Bipartisan “Save Our Sequoias Act” Introduced: HR 8168.

I’ve got some questions for those in the know…

1) Can’t NFF already accept private donations for things? Didn’t know it was restricted.

2) In the distant past (1970’s) I recall a set of sequoia plantations in California in various places (known as Prof. Libby’s sequoia plantings). Did anyone ever round up what information might be available from them about reforestation? Are the trees still alive and measured?


WASHINGTON – Today, House Committee on Natural Resources Ranking Member Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) joined House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), U.S. Reps. Scott Peters (D-Calif.), Jim Costa (D-Calif.), David Valadao (R-Calif.), Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.), Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) and 23 other members in introducing H.R. 8168, the Save Our Sequoias (SOS) Act. That link wasn’t working, so here is the text until that one goes live.Save Our Sequoias Act


In the past two years alone, catastrophic wildfires wiped out nearly one-fifth of the world’s Giant Sequoias. Covering only 37,000 acres in California across roughly 70 groves, Giant Sequoias are among the most fire-resilient tree species on the planet and were once considered virtually indestructible. However, more than a century of fire suppression and mismanagement created a massive build-up of hazardous fuels in and around Giant Sequoia groves, leading to unnaturally intense, high-severity wildfires. The emergency now facing Giant Sequoias is unprecedented – the last recorded evidence of large-scale Giant Sequoia mortality due to wildfires occurred in the year 1297 A.D., more than seven centuries ago.

Despite the looming threat to the remaining Giant Sequoias, federal land managers have not been able to increase the pace and scale of treatments necessary to restore Giant Sequoia resiliency to wildfires, insects, and drought. At its current pace, it would take the U.S. Forest Service approximately 52 years to treat just their 19 highest priority Giant Sequoia groves at high-risk of experiencing devastating wildfires. Without urgent action, we are at risk of losing our iconic Giant Sequoias in the next several years. Accelerating scientific forest management practices will not only improve the health and resiliency of these thousand-year-old trees but also enhance air and water quality and protect critical habitat for important species like the Pacific Fisher.

The SOS Act will provide land managers with the emergency tools and resources needed to save these remaining ancient wonders from the unprecedented peril threatening their long-term survival. The bill would:

*Enhance coordination between federal, state, tribal and local land managers through shared stewardship agreements and the codification of the Giant Sequoia Lands Coalition, a partnership between the current Giant Sequoia managers.
*Create a Giant Sequoia Health and Resiliency Assessment to prioritize wildfire risk reduction treatments in the highest-risk groves and track the progress of scientific forest management activities.
*Declare an emergency to streamline and expedite environmental reviews and consultations while maintaining robust scientific analysis.
*Provide new authority to the National Park Foundation and National Forest Foundation to accept private donations to facilitate Giant Sequoia restoration and resiliency.
*Establish a comprehensive reforestation strategy to regenerate Giant Sequoias in areas destroyed by recent catastrophic wildfires.

SOS Act original cosponsors: U.S. Reps. Scott Peters (D-Calif.), Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.), Jim Costa (D-Calif.), David Valadao (R-Calif.), Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.), Tom McClintock (R-Calif.), John Garamendi (D-Calif.), G.T. Thompson (R-Penn.), Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), Ken Calvert (R-Calif.), Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), Mike Garcia (R-Calif.), Lou Correa (D-Calif.), Doug LaMalfa (R-Calif.), Ami Bera (D-Calif.), Jay Obernolte (R-Calif.), Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.), Young Kim (R-Calif.), Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.), Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.), Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.), John Curtis (R-Utah), Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.), Russ Fulcher (R-Idaho), Kaiali’i Kahele (D-Hawaii), Michelle Steel (R-Calif.), Juan Vargas (D-Calif.), Pete Stauber (R-Minn.) and Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.).

