BLM to burn piles in Giant Sequoia groves

An effort to help protect these iconic trees from being destroyed in wildfires

Bill Gabbert | |

Case Mountain. BLM photo by Robert Hedlund Jan. 6, 2022.

The Bureau of Land Management  plans to burn up to 1,000 piles of downed hazard trees, branches, and understory brush at Case Mountain Extensive Recreation Management Area (ERMA) southeast of Three Rivers in Tulare County, California. Pile burn operations will start as early as Monday, January 10, and continue periodically until Spring, depending on weather, air quality conditions, onsite observations, and resource availability. Smoke may be visible in Three Rivers.

The ERMA contains the only giant sequoia groves managed by the BLM. They are on Case Mountain approximately 7 miles southeast of the town of Three Rivers, California. The complex is comprised of six distinct sequoia grove units, which total about 444 acres.

The prescribed fire is part of a multi-year fuels reduction effort in the groves. The objective is to strategically thin trees; remove ladder fuels which can feed flames to the treetops; and remove needles, branches, and brush on the forest floor. The prescribed fire will enhance protection of the wildland-urban interface for the town of Three Rivers, improve landscape health, and remove hazardous fuels near giant sequoia trees. Burning will take place only when weather and fuel moisture allow safe and successful operations.

The project is funded by a CAL FIRE grant and is a joint effort of the BLM, CAL FIRE, Tulare County Resource Conservation District, tribes, private landowners, and technical experts. It is closely coordinated with the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District.

The Case Mountain Forest Health Project is associated with California Climate Investments, a statewide program that puts billions of cap-and-trade dollars to work reducing greenhouse gas emissions, strengthening the economy, and improving public health and the environment – particularly in disadvantaged communities.

Protecting these iconic trees

In 2020, 10 to 14 percent of all giant sequoias across the tree’s natural range in the Sierra Nevada that were at least four feet diameter were killed in the Castle Fire when a substantial proportion of all sequoia groves touched by the fire burned with unprecedented severity.

Three Fires, giant sequoia trees
Three fires in two years that killed giant sequoia trees. The darker green areas represent groves of giant sequoias.

In 2021 two additional large fires destroyed more of these iconic beasts of trees — the KNP Complex just north of the Castle Fire, and the Windy Fire which spread into the south side of the Castle Fire. These three fires were primarily in the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks and the Sequoia National Forest.