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Natural Awakenings Charlotte

Save the Sequoias

Base of tall sequoia tree in forest surrounded by other sequoia trees


The U.S. Forest Service is speeding efforts to protect giant sequoias from wildfires; almost 20 percent of the ancient trees have been destroyed by wildfire in the last two years. They will thin the forest in and around sequoia groves by removing brush and smaller trees from 13,000 acres of national forest to protect 12 giant sequoia groves this summer and conduct prescribed burns using the agency’s emergency authority under the National Environmental Policy Act. Forest Service Chief Randy Moore says, “Without urgent action, wildfires could eliminate countless more iconic giant sequoias.” 

Giant sequoias can live for more than 3,000 years and are found only on the western slopes of California’s Sierra Nevada mountains. The trees are adapted to fire with thick, spongy bark, and the heat releases seeds from their cones, allowing young trees to take root in areas cleared by fire. A policy to put out wildfires as quickly as possible has created unnaturally dense forests and allowed brush and dead wood to accumulate. Climate change has led to hotter temperatures, severe drought, a year-round fire season and the proliferation of bark beetles that have killed the drought-weakened trees. Bigger, hotter fires are more likely to reach giant sequoias’ crowns, killing them.

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