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Conservation group plans to purchase 530 acres of giant sequoias

Conservation group plans to purchase 530 acres of giant sequoias

Alder Creek in the Sequoia National Forest is the last, largest privately-owned giant sequoia grove in the world

@TheSunGazette

TULARE COUNTY — One of the oldest conservation groups in California is on the verge of purchasing the largest collection of the earth’s oldest living things.

On Sept. 17, Save the Redwoods League announced its plans to purchase Alder Creek, the largest remaining privately owned giant sequoia property in the world. The 530- acre property contains hundreds of ancient giant sequoia, 483 of which have a diameter of six feet or larger, including the Stagg Tree, the fifth-largest tree known in the world. Alder Creek is surrounded by Giant Sequoia National Monument.

“Alder Creek is the most consequential giant sequoia conservation project of our lifetime. It’s the largest remaining giant sequoia property in private ownership, and a globally unique and extraordinarily beautiful landscape,” said Sam Hodder, president and CEO of Save the Redwoods League. “To fully protect this remarkable grove forever, we will need the public’s help in raising the required funds by Dec. 31, 2019. I am pleased to announce that we have a challenge grant in place to help us achieve that goal.”

Hodder added, “Giant sequoia — the world’s most massive trees — inspired the national conservation movement more than 150 years ago beginning with the protection of Mariposa Grove in Yosemite National Park. Today, Save the Redwoods League has the opportunity to continue this conservation legacy by permanently protecting Alder Creek and its hundreds of giant sequoia trees.”

The last giant sequoias on Earth are located on and around the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada in approximately 73 isolated and scattered groves. Giant sequoia forests are one of the rarest ecosystems on the planet, encompassing 48,000 acres. Because giant sequoias occupy a small native range, Hodder says it is vital to seize every opportunity to protect them. In addition to giant sequoia, Alder Creek also contains robust stands of mature red fir, white fir, ponderosa pine, and sugar pine, as well as several other habitats, including meadows, wetlands, and riparian woodlands. Each sustains its unique suite of associated species; together, they form a vital and resilient ecosystem emblematic of the southern Sierra Nevada and California.

In addition to acquiring the property, the League will develop plans for restoration and stewardship activities during its ownership.

“In the near- to midterm, the restoration and stewardship goal will be to bring back a balance of native forest species that have been altered by historical logging, and reduce fuel loads to assure fire resilience and long-term protection,” Hodder said. “Other than these relatively minor interventions, the forest is in really great shape. Our focus will be on protecting the magnificent forest that already exists at Alder Creek and exploring opportunities for public access.”

The League’s campaign also offers a unique opportunity to open up to the public one of the best kept secrets in California. Following the acquisition of the property, the League intends to work with Giant Sequoia National Monument and the local and regional community to plan and implement long-term public access to the property that both inspires visitors with the beauty and power of nature and ensures the health and resilience of this rare forest ecosystem.

If successful in raising the funds for acquisition, the League intends to own and manage the property for five to 10 years. During this time, the League will develop and implement forest restoration and stewardship activities and develop public access plans. Ultimately, the League intends to transfer the property to the U.S. Forest Service for inclusion in Giant Sequoia National Monument, ensuring its future management in accordance with the monument’s long-term restoration, resource protection, and public access program.

“This is perhaps the most significant sequoia conservation opportunity in the last 65 years,” said Becky Bremser, the director of land protection for Save the Redwoods League. “By protecting this property, we will safeguard the biological richness and ecological resilience of a forest unlike any other on Earth — with giant sequoia trees that are thousands of years old, and nearly 500 with diameters six feet or larger. We also will create the opportunity for this extraordinary mountain forest to inspire the public in a truly special way.”

The League has been working on a deal to purchase the property from the Rouch family for more than 20 years, said Bremser said, who touted the potential purchase as one of California’s greatest conservation achievements.

The acquisition cost of the Alder Creek property is $15.65 million, which must be raised by Dec. 31. To launch this public fundraising effort and inspire support, an anonymous donor has offered a challenge match, generously agreeing to match dollar-for-dollar all gifts received by December 31 up to $500,000. The public can donate to support the protection and restoration of Alder Creek at SaveTheRedwoods.org/SaveAlder.

The vast majority of remaining giant sequoia groves are held in public or tribal ownership, with only 1,200 acres privately owned today. The long-term climate change trend of Sierra Nevada snowpack reduction, in combination with warmer temperatures and widespread tree mortality from drought and pests, is greatly increasing the risk of severe fire and threatening the giant sequoia ecosystem. The eventual transfer of Alder Creek to Giant Sequoia National Monument under U.S. Forest Service stewardship will allow this forest to be managed for its longterm survival.

Save the Redwoods League is one of the nation’s oldest conservation organizations and has been protecting and restoring redwood forests since 1918, connecting generations of visitors with the beauty and serenity of the redwood forest. Its 24,000 supporters have enabled the League to protect more than 216,000 acres of irreplaceable forest in 66 state, national and local parks and reserves. For more information, go to SaveTheRedwoods.org.

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