A rare bipartisan bill has been introduced by a group of lawmakers to save the redwoods.
Republican Congressmen Kevin McCarthy (California) and Bruce Westerman (Ark.) and Democratic Congressman Scott Peters (California) introduced the bill, which is co-sponsored by 75 others. It aims to accelerate reforestation.
“Land mismanagement and climate change are driving severe fires that threaten the survival of giant sequoias and climate stability. In just two years, the California wildfires have contributed more to climate change than the state’s entire power sector,” Rep. Peters said in a news release.
Here’s what’s in the bill:
- A call to allocate $325 million over 10 years to projects that support reforestation.
- A call for an emergency declaration to begin reforestation efforts.
- An assessment of giant sequoia health and resilience.
- The creation of a Giant Sequoia Land Coalition. which will be a partnership between the National Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the State of California and others.
- Rehabilitation and restoration projects should go through categorical exclusion reviews as opposed to the current environmental impact assessmentwhich can take up to 24 months.
“The bipartisan Save Our Sequoias Act charts a new course in federal forest and wildfire policy to combat climate change and ensure giant sequoias stand safely in their natural habitat for years to come.” Peters said.
The bill was criticized in a letter signed by more than 80 environmental groupsincluding the League of Conservation Voters, saying “this legislation would weaken existing environmental legislation to expedite potentially harmful logging projects that compromise the ecological integrity of redwood groves and do nothing to protect these trees.”
Logging, which can impact climate change by increasing the amount of free carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. It also impacts wildlife habitat.
“The fact that these trees are experiencing such high morality is directly linked to climate change and fire suppression, and there is already active management on these lands,” the statement said, “We encourage you to protect our forests , to protect science and community contribution and oppose this very problematic legislation.
The redwood, which can grow over 200 feet tall and live for over 3,000 years, has been badly affected by the fires that have raged across California in recent years.
The castle fire, which occurred in August 2020, ravaged more than 174,000 acres, destroying an estimated 7,500 to 10,600 tall redwoods, according to a report by the National Park Service.
Although the castle fire was started by lightning, the severe drought allowed the fire to linger longer in the arid land.
Forest fires continue to be largest threatens to trees, wiping out nearly a fifth of the world’s giant sequoias, and as the climate continues to warm and fire seasons continue to intensify, trees will remain at risk of being damaged or destroyed.
For more information on visiting the Sequoia National Forest here.