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Photo of fuels conditions at Redwood Meadow Grove, showing large amounts of ladder fuelds that would easily carry flames into the foliage of more mature trees, including sequoias. NPS photo.

Emergency Fuels Reduction within SEKI Sequoia Groves

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks » Emergency Fuels Reduction within SEKI Sequoia Groves » Document List

In October 2022, the National Park Service initiated emergency actions to protect eleven giant sequoia groves in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks from the threat to these groves posed by large-scale, high-intensity wildfire.

Between 2020 and 2021, large-scale, high-severity fire killed or otherwise fatality damaged up to 19% of all giant sequoias, range-wide, many of which were centuries old and had clearly withstood previous fires. While many sequoia groves with recent fire history experienced low- to moderate- severity fire in the 2020 and 2021 fire seasons, groves that had not experienced fire in recent years contained unnaturally heavy accumulations of dry fuels (i.e., leaf litter, downed branches and trees, and a high density of small standing trees) that spread wildfire quickly across the forest floor, concentrated heat in large downed fuels, and, importantly, created ladders for fire to travel into the canopies of large sequoias, where they are most vulnerable. After seeing the unprecedented high mortality of giant sequoias in these groves with little to no recent fire history, the NPS identified fourteen other groves that similarly lacked recent fire history and are at threat of similar fire effects should fire ignite in these forests. The NPS identified actions could be taken within eleven of the fourteen groves to address the risk from high severity fire. Without action, a significant number of centuries-old sequoias, if not entire groves, could be lost.

The purpose of the emergency action is to remove and reduce dense vegetation in and around eleven giant sequoia groves that have limited to no recent fire history. These groves have unnaturally high levels of fuels accumulation and are therefore at high risk of devastating effects of large scale, high-severity fire. The work includes point protection around sequoias and/or thinning brush and small trees by hand throughout the groves; subsequent burning of piles of the cut vegetation and downed wood; and/or using broadcast prescribed fire to restore a more natural fuel load within the forest. Eight of the eleven groves are at least partially located within lands managed as wilderness.

Beyond the emergency action, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks have a prescribed burning program that dates back more than 50 years. Most of the program's work has been focused on medium- to high-use areas, including ten sequoia groves, to protect natural ecosystems as well as human safety and infrastructure. This work—which spans decades— has proven effective in areas that have been exposed to recurring fire. Implementation of this emergency action has helped, and will continue to help, protect many of the more remote giant sequoia groves by reducing the density of live vegetation and accumulated dead and down fuels in thus-far untreated groves.

Project Status Report as of November 2023:

The following projects related to this protection strategy have been completed:

(1) Redwood Meadow Grove (Sequoia National Park; Sequoia-Kings Canyon Wilderness) - 110 acres understory thin and pile completed. 152 grove acres burned in Redwood Wildfire. 19 grove acres remain untreated. These grove acres are west of Cliff Creek in steep and difficult terrain. Manual treatment of these grove acres is not possible; no additional actions planned.
(2) Little Redwood Meadow Grove (Sequoia National Park; Sequoia-Kings Canyon Wilderness) - Point protection of at-risk trees completed. 26 grove acres burned during Redwood Wildfire. Zero grove acres remain untreated; no additional actions planned.
(3) Granite Creek Grove (Sequoia National Park; Sequoia-Kings Canyon Wilderness) - Point protection of at-risk trees completed. 1.5 grove acres burned during Redwood Wildfire. Zero grove acres remain untreated; no additional actions planned.
(4) Sequoia Creek Grove (Kings Canyon National Park; no wilderness) - 38 acres understory thin and pile completed.
(5) Grant Grove (Kings Canyon National Park; no wilderness) - Point protection of at-risk trees completed. 168 acres of understory thin and pile completed.
(6) Big Stump Grove (Kings Canyon National Park; no wilderness) - 55 acres of piles have been burned in the western portion of Big Stump Grove, and line prep has been completed for a planned broadcast burn.
(7) Lost Grove (Sequoia National Park, partially within Sequoia-Kings Canyon Wilderness) - Point protection of at-risk trees completed.
(8) Atwell Grove (Sequoia National Park, partially within Sequoia-Kings Canyon Wilderness) - Point protection of at-risk trees completed.

The following planned projects are currently in progress or are planned to be completed by the end of calendar year 2023, as conditions allow, but may be implemented in 2024 if necessary. All of these areas are within Kings Canyon National Park and are outside of wilderness:

(1) Grant Grove - 168 acres of piles will be burned.
(2) Big Stump Grove (Eastern portion) - 117 acres of piles will be burned.
(3) Big Stump Grove (Western portion) - 25 acres of piles will be burned.
(4) Sequoia Creek Grove - 38 acres of piles will be burned.

The following projects are planned for calendar year 2024:

(1) East Fork Grove (Deer Creek portion) (Sequoia National Park; John Krebs Wilderness) - 941-acre broadcast burn.
(2) Big Stump Grove (Eastern portion) (Kings Canyon National Park; no wilderness) - 117-acre broadcast burn.

The following project is planned for calendar year 2025:

(1) Atwell Grove (Sequoia National Park; partially within Sequoia-Kings Canyon Wilderness) - 1,459-acre broadcast burn.

The following project is not currently scheduled, pending development of burn plans:

(1) Lost Grove (Sequoia National Park; partially within Sequoia-Kings Canyon Wilderness) - 669-acre broadcast burn.
(2) East Fork (portion of East Fork Grove, Cahoon Grove, and Horse Creek Grove) (Sequoia National Park; John Krebs Wilderness) - 14,079-acre broadcast burn.

Decision documents and consultations that further explain the purpose and need for action, scope of the action, and/or otherwise document compliance with federal laws are posted in PEPC.

The National Park Service has also initiated internal scoping on updating a Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks Fire and Fuels Management Plan. The parks plan to initiate civic engagement on this effort in spring 2024.