Chainsaws in the Cathedral

President George H. W. Bush said of the sequoias now in Giant Sequoia National Monument, “We should treat them like a great cathedral.”

President Bill Clinton established Giant Sequoia National Monument by presidential proclamation in 2000. The idea was that logging would no longer take place in the monument. As the proclamation put it:

No portion of the monument shall be considered to be suited for timber production, and no part of the monument shall be used in a calculation or provision of a sustained yield of timber from the Sequoia National Forest. Removal of trees, except for personal use fuel wood, from within the monument area may take place only if clearly needed for ecological restoration and maintenance or public safety."

As the photos on this page show, logging was still taking place on the monument, either on timber sales that were already permitted when the proclamation was signed, and so "grandfathered" in, or as "hazardous tree removal" or "fuels reduction" projects of doubtful necessity. Recent court decisions have brought logging to a halt– for the moment.

Sequoia overlooking the slash left behind by a clearcut. Erosion, soil compaction, and vulnerability to strong winds are the legacy of clearcutting.
US Forest Service boundary marker for "Type 1 Redwood Grove" now serves as an epitaph for a fallen giant.
Blowdown:The root system of giant sequoias is surprisingly shallow– only about four feet deep. Without surrounding trees to shield the big ones, and with their roots broken up by heavy logging machinery and exposed by ensuing soil erosion, the giants are much more vulnerable to being pushed over by the wind.

Mature pine trees 300-500 years old and 4-5 feet in diameter from Giant Sequoia National Monument on their way to a sawmill.

Trunks of Ponderosa pine, sugar pine, incense cedar and white fir by the thousands lie waiting in a log yard.

Aerial view of small clump of trees surrounded by bare muddy and stony mountain soil after clearcutting.
Clearcuts such as this will not "recover" any time soon– if ever.

A volunteer counts annual rings on this fresh stump of a large healthy tree, felled by the Forest Service on the dubious pretext of necessity for “fuels reduction” or ”hazard tree removal."

Sequoia seedling poking through a plastic membrane that the Forest Service said would hold in moisture and increase the seedling's chances for survival. But of course the plastic sheeting also keeps vital moisture out. Most of these seedlings died.
This person clambering over the trunk of a fallen sequoia gives perspective on the true size of these giants.
California spotted owl in what is left of its shrinking habitat. The owl requires old-growth forest for most or all of its life cycle.

Martin Litton, a giant of the American conservation movement and stalwart defender of America’s old growth wilderness communes with the Amos Alonzo Stagg Sequoia, the sixth largest known tree, one of the giants that he has worked to protect.

Helpful Links

To find out more about the Act to Save America’s Forests, a bill that would place Giant Sequoia National Monument under the National Park Service, read our action alert:

Executive director Paul Hughes visited Washington, DC in September to talk to politicians about the Act to Save America’s Forests. Read a report on his visit here:


Forests Forever:
Their Ecology, Restoration, and Protection
John J. Berger

from Forests Forever Foundation
and the Center for American Places