More than 90 organizations support the SOS Act, including: ACRE Investment Management, American Conservation Coalition, American Forest & Paper Association, American Forest Foundation, American Forest Resource Council, American Loggers Council, American Sportfishing Association, American Wood Council, Aramark Parks & Destinations, Archery Trade Association, Associated California Loggers, Association of American Railroads, Association of California Water Agencies, Bipartisan Policy Center Action, Boone & Crockett Club, Calaveras Big Trees Association, Calaveras County Water District, Calaveras County, California Assemblyman Vince Fong, California Cattlemen’s Association, California Farm Bureau, California Forestry Association, California Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins, California Senator Shannon Grove, Carbon180, Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Charm Industrial, CHM Government Services, Citizens Climate Lobby, Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, ConservAmerica, Dallas Safari Club, Delek US Holdings, Drax, Ducks Unlimited, Edison International, Enviva, Evangelical Environmental Network, Federal Forest Resource Coalition, Forest Landowners Association, Forest Resources Association, Fresno County, Giant Sequoia National Monument Association, Grassroots Wildland Firefighters, Great Basin Institute, Hardwood Federation, Healthy Forests, Healthy Communities, Houston Safari Club, International Inbound Travel Association, International Paper, Inter-Tribal Timber Council, Kern County, Kern River Valley Chamber of Commerce, Kernville Chamber of Commerce, Mariposa County, National Alliance of Forest Owners, National Association of Counties, National Association of Forest Service Retirees, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Forest Recreation Association, National Wild Turkey Federation, Niskanen Center, Outdoor Industry Association, Outdoor Recreation Roundtable, PG&E, Placer County Water Agency, Placer County, Public Lands Council, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Rural County Representatives of California, Salesforce, Salt River Project, San Diego Gas & Electric, Save the Redwoods League, Sequoia Parks Conservancy, Sierra Forest Products, Sierra Pacific Industries, Society of American Foresters, Springville Chamber of Commerce, The Nature Conservancy, Trust for Public Land, Tulare County Farm Bureau, Tulare County Fire Department, Tulare County, Tule River Tribe, Tuolumne County, Vista Outdoor, Weyerhaeuser Company, Wildlife Management Institute, Yosemite Clean Energy, and Yosemite Conservancy.

Figure 1. Footprints of six wildfires that significantly impacted giant sequoia groves – Rough Fire (2015), Railroad and Pier (both 2017), Castle (2020), and KNP Complex and Windy (both in 2021). Giant sequoia groves in or near the fires are shown in red.
NPS / Joshua Flickinger

Other Groups’ Point of View

Here’s a link to why a Coalition of Conservation Groups oppose it (thanks to Nick Smith).

It’s nothing more than a trojan horse to diminish important environmental reviews and cut science and communities out of the decision-making process.”

It seems like they would like the committee to be a FACA committee, which seems reasonable and to have some kind of public involvement (I’m not sure that the Park Service and the Forest Service would actually propose a project without public involvement. They also argue that the NPS and FS have enough CEs to do the trick already.

19 thoughts on “Bipartisan “Save Our Sequoias Act” Introduced: HR 8168.”

  1. I am aware of several large-scale giant sequoia plantings on the Eldorado National Forest. I also know that Libby established plantings from at least the Plumas NF southward throughout the Sierras. So the issue seems less about ‘saving’ the sequoia as a species, but rather is about saving the large specimen groves that still remain. The knowledge about how to reforest sequoia is established; plantings have been happening since the 1970’s. I remember in the 1980’s going on a silvicultural field trip to the Sequoia NF and seeing an area where the entire understory had been removed from under a small grove of specimen sequoias and subsequently replanted with sequoia seedlings (as well as seeing natural seedling establishment). I do not recall the forest silviculturist’s name at this point, but I know that he was lambasted for doing this. But in hind sight, he seemed to have the absolutely correct idea to prevent fire-caused mortality.

    • Hi David: People have been planting sequoias and redwoods in western Oregon since the 1880s, at least. They do great on the coast and in the Willamette Valley, but these are mostly ornamentals and curiosities messing with sidewalks and powerlines rather than forestland plantings. Metasequoias, too. I’m in complete agreement that preserving the species is no problem — the problem is the people who have been managing our biggest and oldest remaining trees the past 50 years. We can certainly do much better, but passive management has proven to be the gross failure that has always been predicted. Time to tend and keep this wonderful garden, no matter the belief or bias. In my opinion.

