Giant Sequoia National Monument

September 4, 2012: The Sequoia National Forest has released the final Giant Sequoia Monument Management Plan. The final management plan, environmental impact statement, maps, and all other final documents can be downloaded from the GSM website. Click here to read the Record of Decision.

December 3, 2010. Download Sierra Forest Legacy's comments on the newest draft management plan here.

Giant Sequoias

The Giant Sequoia National Monument is an exceptionally popular national treasure, containing approximately two-thirds of all of the giant sequoia trees in the world. Most of the world’s remaining giant sequoias are located in the adjacent Sequoia National Park. The Monument was established by Presidential proclamation on April 15, 2000. The Proclamation designated over 300,000 acres of the Sequoia National Forest as a national monument to be managed “to protect and enhance its natural values.” In addition to protecting the magnificent giant sequoia groves, the Proclamation also cited the importance of protecting other ecosystem values, including habitat for the rare and imperiled Pacific Fisher.

The rare and threatened Pacific Fisher relies on the Giant Sequoia National Monument to provide important habitat. However, the Fisher's declining population could eventually be forced to extinction under the current Monument management plan due to logging in their habitat. Disturbances allowed under the Proclamation can cause severe habitat reduction and increased predation

The Forest Service’s Record of Decision (ROD) and Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the Giant Sequoia Monument of January 16, 2004, would dictate the future management of the Monument. Contrary to the Monument’s established purpose, the adopted plan allows more logging than any other alternative considered and contains standards that are inadequate to protect old growth forests and species like the Pacific fisher. The Campaign submitted detailed comments on the draft environmental impact statement and filed an administrative appeal of the flawed decision, together with supporting statements from leading scientists. Despite numerous comments and appeals of this plan, on January 11, 2005, the Deputy Regional Forester of the Forest Services Pacific Southwest Region denied all administrative appeals.

In stark contrast to the successful management techniques used for four decades by the National Park Service in the Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Park, the Forest Service's "Giant Sequoia National Monument Management Plan" and associated final environmental impact statement ("FEIS") would permit extensive logging and cause the degradation of old forest habitat and irreparable harm to the Sequoia Monument's wildlife, directly conflicting with the purposes of the Monument. The actions of the Forest Service also threaten to exacerbate rather than lessen the risk posed by wildland fire to the Monument and nearby communities. Past management actions by Forest Service has included clear cutting around Giant Sequoia groves. In contrast, the National Park Service has been using prescribed fire for decades in the Sequoia National Park to protect communities, reduce fuels, sustain biological diversity and stimulate the growth of young giant sequoia trees.

Inaccurate arguments to promote unsustainable logging in the groves have frequently been put forth by the industry through spokesman Tom Bonnicksen, a forest science professor supported by the California Forest Products Commission. In 2005 Bonnicksen wrote an article criticizing the management practices employed by the National Park Service in the Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Park. The Park Service did not appreciate his criticism that came 30 years after Dr. Bonnicksen worked in the area. Read Dr. Bonnicksen's article and the response from the Park Service. (24KB PDF)

Sierra Forest Legacy along with the Sierra Club, Tule River Conservancy, Earth Island Institute, Sequoia Forestkeeper, and the Center for Biological Diversity filed suit on Thursday, January 27, 2005, to prevent implementation of the Giant Sequoia National Monument Plan. The California State Attorney General also filed suit to stop the plan on similar grounds relatived to NEPA violations in the fire plan for the Monument. .

In October 2006, Federal District Court Judge Charles Breyer found in our favor in both cases and remanded the management plan to the Forest Service "…so that a proper Monument Plan can be developed in accordance with the Presidential Proclamation… and in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)…" (Calif. Ex rel. Lockyer v. USDA , No. C-05-00898 (N.D. Cal., Oct. 11, 2006)). Read both decisions in the panel to your right under Resources.

The Forest Service’s pro-logging plan was contrary to the Proclamation, and would arbitrarily allow trees up to 30 inches in diameter to be removed from the forest in the name of fire hazard reduction, a diameter limit that is not supported by the best available science. Instead of logging large trees to supposedly prevent fire, which is a natural part of the Monument ecosystem, the Forest Service should remove the brush, lower branches, and small diameter trees which are the most flammable materials in the forest. Removing these most flammable materials would protect the large trees that are the essential elements of the old forest ecosystem that must be protected.

The purpose in establishing the Giant Sequoia National Monument is to bring permanent protection and recognition to all of the federally owned giant sequoia groves within the Sequoia National Forest. If the current Forest Service plan is not reversed, this protection will be meaningless and would likely lead to a movement to change management of the Monument from the Forest Service to the National Park Service. The National Park Service would be the most likely to successfully safeguard the Monument from further degradation.

New Draft Giant Sequoia Management Plan...August 2010

Four years after the courts rejected the agency's management plan, the Forest Service has now completed a new draft management plan for the Monument. The plan and all the associated planning documents are available on the Forest Service website in PDF format, which we believe is preferable to the online version ( "Public Comment Portal"). The Portal is an interactive website with links that allow you to speed up the process of viewing information online, however the documents are not the same as the actual hardcopy. This web version of the plan may create communication difficulties since there are no page numbers in the online version.

There have been a couple of glaring errors identified in the plan. The correct preferred alternative is Alternative B -- the DEIS incorrectly identified the agency preferred alternative as Alt F in the version mailed to interested parties. In addition, key comments by Science Review team members were left out of the original. Information concerning errata can be accessed here.

There are a number of public meetings throughout the state to discuss the plan.

The three main documents are the draft Environmental Impact Statement (Draft EIS), the Appendix, and the Draft Management Plan. The Supporting Documents are essential reading, especially the Science Consistency Review Report and the Forest Service response.

The 90-day review and comment period ends on December 3, 2010. Although the interactive website is helpful we believe it is important to read the actual documents if you have the time and expertise to interpret and comment substantively on the new plan.

Increased logging in the monument will impact the survival of the threatened Pacific fisher. The only remaining established population of this nearly extinct mammal in the Sierra Nevada occurs within and in the vicinity of the monument. The amount, configuration, and intensity of logging in the monument will also impact the survival of other old growth associated plants and animals. Clearly defined criteria and monitoring protocols need to be explicitly laid out in the plan. Also lacking is a specific direction to change course if monitoring indicates that management activities are driving more resource damage and furthering the threat of species endangerment.

Monitoring is the keystone of science based land management. It represents the real, on-the-ground observations that tell Forest Service rangers what is actually happening to plants and animals as a result of agency activities. Without active monitoring, the agency is really operating in the dark. While it should be obvious that monitoring is essential, the Forest Service continues to avoid this key responsibility.

The latest plan is also utterly lacking in a meaningful analysis of cumulative impacts, as required by NEPA (the National Environmental Policy Act). At the very least, the history and timeline of logging and major fires, and other ongoing events within the monument and vicinity should be documented.

Most tellingly, the agency’s Science Review inexplicably left out the comments and recommendations of two prominent agency scientists Scott Stephens (fire scientist) and William Zielinski (wildlife ecologist and expert on the fisher). Their comments, which are available here, clearly show that a great deal of important scientific research was overlooked in the development of the plan. We believe the plan would be significantly improved through incorporating the research and recommendations of all of the agency’s science reviewers.