"Giant Sequoias Are in Big Trouble. How Best to Save Them?"

"California’s ancient sequoias — some of which have stood more than 1,000 years — are facing an existential threat from increasingly intense wildfires linked to climate change. But federal efforts to thin forests to reduce fire risks are drawing pushback from conservation groups."

"In 2015 a lightning strike started what became known as the Rough Fire, which eventually burned more than 150,000 acres of forest east of Fresno and just west of Kings Canyon National Park.

The blaze burned into seven different sequoia groves in Sequoia National Forest, as well as a grove called the General Grant Complex in Kings Canyon National Park. As the flames died down and the smoke cleared, experts realized that an unusually large number of big sequoias had been killed by the blaze — 27 on park land and 74 on national forest.

The deaths of so many sequoias in one year was unheard of, and it deeply alarmed people who research and care for redwoods, some of whom wept at the sight of dead giants that had stood for more than a thousand years. After the Rough Fire, said Ben Blom, director of stewardship and restoration for the Save the Redwoods League, the idea of immortal sequoias no longer seemed to be true.

While the impacts of the Rough Fire were worrisome, it wasn’t until 2020 and 2021 that “things changed [by] orders of magnitude,” said Blom. “We’re talking tens of thousands of big trees dying in those two fire seasons.” It was after those fires, Blom added, that “we realized the big trees were facing an existential crisis.”"

Jim Robbins reports for Yale Environment 360 November 9, 2023.

Source: YaleE360, 11/14/2023