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Members Applaud U.S. Forest Service's Announcement on Actions to Save Our Sequoias


WASHINGTON, D.C., July 22, 2022 -

Today, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) announced it will use emergency powers under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to take immediate action on protecting Giant Sequoias, as first proposed by the bipartisan Save Our Sequoias (SOS) Act. The SOS Act was introduced by House Committee on Natural Resources Ranking Member Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.), Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and U.S. Reps. Scott Peters (D-Calif.), Jim Costa (D-Calif.), David Valadao (R-Calif.), Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.) and Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) on June 23, 2022. The members released the following statement:

"We applaud the U.S. Forest Service’s announcement on using emergency authorities, as first proposed in the SOS Act, to take swift action to protect the Giant Sequoias. Wildfires do not respect partisan politics or jurisdictional boundaries; if we waste time over petty politics, they will continue burning through sequoia groves and threatening to eradicate these iconic trees forever. The Forest Service's action today is an important step forward for Giant Sequoias, but without addressing other barriers to protecting these groves, this emergency will only continue. That is why we introduced the bipartisan SOS Act, a comprehensive approach to protecting Giant Sequoias that not only addresses NEPA, but also other federal laws that make it difficult to remove hazardous fuels from the groves on federal lands. Now it's time to codify this action by establishing a true comprehensive solution to fireproof every grove in California through the SOS Act and save our sequoias."

Background

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 Sequoias' resiliency to wildfires, insects, and drought. Today's announcement from the USFS helps change that trajectory by activating emergency authority to streamline the NEPA reviews.

Using this action proactively to protect Giant Sequoias was first proposed in the SOS Act, which would codify the emergency regulation cited in today’s announcement. The bill would expand this emergency authority to include Endangered Species Act and National Historic Preservation Act reviews and surveys, which delay critical projects and were not addressed in the USFS action. The SOS Act also includes groves under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Interior, which is not covered under today’s announcement. 

Federal land managers recently used similar authorities to clear hazardous fuels around Giant Sequoias in the famous Mariposa Grove in Yosemite National Park during the Washburn Fire. These actions, along with the proactive forest management conducted by the National Park Service in the years prior, is now credited with saving the Mariposa Grove from destruction.

The SOS Act is a comprehensive bill that would provide land managers with several other emergency tools and resources needed to save the 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 members' press conference announcing the SOS Act, click here

Contact: Committee Press Office 202-225-2761

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