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April 29, 2023 - WASHINGTON – Congressman Jim Costa (CA-21) has released the following statement after introducing the bipartisan Save the Sequoias (SOS) Act, alongside knp usfwsSpeaker Kevin McCarthy and U.S. Representatives Scott Peters (CA-52), David Valadao (CA-22), Jimmy Panetta (CA-19), Tom McClintock (CA-05), John Garamendi (CA-08) and nearly 50 bipartisan House members. This bipartisan legislation would provide a comprehensive response and critical resources to protect the Giant Sequoias from the devastating impacts of climate change.

U.S. Forest Service Trucks in Giant Grove Parking Lot  Credit: USFWS

"The magnificent Giant Sequoia tree has a strong and resilient history in California, they tell a story that goes back thousands of years. Climate change is threatening and diminishing our long-standing redwood groves. We need to improve forest management and reduce wildfire risk on federal public lands, or else we will watch the destruction of these ancient trees. I’m proud to help lead this effort to preserve and protect the world's hardiest trees for future generations to come."  – U.S. Rep. Jim Costa (CA-21) 

Over the course of two years, 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's resiliency to wildfires, insects, and drought. At its typical 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 and utilize best available science. 
  • 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 help enhance public-private partnerships that will facilitate the Giant Sequoia restoration and resiliency. 
  • Establish a comprehensive reforestation strategy to regenerate Giant Sequoias in areas destroyed by recent catastrophic wildfires.

To commemorate the introduction of the SOS Act, Costa and a bipartisan group of members gathered to have a conversation about this bill on U.S. Capitol grounds, flanked by a Giant Sequoia in the background. Though Giant Sequoias are native to the western United States and only grow naturally on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada in California, over the centuries three Giant Sequoias have been planted at the U.S. Capitol.

To watch the members' live announcement click here.

The more than 50 original cosponsors include U.S. Reps. Cliff Bentz (R-Ore.), Ami Bera (D-Calif.), Jack Bergman (R-Mich.), Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.), Ken Calvert (R-Calif.), Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.), Lou Correa (D-Calif.), Jim Costa (D-Calif.), Angie Craig (D-Minn.), Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), John Curtis (R-Utah), John Duarte (R-Calif.), Russ Fulcher (R-Idaho), John Garamendi (D-Calif.), Mike Garcia (R-Calif.), Jared Golden (D-Maine), Garret Graves (R-La.), Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.), Josh Harder (D-Calif.), Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), Kevin Kiley (R-Calif.), Young Kim (R-Calif.), Ann Kuster (D-N.H.), Doug LaMalfa (R-Calif.), Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), Susie Lee (D-Nev.), Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Tom McClintock (R-Calif.), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-Iowa), Blake Moore (R-Utah), Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), Kevin Mullin (D-Calif.), Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.), Jay Obernolte (R-Calif.), Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.), Mary Peltola (D-Alaska), Scott Peters (D-Calif.), Dean Phillips (D-Minn.), Deborah Ross (D-N.C.), John Rutherford (R-Fla.), Pete Stauber (R-Minn.), Michelle Steel (R-Calif.), Mark Takano (D-Calif.), Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-Pa.), Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), Tom Tiffany (R-Wis.), Norma Torres (D-Calif.), David Valadao (R-Calif.), Juan Vargas (R-Calif.) and Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.). 

The legislation is endorsed by a wide coalition of stakeholders including Save The Redwoods League, the Tule River Tribe, the National Congress of American Indians, the Property and Environment Research Center, Society of American Foresters, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, and the National Association of Counties, among over 80 other organizations.
Source: Congressman Jim Costa