Sequoias are the planet’s largest trees and rank among its longest-lived. But I fear for them as the climate changes and wildfires burn every bigger and hotter.
These trees are dear to me for many reasons. My honeymoon two years ago was to Sequoia National Park. I can only describe walking among thousands of these giants – many with burn scars up their trunks that by themselves are larger than most trees east of the Rockies – as magical. Ravens’ gravelly croaks echoed through the forest as we passed through. Western bluebirds flitted among living pillars that seemed to hold up the sky. These are ancient, huge beings that watch over an ecosystem of countless other organisms. They force us, or allow us, to confront our smallness.
Sequoias are adapted to fire. Their thick yet soft bark and immense size protect them from blazes that can kill smaller trees. Natural fires unlock their cones and activate the seeds inside. The flames and falling elders clear out the space new sequoias need to thrive. In this system, death and life, destruction and healing intermix and balance each other.
But of course we have thrown all of this out of balance. Wildfires (for yet another year) rage throughout California and the West, supercharged by a drying and warming climate and our own foolish development and fire suppression over the past century. These more severe fires are killing thousands of sequoias, whose population is only measured by the tens of thousands to begin with. They are only the largest symbols of the many ecosystems we’re damaging. It fills me with sadness and anger.
I’m so thankful to read that Sequoia’s Giant Forest likely will endure the fire currently at its doorstep thanks to decades of careful fire and forest management. Other groves aren’t so lucky, and more fires are coming. Please join me in supporting and advocating for a more sustainable society that preserves and manages habitat wisely and confronts the challenges of climate change. There are local organizations that are doing good work in this arena. We have to protect these trees. I can’t bear the thought of losing them.
Thanks for reading.