Supporting Our Forests After the SQF Complex Fire
This week, Congressman Kevin McCarthy offered an amendment to prioritize funding for critically important U.S. Forest Service initiatives in Fiscal Year 2022 Appropriations legislation (H.R. 4502). This amendment would prioritize over $13 million for projects to mitigate safety hazards to reopen and rehabilitate the Sequoia National Forest following last year’s devastating SQF Complex Fire. The amendment passed today as part of a broader package of other House amendments.
Highlights of his speech on the House floor are below, or you can watch it in its entirety here.
“Giant sequoias are the largest trees in the world - some tower over 26 stories high and grow wider than a city street. They can only be found growing naturally on the eastern slopes of the Sierra Nevada Mountain range in California, including in my district in the Sequoia National Forest.
“Last August, the SQF Complex Fire burned over 170,000 acres primarily in the Sequoia National Forest after being ignited by lightning. A preliminary interagency report, led by the National Park Service, estimates that this fire killed, and I quote, ‘10% to 14% of all large sequoias across the tree’s natural range in the Sierra Nevada. This translates to an estimated loss of 7,500 to 10,600 large sequoias (those with trunk diameter of 4 feet or more).’
“These losses are devastating – both environmentally and for my communities, like Porterville, Three Rivers, Springville, Kernville, and Lake Isabella, that depend on revenue from tourists coming to see the giant sequoia groves.
“Following the fire, the U.S. Forest Service closed a large portion of the Sequoia National Forest in Tulare County because of public health and safety concerns, such as falling burned trees and mudslides. Addressing these safety concerns is critical so the forest can be fully reopened as quickly as possible.
"My amendment supports over $13 million for three initiatives in the Sequoia National Forest:
- Mitigating public safety hazards so the burn area can be reopened to the public;
- Promoting ecological restoration activities; and
- Supporting activities to reduce the risk of future catastrophic fires from killing additional giant sequoias.
“I have spoken with the Sequoia National Forest Supervisor and have been assured all these actions are or will be reviewed under the National Environmental Policy Act, and will be conducted consistent with the Giant Sequoia National Monument Management Plan and the Sequoia National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan.”
- On August 19, 2020, the Castle Fire and Shotgun Fire were discovered on the Sequoia National Forest. These fires, renamed the SQF Complex Fire, ultimately burned over 170,000 acres, primarily in the Sequoia National Forest (SQF).
- A preliminary interagency report estimates that 7,500 to 10,600 giant sequoias were killed as a result of the SQF Complex Fire.
- Following the SQF Complex Fire, a large portion of the SQF in Tulare County remains closed due to public safety issues resulting from falling, burned trees, mudslides, and other potential risks.
- The U.S. Forest Service has started the Castle Fire Roadside Hazard Tree Mitigation Project which is designed to mitigate public safety hazards so that roads, trails, and recreation sites can be reopened. Additionally, the Castle Fire Ecological Restoration Project will restore the forest’s ecosystem in the burn area. A third project is being developed to reduce the risk of potential future catastrophic wildfires killing additional giant sequoias.
- All three projects could cost up to $13 million to implement.
- Rep. McCarthy’s amendment supports prioritizing $13 million in the National Forest System for these three projects.