  2. Actually, the reason why many/most mainstream conservation groups oppose the bill is because it includes express waivers from NEPA, ESA, and NHPA. It also exempts the Coalition from FACA.

  3. The enviros’ letter is here:

    In summary they criticize the bill as a solution in search of a problem – an industry giveaway unnecessary for and irrelevant to the health of the sequoias. I would want to know more about the types of projects relevant to sequoia health that would not likely occur absent this legislation – I just don’t know much about that ecosystem.

    As to the NFF/NPF, I had the same reaction – they already have broad gift acceptance authority. Perhaps the new authorities would relate to accepting gifts on behalf of the advisory body the bill would establish, rather than, as is currently the case, on behalf of the Secretaries of Ag and Interior, respectively. But I’m really just spitballing here – the legislative text doesn’t seem to be available yet, at least on the Congressional site.

    • Yes, I wrote and asked the House folks to give us the text. It doesn’t seem like we can adequately discuss the language of 6(a)(2) without a copy.

      • Thanks Sharon. Yes, the NFF has very broad authority to accept private donations for the benefit of National Forests, so I’m curious if/how it’s possibly expanded.

  4. This is encouraging! California has seen so much high severity nuking of our forests that folks are staring to realize that the “this is natural, we need more snag/early seral habitat” camp is spinning it.
    LOL at the predictable “Trojan horse” argument…is there any mill in California within hauling distance that would take GS logs? I doubt even the redwood mills on the coast would be able to. But hey, gotta keep those lawsuits going to feed the lawyers.

  5. Link to the letter:

    From the letter:
    Our primary objections are to Section 6(a)(2), which would waive environmental laws under a broad so-called “emergency.” These seminal environmental laws protect communities (especially front-line communities), wildlife, lands, and clean water. The bill would remove the NEPA process for decision-making on management activities and would instead place those decisions into the hands of a “Giant Sequoia Lands Coalition,” which does not have to abide by standard transparency requirements afforded by the Federal Advisory Committee Act. The legislation would prevent the voices of community members, scientists, and others from being heard. This legislation would lead to rushed and poorly planned logging projects with major impacts on soil, streams, and wildlife that could result in increased wildfire risk and harm recreational opportunities and other uses. Smart planning and public engagement as required by NEPA are integral to success, not a barrier to success. This is especially important when addressing an iconic forest species such as the Giant Sequoias.

    The bill would similarly bypass the ESA. In the same section, the bill would waive consultations that ensure proposed projects do not drive species toward extinction. This decision-making process is critical to protect threatened and endangered species. The ESA waiver contradicts the stated intent of this bill, and would make it more likely to harm imperiled species than to help them.

    The legislation also creates a new “categorical exclusion” that must be used by federal land managers to implement the provisions of the law, but the Forest Service and National Park Service (NPS) already have an extensive number of authorities and categorical exclusions to complete this type of work. There is no evidence to suggest that needed ecological restoration cannot and does not advance in the absence of yet another categorical exclusion.

  6. Related to giant sequoia planting – This species has been part of the seedling mix planted by the Forest Service and private land owners in California for years. I recall coming across very robust saplings on the Eldorado National Forest 5-6 years after the Cleveland Fire (1992). Blodgett Experimental Forest (University of California; has several GS plantations that are probably 20+ years old now.

  7. My first professional job was overseeing the mapping and inventory of all the Giant Sequoia groves south of the Mineral King road to the Sequoia National Forest boundary.

    We literally mapped EVERY Giant Sequoia in the grove.

    Giant Sequoia’s are a disturbance species. The shocking part of the inventory was how FEW small giant sequoia’s were in the groves. There was essentially NO REGENERATION in the groves.

    For example, in Garfield Grove the regeneration was limited to two avalanche chutes. Yeah, a active avalanche chute is not a good long-term survival strategy for a species.

    The Park Service has the maps and data files. Yes, the data is on about 30,000 punch cards!!! Every Sequoia got a punch card.

    It would be interesting to use the 1970’s maps to compare to the groves today after the fires.

