Save the Sequoias: The Big Trees Need You

By Miguel Vieira [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

“The noblest forest of the world needs you.” ~Martin Litton, founder of Grand Canyon Dories & President of Sequoia ForestKeeper

It’s impossible to describe the magic of a giant sequoia to somebody who’s never gotten the chance to stand beneath one. These massive, ancient beauties, found only along the western slope of California’s Sierra Nevada, will leave you absolutely speechless as you try to wrap your head around how they’ve withstood the test of time.

Yet, time could be running out if better forest management practices aren’t put into place to protect the natural ecosystems that have provided a healthy home for these incredible trees for more than 3,000 years. Luckily for the big trees—and everyone for that matter—Sequoia ForestKeeper has got their backs…err, trunks.

What is Sequoia ForestKeeper?

Started in 2001 by Martin Litton, a legendary environmental crusader, founder of Grand Canyon Dories and a good friend of OARS, Sequoia ForestKeeper is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization committed to protecting Giant Sequoia National Monument and Sequoia National Forest in the southern Sierra Nevada.

Litton, who will turn 97-years-old this month and still acts as the organization’s president, probably knows better than anyone how the long-term consequences of short-sighted resource management decisions often aren’t fully understood until it’s too late. Early on in his activism career, as Litton found himself fighting against proposed dam projects that were threatening many of the West’s wild and untamed rivers, he witnessed the loss of Glen Canyon—one of the most spectacular river canyons in the world. This heartbreaking defeat would inspire all of his future conservation work.  Today, Litton is perhaps best known for his critical role in the fight to protect the Colorado River in Grand Canyon National Park from being dammed. But what does all this have to do with the trees?

Martin Litton running the Grand Canyon

Martin Litton’s Endless Crusade for the Natural World

Litton’s been around long enough to see several dams that were built throughout the West torn down so that rivers could be restored to their natural state (small victories for environmentalists who were right all along). And he’s also been around long enough to know that our ancient forests of redwoods and giant sequoias are more threatened than ever because of clear-cutting and short-sighted management. And once these big trees, which have been on this planet longer than modern civilization, are gone…there is no rewinding history or restoring them to their natural state. They’re gone—forever.

He wrote this as part of a letter to raise awareness a few years back:

“My ‘mission’ has turned out to be the salvation of what remains of our native forests—particularly the Sierran habitat of the giant sequoias, the largest living things on Earth. John Muir called their range ‘the noblest forest of the world,’ but that—a hundred years ago—did not save them from axe and saw.

Now they are more imperiled than ever. True, more than one-third of the remaining grove acreage is embraced in Sequoia, Kings Canyon and Yosemite National Parks, and two California State Parks protect some, but half of all giant sequoia forestland found on Earth is in the ‘care’ of the Agriculture Department’s United States Forest Service: the fox guarding the henhouse.”

Sequoia ForestKeeper’s Mission

Today, Sequoia ForestKeeper is committed to being the eyes, ears and voice of the forests. The organization is diligently working to get Sequoia National Monument out of the hands of the logging-friendly Forest Service, and into the hands of the preservation-focused National Park System, while also developing a forest management plan that will ensure long-term viability for the sequoia forests. On a broader scale, Sequoia ForestKeeper is also dedicated to forest health and seedling management initiatives, supporting and advocating for new laws and policies where existing ones are failing, and even taking on costly legal battles when necessary to further protect the sequoias.

Calaveras Big Trees State Park

Save the Sequoias: How You Can Help Right Now

We believe under Sequoia ForestKeeper’s watch, future generations for many years to come (thousands, maybe?) will be able to enjoy the magic of the giant sequoias.

OARS has committed to raising awareness about the organization’s important work, and in honor of our friend Martin Litton’s 97th birthday, we’re hoping to enlist the support of our friends too.

For every new Facebook “Like” OARS receives from February 3 – 12, we’ll donate $1 to Sequoia ForestKeeper (up to $5,000) to help save the sequoias.

Already like us? Great, share the #SavetheSequoias campaign with your friends.

And while we wanted to make it as easy as possible for all of you to get involved, we also hope you don’t stop there. Sequoia ForestKeeper, and its modest staff and volunteers, can use all the help they can get.

Here are three things you can do right now to further your support:

Oh, and if you haven’t yet gotten the chance to stand beneath one of these amazing trees, put it on your bucket list immediately. You won’t be disappointed.

Where to find the giants:

giant sequoia groves

Plan Your Trip to See California’s Giant Sequoias:

Sequoia National Forest and Giant Sequoia National Monument

Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks

Yosemite National Park

Calaveras Big Trees State Park


Photos: Giant Sequoias, Miguel Vieira/Flickr; Martin Litton in the Grand Canyon, John Blaustein; Boy at base of giant sequoia, Cari Morgan





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