By Bill Lavoie, Membership Chair
This year alone, wildfires in the southern Sierra Nevada claimed the lives of nearly 3,600 giant sequoias. For more than 100 years, Save the Redwood League has pursued its mission to save California redwoods. In addition to funding research on fire ecology and climate change, the league purchases redwood properties and donates them to the California state or national park system. Through their efforts, we have Prairie Creek Redwood State Park and Redwood National Park to appreciate, among others.
In 2019, the league acquired the largest privately held ancient giant redwood forest, Alder Creek Grove. As a donor to the league I was invited to visit the grove, located just south of Sequoia National Park. Privately owned for close to 80 years, it was used as a family retreat and for some logging, but careful management preserved the redwoods, including the fifth largest redwood tree in existence, the Stagg Tree.
Before the league could begin restoration and conservation, fire swept through the area, destroying much surrounding the Alder Creek Grove, which luckily was spared.
On a Friday afternoon last August, I was off to see the giants, driving north to Porterville and east into the Sierra Nevada, spending the night in Springville. By 10 the following morning about 25 other donors and I were hiking in the grove, on the north side of a gentle sloping hill. It is difficult to describe the feeling of seeing these trees in person; the words huge, majestic and awesome come to mind. Many are more than 1,000 years old, the Stagg Tree topping 2,000 years. The branches on these towering elders begin more than 100 feet up. The thick bark enlarging their massive trunks helped protect them from centuries of fires, but may not withstand global warming.
After lunch we beheld the crowning jewel of the acquisition: the Stagg Tree, named for Amos Alonzo Stagg, a football coach at with a career spanning 70 years –redwood proportions. Standing at the tree’s base you can’t see the top—it is that high. I thought how fortunate we are to have these trees in California. That we still have them to appreciate we owe in great part to Save the Redwoods League. I returned home enormously grateful for their efforts and determined to continue supporting the group.
FUN REDWOOD FACTS
—The redwoods in the Sierra Nevadas are giant sequoias or Sequoiadender giganteum and the California coastal redwoods are Sequoia sempervirens.
—The “canopy,” where branches form a continuous layer of foliage, is vital to the redwood forest, housing both flora and fauna, some of which live their entire lives there, never touching the ground.
—The Stagg Tree towers to 243 feet. Its volume is a staggering 529,200 board feet.
Kristen Shive, a researcher at Save the Redwoods League, spoke to Scientific American about the impacts of global warming on redwoods: