Giant Sequoia Forest Earns Protected Status

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A privately owned forest comprised of giant sequoia trees has recently earned protected status, thanks to a long-term effort by California’s Save the Redwoods League and donors from around the world. The conservation group successfully lobbied for the purchase of the privately owned Alder Creek giant sequoia grove, which has been owned by the Rouch family since the 1940s. Once used for logging, the private grove is one of less than 100 sequoia groves left in the Northern Hemisphere. 

Earth’s Largest Trees

Giant sequoia trees, or Sequoiadendron giganteum, are argued to be the largest living organism on the planet and certainly earn their title as Earth’s largest trees. Sequoias were once abundant across the Northern Hemisphere, but changes to climate and forest habitat created isolated pockets where these trees now stand. The sequoias are now found on the western slopes of California’s Sierra Nevada mountains. The Alder Creek grove has one of the top five largest trees in the world in it, and is surrounded by California’s other giant sequoia forests, including the Giant Sequoia National Monument and Sequoia National Forest. 

Sequoias can grow as tall as the Statue of Liberty and routinely live to be 3,000 years old. The Alder Creek grove is unique in that it has trees of many different ages, showing researchers what a functioning, healthy sequoia grove looks like. Since this grove has not been open to the public (although public access is available to the Stagg Tree), it has escaped some of the damage and stress that can occur from prolonged human contact. 


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Second Largest Sequoia Tree by Footprint

The second largest sequoia tree by footprint and the fifth largest tree in the world, the Stagg tree, is located within Alder Grove. The tree measures 109 ft (33 m) at ground level.

The Stagg Tree.  Image: USDA, public domain.
The Stagg Tree. Image: USDA, public domain.

Conservation Plans for Alder Creek Grove

Unfortunately, the effects of mankind’s development hasn’t left the grove unscathed. Forest fire suppression methods have left many areas where the giant sequoias once grew overrun with other species that compete with sequoia seedlings for space on the forest floor. Additional climate changes like decreased snowpack and warmer temperatures may also affect the sequoia’s ability to thrive. 

The Alder Creek grove, although small at just two square kilometers in size, was purchased by the Save The Redwoods League for $15.65 million dollars. In this area there are approximately 483 trees that have trunks that are six feet in diameter or larger, as well as hundreds of other sequoias in various stages of development. 

The Save the Redwoods League, or SRL, hopes to preserve the grove while studying its unique makeup. Eventually, the conservation group would like to transfer ownership to the US Forest Service so that the grove can enjoy protected status like the forest around it. However, that transition will not come until there is a plan to ease this area into the public sphere. 

Reference

Mclendon, Russell. The world’s largest privately owned giant sequoia forest is now protected. 28 February, 2020. Retrieved from https://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/wilderness-resources/blogs/alder-creek-giant-sequoia-grove-save-redwoods-league

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