Press Release from the offices of Bruce Westerman:
WASHINGTON – 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.
“It’s no secret that I’m passionate about conserving trees, particularly when it comes to national treasures like our Giant Sequoias,” Westerman said. “The fact that the federal government has sat on its hands and let wildfires burn hotter and stronger every year is a travesty, and now these fires are threatening to turn whole Sequoia groves into ash. I refuse to let ours be the generation that allows these trees to perish forever when they’ve already survived thousands upon thousands of years. We’ve traveled to the Sequoia groves and talked to the federal, state, tribal and local land managers who oversee them, and every person on the ground shared just how important it is for Congress to take swift, comprehensive action. The strong bipartisan support we’ve already received for the Save Our Sequoias Act is just the beginning. We have a responsibility to manage these iconic resources, protecting them from catastrophic wildfires and other natural disasters and allowing them to thrive. It’s not every day that you see such powerful support on both sides of the aisle for a bill here in D.C., and I’m proud to be leading this legislation alongside my California colleagues.”
“Nearly 20 percent of all Giant Sequoias have been destroyed due to catastrophic wildfires resulting from policies and regulations that discourage proper forest management,” McCarthy said. “Earlier this year, I led a bipartisan group of my colleagues to witness the devastation firsthand – which only reinforced the immediate need for action. The Save Our Sequoias Act will address this problem by providing emergency authorities and resources to better maintain and prioritize these natural wonders in need of urgent care. I thank Congressman Scott Peters and Ranking Member Bruce Westerman for their shared commitment to this matter. Our Giant Sequoias need our help now.”
“The giant sequoia is an iconic species that has provided cultural, environmental, and recreational benefits to humans for generations,” Peters said. “Poor land management and climate change are driving forces behind severe fires that threaten the survival of giant sequoias and the stability of the climate. In just two years, California wildfires contributed more to climate change than the state’s entire power sector. The bipartisan Save Our Sequoias Act charts a new path forward in federal forest and wildfire policy to combat climate change and ensure the giant sequoias stand safely in their natural habitat for years to come.”
“The magnificent Giant Sequoia tree has a strong and resilient history in California, they tell a story that goes back thousands of years,” Costa said. “They are among the oldest living things on the planet. Sadly, climate change, among other factors, are threatening and diminishing our long-standing redwood groves. Unless we take steps to improve forest management and reduce wildfire risk on federal public lands, we will watch the destruction of these ancient trees. I am proud to help lead this effort to preserve and protect the world’s hardiest trees for future generations to come.”
“Our giant sequoias are a national treasure, and here in the Central Valley we’re lucky enough to have them right in our own backyard,” Valadao said. “The Save our Sequoias Act includes real reforms to forest management and equips our federal land managers with the tools and resources they need to save these trees from the threat of wildfire. I’m proud to be a part of this bipartisan effort to save our sequoias for future generations.”
“I recently visited several groves of sequoias in California and saw just how colossal but also how fragile these magnificent trees are when subject to intense wildfires,” Panetta said. “In the past few years, we’ve lost 20 percent of the world’s giant sequoias due to the brutal wildfires in California. Fortunately, there are a few innocuous and simple steps that we can take to save these giants so that our descendants can also experience these miraculous and majestic trees. The bipartisan Save Our Sequoias Act allows the federal government the chance to play its part with necessary funding and administration to support safeguarding these iconic natural wonders.”
“I am pleased to join Leader McCarthy and my colleagues in introducing the Save Our Sequoias Act, which will restore active management by empowering land managers with critical tools to expeditiously carry out fuels reduction and reforestation projects,” McClintock said.
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.
To watch the full press conference announcing the legislation, click here.
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, 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, 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.