February 16, 2000
Allen Mattison, 202-675-7903


Announcement Could Fulfill Dream of Environmental Pioneer John Muir

WASHINGTON -- President Clinton yesterday earned the gratitude of every American with his decision to protect California's giant sequoia forests, a move that fulfills the goals of our nation's first conservationists, including Sierra Club founder John Muir. Protecting the giant sequoia forest habitats would realize a century-old dream to protect the trees Muir called "nature's masterpiece."

"A hundred years ago, John Muir walked these woods, marveled at these ancient wonders, and dreamed of protecting all of them forever. We are thrilled to see President Clinton fulfill the dream of saving America's majestic sequoias," said Dr. Edgar Wayburn, Sierra Club's Honorary President. "Sequoia trees are incredibly vulnerable to disruption, so protecting the forest around the sequoias will ensure these towering trees can survive in their healthy, natural habitat."

Current U.S. Forest Service policy protects the sequoia trees themselves, but permits other tree species surrounding the giant sequoia to be logged. And contrary to what most people believe, over half the remaining giant sequoias have no permanent protection. There is no guarantee that future administrations would not return to past policies of cutting right in the giant sequoia groves.

According to Dr. Wayburn, "Logging around the sequoia groves has the potential to kill the sequoia just as an ax or a chainsaw does. As John Muir said, `When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.' By conserving the entire 400,000 acres of sequoia habitat as a National Monument, President Clinton could finally and truly protect the sequoia."

Protecting the sequoia forest ecosystem has been one of the Sierra Club's top goals for a century. As Muir wrote in My First Summer in the Sierra in 1911, "Walk the Sequoia woods at any time of the year and you will say they are the most beautiful and majestic on earth. Beautiful and impressive contrasts meet you everywhere -- the colors of tree and flower, rock and sky, light and shade, strength and frailty, endurance and evanescence."

Notes from a 1923 Sierra Club board of directors meeting echo the President's initiative. At that time, the Sierra Club was urging the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Park Service to enlarge Sequoia National Park to protect the habitat surrounding the groves of sequoia trees.

In his letter yesterday to Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman beginning the process to create a Sequoia National Monument, President Clinton wrote that he did so at Dr. Wayburn's urging. Clinton wrote: "I want to ensure that these majestic cathedral groves, which John Muir called `nature's masterpiece,' are protected for future generations to study and enjoy. ... Dr. Edgar Wayburn, Honorary President of the Sierra Club, mentioned this to me when I awarded him a Presidential Medal of Freedom last summer, and he also has written me about the subject."

At the Presidential Medal of Freedom ceremony, Dr. Wayburn urged Clinton to use his presidential authority to create National Monuments to protect some of America's most threatened treasures. Dr. Wayburn has urged the President to protect the Sequoia National Forest, Steens Mountain in Oregon and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.

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Last updated: 2 October 2000