA Forest Service, National Park Service, Tule River Indian Tribe of California, Save the Redwoods League, and other members of the Giant Sequoia Lands Coalition (GSLC) today announced significant progress in their work to protect the worlds largest tree species from severe wildfires. In its 2023 Progress Report for Saving the Sequoias, GSLC confirms that coalition partners have more than doubled the acres across the giant sequoia range where treatments are underway.

In its second year of large-scale collaboration, the coalition has exceeded its goals with ecosystem wide achievements:

  1. Treated nearly 9,900 acres in 28 giant sequoia grovesmore than twice the acreage treated in 2022. This brings the total giant sequoia grove acres treated since the extreme 2020-21 wildfires to 14,143 out of 26,000;
  2. Planted more than 294,000 native tree seedlings in severely burned areas, bringing the total to more than 542,000 in two years;
  3. Initiated and hosted research studies by academic, government, and nonprofit entities;
  4. Revived cultural practices and expanded co-stewardship agreements with tribes and nonprofits

The full 2023 progress report is available here.

The Giant Sequoia Lands Coalition made significant progress in 2023 to increase wildfire resilience in our forests and communities, said coalition Co-Chair Clay Jordan, who is also superintendent of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. We are realizing the founding goal of the coalition: accelerating the pace and scale of giant sequoia restoration by close coordination and collaboration. Forest treatment is not a one-time event, but a long-term commitment to actively stewarding and restoring these complex natural systems. Everyone benefits from the efficiencies and efficacy of the coalitions combined effortsthe forest most of all.

GSLCs work in 2023 was managed by 941 people at a cost of $32.9 million. GSLC conducted initial restoration treatments on 9,886 of 26,000 acres in 28 of approximately 80 groves, which represents more than twice the amount of giant sequoia grove acres treated than the previous year. This restoration work increases the wildfire resilience of the groves by reducing the amount of hazardous and combustible plant materials (fuels) through manual and mechanical fuels reduction, prescribed fires and cultural burning practices.

GSLC also worked to improve forest health through reforestation and planted more than 290,000 locally sourced native trees, including 119,000 giant sequoias. Combined with the previous year, the coalition has now planted more than 542,000 trees in and around the sequoia groves. These reforestation projects focus on areas that experienced uncharacteristically high wildfire intensity where seed trees have died, burned seeds were not able to develop, and minimal regeneration has occurred naturally.

Our work to ensure a wildfire-resilient future for giant sequoias lives at the scientific intersection of forest ecology, wildfire and climate studies, said Dr. Joanna Nelson, Ph.D., director of science and conservation planning for Save the Redwoods League and co-lead of the GSLC science committee. We are simultaneously applying the latest evidence-based techniques and advancing the fields understanding through research. As we coordinate research and adaptive management across the coalition, we boost our ability to steward giant sequoias. This is a long-term challenge with long-term solutions, and we are starting the long-term with timely action, now.

While we benefited from a relatively quiet fire season in 2023, what happens this year is impossible to predict, so we must prepare for the worst, continued Nelson. We urge elected officials and policymakers to continue to provide funding and personnel, enact policy changes and help us reduce fuels now so we can continue to address the problem at scale.

Giant sequoias are the largest trees in the world, and severe wildfires have killed up to 20% of the mature trees since 2015.

The two federal agencies that own and manage the majority of giant sequoia landsUSDA Forest Service and National Park Serviceimplemented emergency actions in 2023 to accelerate the pace and scale of work.

The members of the Giant Sequoia Lands Coalition include:

  1. National Park Service, represented by Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks and Yosemite National Park
  2. USDA Forest Service, represented by the Sequoia National Forest, Giant Sequoia National Monument, Sierra National Forest, and Tahoe National Forest
  3. Tule River Indian Tribe of California, stewards of all or parts of five sequoia groves
  4. Bureau of Land Management, stewards of Case Mountain Extensive Recreation Management Area
  5. California State Parks, stewards of Calaveras Big Trees State Park
  6. California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE), stewards of Mountain Home Demonstration State Forest
  7. University of California, Berkeley, stewards of Whitakers Forest
  8. Tulare County, stewards of Balch Park

GSLC Affiliate Members: American Forests, Ancient Forest Society, Giant Sequoia National Monument Association, Save the Redwoods League, Sequoia Parks Conservancy, Southern Sierra Conservancy, Stanislaus National Forest, US Geological SurveyWestern Ecological Research Center and Yosemite Conservancy.

Note to media: Images of GSLC projects and places are available for download here.

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About Giant Sequoia Lands Coalition

The Giant Sequoia Lands Coalition (GSLC) is a landscape-scale, multi-partner collaboration dedicated to the conservation and stewardship of giant sequoia grove ecosystems. Our coalition is composed of all federal, tribal, state and local agencies and organizations that manage giant sequoia groves in public, tribal or private nonprofit ownership. Our affiliate partners include select federal and state conservation agencies, nongovernmental organization conservation groups, and academic research partners with a shared commitment to protect and steward giant sequoias and their ecosystems from emerging threats associated with climate change and the extended absence of natural, low-severity wildfire processes on the landscape. Learn more at giantsequoias.org.

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