Today in the Giant Sequoia National Monument, we are concerned about the potential for homes being lost and the safety of the residents of the mountain communities threatened by the Pier Wildfire. There is a large interagency response at the helm and certainly the track record of these heroes speaks for itself. Thank you, Calfire, Tulare County, USFS, Region 5 Interagency Command, and the volunteer firefighters who are all standing between the fie and the communities where, for 16 years now, I live and love.
After the fire is contained, it is critical that we work to keep families safe and reduce risk for communities. The area's national monument status will not affect the ability of firefighters to protect families and property. California is a fire-prone state. Fire is a natural process and plays an important role in keeping forests healthy and creating new wildlife habitat. Fire officials for the Forest Service work with fire to reduce the risk to people and property.
The following are excerpts from "Talking Points About Fire" (Giant Sequoia Defense Organizers)
Fire behavior is contingent upon local conditions and habitats, so a “one-size-fits-all” prescription cannot be the answer.
However, in the short term fire prevention dollars should be focused on areas where people live and work. The Forest Service needs to secure additional independent federal funding to reduce fire risk in this Wildland Urban Intermix (WUI).
The long-term safety of our communities relies on better forest management to ensure forests are healthy, and reducing climate pollution to fight climate disruption. This includes the maintenance of national monument protections for all of Giant Sequoia National Monument.
The 2012 Giant Sequoia National Monument Management Plan specifically supports a number of fuels reduction activities, including prescribed burns; managed wildfire; fuel reduction by hand; fuel reduction by mechanical treatment (for ecological restoration or public safety); and removal of felled trees (for ecological restoration or public safety). The management plan may allow for resale of the timber removed if it cannot serve an ecological purpose in the monument.
Researchers have discovered that Giant Sequoia and related coast redwood forests store more climate-altering carbon pollution per acre than any other forest type on Earth.
The monument was proclaimed in 2000. Using complete annual CalFire data for the years 2000-2016 over 48% of the logged Sequoia National Forest has burned at least once while just 25.3% of the unlogged Monument has burned. In this same period 3% of Sequoia National Park where zero logging is allowed has burned.
Logging big trees is not the solution to reducing wildfire risk. Large older trees have less surface area causing them to be naturally fire-resistant and less of a fire risk.
Logging leaves behind fine woody material and dry leaves on the ground, opens up the canopy, which encourages the growth of sun-loving shrubs while decreasing humidity in the forest, and making fire conditions worse.
Light flashy fuel such as grass and shrubs cause fire to move across the landscape faster than heavier forest fuel. The Erskine Fire in 2016 started in light fuel during exceptionally high winds destroying over 285 homes long before the fire crested the Piute Mountains and burned any of the forest ecosystem.
Disrupting the natural fire regime through fire suppression has made forests more flammable. The careful use of fire is a necessary part of the mix to keep California landscapes fire resilient. In Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Parks, a landscape nearly identical to the Monument, prescribed fire has been successfully used to reduce fire intensity and risk.