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NRDC Statement on Radanovich Legislation Calling for Further Study of Giant Sequoia National Monument Designation

"George Radanovich's proposed legislation is a bald-faced and desperate stalling tactic," says Niel Lawrence, a senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). "It is time to do what the overwhelming majority of Californians favor and create a 400,000-acre national monument to provide the remaining giant sequoias and surrounding forest with the permanent protection they now lack.

"The U.S. Forest Service has spent 10 years consulting with scientists and considering options for managing this national treasure. There is no need for further study. It is time to designate a Giant Sequoia National Monument. It would provide a vital framework for developing science-based conservation plans that will ensure the giant sequoias' long-term health and survival.

"There is overwhelming public support for protecting the giant sequoia trees. Last month, a statewide California survey of registered voters commissioned by NRDC indicated that more than four out of five voters (81 percent) support the idea, with nearly two-thirds (64 percent) strongly favoring it. Only 8 percent oppose it, and one out of nine voters are unsure. Even in the Central Valley, where voters are traditionally conservative, 79 percent of those surveyed support it. A majority of Democrats (88 percent) and Republicans (72 percent) back the proposal.

"The threat to the giant sequoias is real; the proposed Giant Sequoia National Monument will give them the permanent protection they need now."

Background on the Proposal:

The president recently directed Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman to investigate a proposal for a 400,000-acre monument that would protect 37 of the 38 groves in the Sequoia National Forest. (The other grove is in a protected wilderness area.) It would prevent logging and other development that could harm the forest ecosystem that helps sustain the Giant Sequoias.

Giant sequoias (Sequoiadendron gigantea) are coniferous trees, the largest of which exceed 30 feet in trunk diameter and reach higher than the Statue of Liberty, base pedestal and all. The oldest specimens have stood for more than 3,000 years. They are widely considered the largest of all living things on earth and are closely related to the redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens), which are the world's tallest trees.

Millions of years ago, members of the sequoia family grew across North America. Today the giant sequoia's range is confined to a narrow strip on the western slope of the central and southern Sierra Nevada Mountains. They survive in some 75 groves. About a third of these groves lie within Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, but half - 38 - are in the adjoining Sequoia National Forest. Others are scattered in state lands, other federally managed land, an Indian reservation and private land.

Not only are giant sequoias rare and majestic, but their old growth ecosystem supports many rare wildlife species. Historically, the giant sequoia belt was California condor country. In fact, the last condor captured in the wild was found nesting in a sequoia. The region also is home to California spotted owls, wolverines and Pacific fishers, all potential nominees for the threatened- or endangered-species lists. The American marten, northern goshawk, mountain lion, mountain yellow-legged frog, Kern River Rainbow Trout, Volcano Creek Golden Trout and numerous rare plants also frequent or live in the greater sequoia ecosystem.

The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, non-profit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has more than 400,000 members nationwide, served from offices in New York, Washington, Los Angeles and San Francisco. More information is available through NRDC's Web site at www.nrdc.org.

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