Previously thought to be immortal in the first place, now dying in large numbers

(Quote from Kyle Dickman’s article abroad)

Giant Sequoia Firefighter Washburn Fire Yosemite National Park
A Yosemite National Park firefighter clears material away from a giant sequoia during the Washburn Fire in July 2022. NPS photo by Garrett Dickman.

Kyle Dickman wrote a must-read article for the outside A magazine about how the largest trees on Earth, which can live for more than 3,000 years, have been increasingly affected by fire in recent years. It was published this week in the journal and covers how management of giant sequoias in Yosemite National Park and other areas of the Sierra has affected the vulnerability of large, mature specimens in orchards.

Mr. Dickman is a former member of the Tahoe Interagency Hotshot Crew and spent five seasons fighting fires. He wrote On the Burning Edge: A Fire of Fate and the Men Who Fought It, which is about Granite Mountain Huchchutz and the fire in which all but one died in 2013, the Yarnell Hill fire.

The article frequently mentions Mr. Dickman’s brother, Garrett, a Yosemite forest ecologist who was heavily involved in managing and trying to save the giant sequoia. The piece is very well written. You can read the entire article at the outside.

Here are some excerpts:

“What nature does is not natural” [said Joe Suarez, the Arrowhead Hotshots superintendent]

Jarrett [Dickman] and Kristi Brigham, director of science for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, stand in front of an outbuilding that firefighters rescued from a Castle fire, sitting in the unfinished shade of a 2,000-year-old dead tree that didn’t. Firefighters protect lives and property above all else – even holes that need to be cleared, as long as they have walls around them. Listening to comparative notes about their two jobs makes it clear that the fate of the giant sequoia is almost entirely in the hands of a few middle managers, who work in a few select parks, and who deal with vague environmental laws and a funding system stacked with public grants. If the death of the sequoia was caused by the American inertia, the survival of the sequoia would occur due to the perseverance of a small number of individuals.

The current drought is more severe than any California has experienced in 1,200 years.

“These next few years could be bad in ways we haven’t tested yet,” Garrett says. The park service knows what’s coming. After 60 years of trying to walk backwards by managing their lands to be the case with environmental advocate Starker Leopold, who devised a guiding philosophy for the agency from the late 1960s through 2021 called “Primitive America Vignettes,” the Park Service changed course to recognize Officially with this park, managers must intervene in ways deemed contrary to their mission two years ago. The new policy requires the public to open their minds to everything from mechanical loosening to very limited recording. “We’ve seen how it goes when you don’t do anything,” says Kristi. “It goes terribly. Thousands of 2,000-year-old trees have burned in an instant.”

“We don’t get nice things anymore,” Garrett says.

“The Clean Water Act. The National Environmental Policy Act. The National Historic Preservation Act. The Threatened and Endangered Species Act. Great laws for all of them,” Christie says. But they were built at a time when the main threat was people doing bad things — logging and mining. Now the main threat is laxity. The bureaucracy is slow. The wildfire is fast. And the bureaucracy must become much faster if we are to insist and not lose all that we have left.”

author: Bill Jabert

After working full-time in prairie fires for 33 years, he continues to learn, striving to be a student of fire. View all posts by Bill Gabert

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