“In a world that is becoming increasingly virtual, the parks remain places of visceral beauty. Places where we can remember that we are but a small part of the life on this planet, and that it is a truly wonderful planet and the only one we’ve got.”
― Nevada Barr
Two days ago I joined my eldest son and two eldest grandsons on a day-long hike on a series of trails above the Zumwalt Flats in the Kings Canyon National Park. I say “hike” tongue-in-cheek as this was my second time there with him in three weeks and his hike is to me more of a forced march. Whatever, I need the exercise and enjoyed being with my grandsons.
Now, in the KCNP stands the second tallest tree in the world, in the middle of the Giant Sequoia Monument (which contains the majority of the world’s population of the towering trees), the largest giant sequoia tree, the General Grant, – 267.4 ft (81.5 m) tall, a circumference of 107.6 ft (32.8 m) at ground level, an estimated bole volume of 46,608 cu ft (1,320 m cubed) – that is believed to be 1,650 years old. It stands in one of the 65 named groves of sequoias in California (the General Sherman tree in adjoining Sequoia National Park is the largest tree on Earth, approximately 6,000 cu ft larger in volume and about 450 years older). Other sequoias are taller at 300 ft, some are older at around 2,000 years, but the Grant and Sherman are larger overall. I give you these numbers only to impress upon you their truly “giant” size. Even if you can’t mentally picture such a tree, believe me, they are the definition of “awesome”. Now, I’m more of a coast/beach kinda person, but the giant sequoias are more inspiring to behold than their somewhat smaller sequoia cousins, the coastal redwoods (also protected, for the most part).
These wonders of nature, whose linage goes back to the Jurassic period, are today threatened. Not by fire or pest or some other natural enviromental enemy, but by the unnatural greed of man (that may be an oxymoron – greed seems to come naturally to mankind).
The current administration in Washington has declared its determination to open public lands to private industry (read: oil and gas exploration and drilling, and logging). To that end, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is undertaking a study of more than two dozen national monuments to determine how many – or all – should be stripped of federal protections and auctioned off to the highest bidder for commercial exploitation. And the supervisors of Tulare county (roughly twice the size of the state of Delaware and encompasses the Giant Sequoia Mononument area) have voted their approval (as if Washington needs it, or cares, but it’s a nice bow on the package) at the urging of local logging companies and sawmill owners.
Supporters of the Giant Sequoia Monument are in fear of the drooling timber industry, should it be unleashed from the current ban on logging. Chad Hanson, a noted tree ecologist, says, “Oh, yeah. We are taking this threat very seriously.”
I’ll end this by saying that all our national monuments, parks and forests are and should be protected and kept in their natural state, and not for development or other commercial use, but solely for the use and enjoyment by all and as a legacy to future generations, and as an acknowledgement to their Creator in thanks for the natural beauty given us.
May it ever be so.