Due to the rural nature of the Kernville area, with a population of fewer than 20,000 in the entire Kern River Valley, it is difficult to gather enough local volunteers to monitor the 1.2 million acres where we need to compare logged verses unlogged forest areas. Even passionate forest protection volunteers hesitate to repeat their effort when each monitoring excursion costs hours and increasing amounts of dollars for fuel to drive from 100 to 500 miles to monitor one specific area of the Monument or forest. Therefore, in 2007, Sequoia ForestKeeper began our annual Summer Research Technician - Intern Monitoring Program, in which trained college graduates spend the summer in the forest monitoring forest conditions to acquire factual data about large areas of forests that have been treated (treatments like logging and grazing) and those that have remained untouched. The findings are used to highlight the differences between managed and unmanaged forests in our comments, appeals, and litigation against illegal and harmful projects. Monitoring provides data that documents forest characteristics, including wildlife use, canopy density (shade), watershed health, and other conditions that, among other things, affect fire behavior. This program has been such a resounding success that we will be continuing the program into its eleventh year in 2017!
STRATEGY: SFK staff, researchers, interns, and volunteers monitor sequoia groves, meadows, proposed logging projects, and grazing allotments. During the summer, SFK staff also supervises the Summer Research technician / Intern monitoring program; which conducts sequoia grove monitoring, to determine the regeneration rate of sequoias in logged vs. unlogged areas; and holds project-specific monitoring sessions for local volunteers.
Within Sequoia National Forest and the Monument, the Forest Service continues to use damaging management practices, such as extensive logging and use of pesticides, despite the fact that scientific studies have shown these activities to be harmful. The harmful forestry practice of logging has caused erosion, which has created severe siltation in our mountain streams and opened the forest canopy to greater sun exposure and the subsequent warming and drying of the forest. The fish and aquatic invertebrate species that rely on the purity of their local watersheds have felt the impacts of logging. The California Spotted Owl, an “at-risk” species, makes its home in the Sequoia National Forest, but the population is declining by 7-10% each year due to loss of forest canopy cover caused by logging. These are examples of the many species that are headed toward a slow extinction unless we do something, now, to stop continued forest degradation. Because the Sierras are also the “water tower” for a large portion of California and Nevada, it is also crucial that the area is protected for the future survival of our own species.
A long-standing impediment to effective forest conservation efforts has been a lack of quality information about forest health, wildlife status, ecosystem condition, habitat values, water quality, use impacts, and industry compliance with existing regulatory rules and requirements. Sequoia ForestKeeper works to gather accurate scientific information about this region in order to show the harm to the forest caused by logging, grazing, and use of poisons on the forest floor. Through our Forest Monitoring and Analysis work, SFK seeks to collect and analyze data which can be used to ensure that decision makers and the public are more fully informed about the potential effects of activities proposed in the Sequoia area. Detailed data can be submitted in administrative proceedings such as timber sale approval processes, rulemakings, permit hearings, and legal proceedings. Data can be used to inform legislators about the inadequacies of existing legislation, and can also be shared with working scientists, scholars and students to highlight the benefits of quality information and the need for further study.
Through on-the-ground observation Summer Research Technician/Intern Monitors help to identify:
• Improperly marked trees designated for logging;
• User conflicts between hikers and motorized vehicles on trails, and noise-level increases due to motorized vehicles on trails;
• Wildlife use in varied forest habitats;
• So-called “Restoration” projects that would log trees supposedly to restore an area;
• Recreation projects that would define new trails resulting in logging of the trees along the trail supposedly to protect public safety;
• Grazing allotments that have created massive, down-stream sediment flows;
• Roads that have concentrated runoff into culverts, which cannot spread the flow of water without causing erosion;
• So-called “Non-intensive treatments” - logging which removed all trees smaller than eight feet in diameter, created flammable brush fields, and caused massive sediment flows;
• Controlled-burn projects that went out of control and killed many trees.
• Sequoia regeneration in logged and untouched areas.