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U.S. Taking Emergency Steps to Protect Sequoias From Wildfires

The US Forest Service said Friday it would take emergency measures, including removing low-lying vegetation that could fuel fires and other measures, to protect giant redwood groves threatened by wildfires.

Since 2015, wildfires have devastated California’s bushes. About one-fifth of all giant sequoias have been destroyed in the past two years, according to the Forest Service.

All but five of them have burned down at least partially in recent wildfires. Countless giant monarchs, the largest redwoods in the forest, have been killed. Experts estimate that in 2021 there will be approximately 75,000 giant redwoods.

“Without urgent action, wildfires could eliminate countless more iconic giant redwoods,” said Randy Moore, chief of the Forest Service. “We can and must do more to protect giant redwoods with all the tools and flexibility at our disposal. This emergency measure to reduce fuel before a wildfire occurs will protect unburned giant sequoia forests from the risks of very serious wildfires.”

The Forest Service said: that it hopes to complete the prevention projects by 2023 or 2024.

The plan, which involves removing ladder fuels, or needles, grass and moss that can spread fires, along with cutting small trees by hand, would help protect 12 giant sequoia groves spanning more than 13,300 acres. Other measures to be taken include mechanically removing some trees, removing rotten materials from the base of the giant redwoods, and lighting controlled fires.

To protect the nearly 12,000 acres of the Sequoia National Forest will cost about $15 million, which will come from the recently passed infrastructure law. Work on eight groves could begin this summer, the Forest Service said, and work on three other groves could begin by fall.

Senators Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla, both California Democrats, said they supported the emergency action plan.

“The giant sequoia groves are an icon in California, but tragically, nearly 20 percent of all mature giant sequoias have been burned in the past five years,” the senators said. wrote in a joint statement. “We must do everything we can to protect these trees, many of which are thousands of years old, from the threat of wildfires.”

Between 2015 and 2021, more than 85 percent of the acreage of all giant sequoia groves in the Sierra Nevada was burned by wildfires, compared to 25 percent in the last century. the park service said:. The increase in damage is likely related to climate change, the agency said, and a lack of frequent fires that could clear the brush.

Authorities and firefighters took action this month to help save a famous giant sequoia in Yosemite National Park, known as the Grizzly Giant, which is more than 2,000 years old and 60 meters high.

The tree was threatened by the Washburn fire, which led to evacuation orders for Wawona, California, and has burned more than 4,800 acres. That fire was 79 percent restricted from Saturday afternoonsaid firefighters.

To help protect the Grizzly Giant, authorities cleared debris from the base of the tree, cut down smaller trees and set up a sprinkler system that intermittently pumped up to 20 gallons of water per minute to increase humidity at the base of the tree.

In other recent fires, firefighters have wrapped the trees in flame-retardant film, pumped foam on them and showered them in pink flame retardant.

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