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COVID killing of National Forest Sequoia trees

A View From the Edge

The long-term cause and effect of this pandemic is now reaching into one of the world’s most unique and precious treasures: the giant Sequoia forests in California. Financial pressure across the nation has caused both cutbacks as well as staffing issues. 

Let’s get one thing out of the way: The nonsense talked about people preferring to receive handouts instead of working is silly. If your kids aren’t at school and you can’t afford daycare (and that’s not safe yet anyway) — of course you can’t take that menial paying job either. Get real people. Stop pressuring families to get a job when they can’t leave their kids, yet.

Back to the cause and effect of COVID… staff shortages and financial government cutbacks have meant that for two years the Sequoias — in a National Park, in an extremely drought effected region of California — have not had brush clearing or controlled burns to reduce the tinder-dry brush that cause massive wildfire eruptions. For decades small, controlled fires and brush clearing have kept the forest safe. Not the last two years. Now whole groves of 1,500-year-old trees have died. They will never be reborn even in this century or 10 centuries.

Is climate change to blame as well? Of course. But, if you listen to the wild resources manger, between her tears, explain, they have not been able to stay ahead of the undergrowth and in the National Park they are forbidden to allow natural occasional lightening fires to happen —they have to fight those fires in a National Park by law, “And we just don’t have the people or the money this year to prevent the fires from taking hold.”

Think those irreplaceable 1,500-year-old trees are the only example of the downstream effect of COVID? Think again. This winter will have people across the nation either sweltering in abnormally high temperatures or freezing in place. With the first, the flu will explode. In the second, people will die as they cannot afford heating bills.

Look, the lesson of the Sequoias is important. If we cannot save an irreplaceable treasure, if we’re so strapped as a nation that we can’t get the staff to save 1,500-year-old trees, if we’re too stupid not to take free vaccines to kill off COVID and get back to work, what hope do the poorest among us have of saving our houses from freezing, flooding, roasting or being damaged by higher than normal winds and all-too-frequent hurricanes? When so many events are out of whack, that’s when calamities happen — and we cannot just shake our heads and hope to get through it. As a people we need to find the funds, hire the people and prepare before it is too late.

Right now is the time to plan for what’s coming. Those dead fire-scorched national trees are an in-your-face signpost that we need to prepare and fix the problems we’re about to be bombarded with.


Writer Peter Riva, a former resident of Amenia Union, now resides in New Mexico.

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