    I did access the Case Mountain Grove, then private, ( now managed by BLM) to get to a couple of groves that were accessible from there. The Case Mountain Grove had been logged and some of the white-woods removed.

    There was Sequoia regeneration EVERYWHERE in that grove. As others have mentioned, I don’t think getting Sequoia’s to regenerate is all that difficult.

    Protecting them from the environmental lawyers, Federal judges, and politicians, as we have learned, is much, much more difficult.

    I am just livid that we as a society let this happen.

    • Vlad, thanks for sharing your on the ground experience with us. It’s a shame that folks don’t listen more to those who have actually gotten into these stands and done the work to inventory them. You’d also think by now that there would be a general grasp of forest regeneration and succession. The idea that we can just leave it “as nature intended” and expect species that need high frequency, low severity fire to persist is a fools errand.

  8. To actually understand whether this legislation might be a good idea, it would be helpful to see the analysis behind: “At its current pace, it would take the U.S. Forest Service approximately 52 years to treat just their 19 highest priority Giant Sequoia groves at high-risk of experiencing devastating wildfires.” Does the legislation remove whatever the obstacles are that lead to “the current pace” (better than, say, more money)? The inference is compliance with environmental laws is the problem, but is there actual evidence of that, given that the conservation groups claim existing categorical exclusions are sufficient (unless maybe the land managers want to do more management than they are admitting)?

    • An item on Rx fire in the Mariposa Grove, where the Washburn Fire is now burning. Just 166 acres as of this morning. A note on Inciweb says that the fuels Involved are “Mixed timber with significant dead/down.”

      Rx fire acreage will have to ramp up in the NPS wants to get anywhere close to the “average of 16,000 acres [of natural fires] annually in Yosemite.” Much of the 16K acres were likely low- or moderate-intensity fires.

      This is from the National Park Service:

      October 30, 2017 Posted by: Yosemite Fire Information

      Yosemite National Park fire managers are planning a prescribed fire in the Mariposa Grove during the window of 4-14 of November, weather conditions permitting. We expect to have a few days of smoke associated with this burn.

      Over 100 years of aggressive fire exclusion throughout the Sierra Nevada Range has dramatically altered forested ecosystems. Historically, natural fires burned an average of 16,000 acres annually in Yosemite and played an integral role in shaping forest structure and creating important wildlife habitat. In the absence of frequent fire, unnatural levels of forest fuel have accumulated, putting many of Yosemite’s natural and cultural values at risk. Applying fire under prescribed conditions mimics the frequent, low intensity lightning caused fires that occurred in the Sierras prior to the exclusion of fire.

      The Mariposa Grove project includes two to three burn units that total under 200 acres. Fire managers want to take advantage of the Mariposa Grove closure for a major restoration project to conduct the burn, minimizing impacts to public. Burning in the Mariposa Grove is a continuous process; the targeted areas have had 1-3 prescribed fires in the past 30 years, and continued burning is required to maintain healthy forest conditions. Fire produces the optimum conditions for Giant Sequoia regeneration. Fire not only removes the accumulated layers of dead woody debris exposing nutrient rich mineral soil, but fire is needed to dry the cones and allow the seeds to shed. In addition, by reducing the number of trees and undergrowth, wildfire opens up the forest canopy and reduces shade-tolerant competition.

      • Steve: Why do you think the “frequent, low intensity” fires were caused by lightning and not by people, as in other areas of the West? The predictable “significant dead and down” fuels would have made great firewood — maybe even salvage logging jobs — over the previous thousand years.

    • Your comment reminded me, I forgot to add after more exploration, the reason the legislation doesn’t require a FACA committee is the well known holdups and bureaucracy around getting the nominees approved. There is no reason to think that the intentions are to leave the public people out, probably rather to actually get going.

      • While FACA is well-intentioned, my (albeit limited) experience is that many stakeholders, governmental and nongovernmental (both left and right), view FACA as an impediment to clear communication. In part this is a procedural problem, as Sharon noted. But it is also a substantive problem – the more people you have in the room, the fewer feel able to speak openly about their concerns.

        My view is that FACA is a big city statute ineptly applied to rural realities. But my sample size is small – I’m open to other arguments.


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