National Geographic : 1990 Sep
The White House is the hope of Executive Director John Dewitt of the Save-the-Red woods League. Last November he appealed to President Bush to declare the sequoia groves a national monument. John's letter reminded the President that he would be following a precedent that created Muir Woods National Monument in 1908. That action came from Theodore Roosevelt, whom Mr. Bush quoted at a recent ceremony: "A grove of giant Red woods and Sequoias should be kept just as we keep a great and beautiful cathedral." I met John Dewitt as I explored the fate of the sequoias' sister trees. The coastal red woods, not as massive but with a greater reach for the sky, easily qualify as the world's tallest living things. Given centuries to adolesce, they may top 350 feet, swaying masterpieces of richest color and flawless grain. And that is part of their trouble. "As timber the redwood is too good to live," John Muir said almost a century ago, and Old-Growth Forests:Will We Save Our Own? he was uttering prophecy. By that time we already had Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks to protect stands of the sequoia, but not one acre of coastal redwoods then enjoyed such protection, state or federal. Mostly for a price of around $2.50 an acre, the redwood lands had all passed from public domain to pri vate hands, from near Monterey, south of San Francisco, for some 400 miles northward into Oregon. Cathedral groves fell before the fierce energy of antlike men and straining mules. Growing naturally only in a coastal band lim ited by the inland reach of wet maritime mists, "the glory of the Coast Range," as Muir described the trees, began to suffer a diminu tion that continues today. Our beachhead against an ultimate wipe out is a string of state parks, largely the 70 year achievement of the Save-the-Redwoods League, and Redwood National Park, mid wifed by the National Geographic Society. The park, born in (Continuedon page 122) Stripped to the shoreline, gullied slopes of Mount Paxton shock visitors to Vancouver Island on Canada's Pacific coast. Slides, silting, and loss ofground cover penalize wildlife and fish on the 280-mile-long island, where only a fourth of the originalforest survives and controversy flares over corrective logging policies. Slash fire (below) on private land in Washington removes logging debris but pollutes air and robs soil of enriching wood decay.