LOS ANGELES ( Associated Press) – The US Forest Service announced Friday that it is accelerating projects to clear underbrush to protect the world’s largest trees from the growing threat of wildfire by accelerating projects that are to begin within weeks. Taking emergency action to save
The move to circumvent some environmental review could cut years of the usual approval process required to cut down small trees in national forests and deliberately use low-intensity fires to reduce dense brush, That has helped fuel the raging wildfires that have killed up to 20%. Big sequences in the last two years,
“Without immediate action, wildfires could wipe out countless more iconic giant sequoias,” Forest Service Chief Randy Moore said in a statement. “This emergency action to reduce fuel before a wildfire starts will protect unrelated giant sequoia trees from high-severity wildfire risk.”
The world’s largest trees, as before, are under threat. More than a century of aggressive fire suppression has left forests surrounded by dense vegetation, beneath logs and millions of dead trees killed by bark beetles that fueled fiery hells intensified by drought and climate change Is.
The Forest Service announcement is just one of a wide range of ongoing efforts to save the species found only on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada range in central California. Most of the approximately 70 trees are around Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks and some extend further north into Yosemite National Park.
Sequoia National Park, which is run by the Department of the Interior and not subject to emergency action, is considering a novel and controversial plan to plant sequoia seedlings where large trees have been wiped out by fires.
The Save Our Sequoia (SOS) Act, which also includes a provision to expedite environmental reviews like the Forest Service plan, was recently introduced by a bipartisan group of congressmen including House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, whose district in the sequence. Are included.
The group praised Moore’s announcement on Friday but said in a statement that more needs to be done to make it easier to thin forests.
“The Forest Service’s action today is an important step forward for the giant sequoia, but without removing other barriers to protecting these trees, this emergency will only continue,” the group said. “It’s time to codify this action and save our sequestrations by establishing a real comprehensive solution to fireproof every grove in California through the SOS Act.”
Work planned to begin this summer in 12 trees spread across the Sequoia National Forest and Sierra National Forest will cost $21 million to remove so-called ladder fuel made from brush, dead wood and small trees that allow fires to spread upwards. give. and burn sequoia umbrellas above 300 feet (90 m).
The plan calls for cutting down small trees and vegetation and using scheduled fires – intentionally lit and monitored by firefighters during damp conditions – to remove rotting needles, sticks and logs on the forest floor.
Some environmental groups have criticized the thinning of forests as an excuse for commercial harvesting.
Sequoia Forestkeeper Group executive director Ara Marderosian called the announcement a “well-organized PR campaign.”
He said it fails to consider how logging could increase wildfires and increase carbon emissions that would worsen the climate crisis.
“Fast-tracking fails to consider thinning roadways and log areas … Openings in the canopy allow wind-driven fires due to greater airflow, increasing the speed and intensity of wildfires.” ,” They said.
Rob York, a professor and cooperative extension specialist in forests run by the University of California, Berkeley, said the Forest Service’s plan could be helpful, but would require extensive follow-up.
“To me this represents a triage approach to dealing with the immediate threat to giant sequoias,” Yorke said in an email. “Treatments will need to be followed with frequent scheduled fires to really restore and protect the trees for a longer period of time.”
The mighty sequoia, protected by thick bark and its leaves usually held above the flames, was once thought to be nearly inflammable.
Trees also thrive with occasional low-intensity blazes—as Native Americans have historically burned or allowed to burn—that clear trees competing for sunlight and water. The heat from the flames opens the cones and allows the seeds to spread.
But fires in recent years have shown that although trees can live more than 3,000 years, they are not immortal and more action may be needed to protect them.
During a fire in Sequoia National Park last year, firefighters most famously wrapped the trees in protective foil and used flame retardants in the canopy of the trees.
Earlier this month, when a fire broke out in the Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias in Yosemite National Park, firefighters set up sprinklers.
Flames engulfed the grove—the first wildfire to do so in more than a century—but no major damage was done. A park forest ecologist credits controlled burning to protect 500 large trees,