A New National Monument to Preserve Ancient Sequoias

April 15, 2000

President Clinton will sign a proclamation today creating the Giant Sequoia National Monument in California's Sierra Nevada. The 328,000-acre monument will protect 34 groves of ancient sequoias and the rich forests that surround them.

Ancient Giants of the Sierra Nevada. Giant Sequoias are the largest trees on Earth, growing more than 300 feet tall and 30 feet across. They also are among the oldest, living up to 3,000 years or more. Ancestral forms of the Giant Sequoias were part of the western North American landscape for millions of years. Today, they survive in only about 70 groves on the western slopes of the Sierra. Thirty-four groves are in the Sequoia National Forest and will be protected in the new national monument.

The new monument will be in two parcels - one north, the other south, of Sequoia National Park. The northern parcel is bordered by the Kings Wild and Scenic River; the southern by the North Fork Kern Wild and Scenic River. Elevation ranges from 2,500 to 9,700 feet in a richly varied landscape that includes bold granite domes, spires, and plunging gorges. Archeological sites provide evidence of human habitation as long as 8,000 years ago. Wildlife includes the Pacific fisher, the American marten, the northern goshawk and the peregrine falcon. Giant Sequoias are the only known trees with nesting cavities large enough for California Condors, and the last breeding pair in the wild was found in a Giant Sequoia within the area of the new monument. Condors have since been reintroduced in California's Coast Range, where they nest on cliff faces.

Because of their great longevity, Giant Sequoias hold within their rings multi-millennial records of past environmental changes. These records show that the Sequoias spread as the climate cooled and summer droughts shortened, suggesting that global warming could put them at risk.

Managing the New Monument. The area within the new monument will continue to be managed by the U.S. Forest Service. Roads will remain open and full public access will be permitted for hiking, camping, hunting, fishing, biking, river rafting, horseback riding, and other types of non-motorized recreation. A detailed management plan will be adopted within three years, and a Science Advisory Board will provide outside expertise on issues such as fire management. A limited number of timber sales will be allowed, providing about a two-and-a-half-year transition before ending commercial timber harvesting within the monument. Valid existing rights, such as water rights and access to private lands, will be preserved. And "special" uses -- such as grazing, youth camps, and bee keeping - will be allowed to continue under normal permitting processes.

History and Public Process. Interest in protecting Giant Sequoias began as early as 1864, when the Mariposa Grove was deeded by the federal government to the state of California. By 1890, public reaction to the extensive logging of Sequoias contributed to creation of Sequoia, General Grant, and Yosemite National Parks. President Theodore Roosevelt later established the Sierra Forest Reserve, later divided into the Sequoia and Sierra National Forests. In 1992, President Bush barred commercial logging within Sequoia groves on national forests. Legislation championed by Congressman George Brown and others to permanently protect the groves and surrounding forest did not pass Congress. In January, President Clinton asked Agriculture Secretary Glickman to recommend whether the groves should be protected under the Antiquities Act. The Forest Service held public meetings in Visalia and Fresno, California, to gather public input, and consulted with local, state, and tribal officials, as well as members of Congress and other federal agencies with expertise in Sequoia management.

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