• Giant Sequoia Trees

    Sequoia & Kings Canyon

    National Parks California

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  • Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks Institute Stage 2 Fire Restrictions

    Effective July 28, 2014, the parks are in Stage 2 fire restrictions. See link below for more information. These restrictions will remain in place until further notice. More »

  • Road Construction Delays on Park Roads for 2014 Season

    Expect occasional 15-minute to 1-hour delays in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks on weekdays only (times vary), including delays to/from the General Sherman Tree, Crystal Cave, and Grant Grove. More »

  • Vehicle Length Limits in Sequoia National Park (if Entering/Exiting Hwy 198)

    Planning to see the "Big Trees" in Sequoia National Park? If you enter/exit via Hwy. 198, and your vehicle is longer than 22 feet (combined length), please pay close attention to vehicle length advisories for your safety and the safety of others. More »

  • You May Have Trouble Calling Us

    We are experiencing technical problems receiving incoming phone calls. We apologize for the inconvenience. Please send us an email to SEKI_Interpretation@nps.gov or check the "More" link for trip-planning information. More »

The Impact of Science

Cars line up for gas at Giant Forest Market

Giant Forest Market area with cars lined up at the gas station.

nps photo

In the 1920s, Emilio Meinecke put considerable effort into understanding the human impact on the big trees. Generally speaking, however, the application of scientific research to Giant Forest management increased sluggishly during the mid-1900s. During these years, landscape architects directed most land- use planning. The science of ecology was in its infancy. While modern landscape architecture is grounded in the science of ecology, the early application of landscape architecture was more geared toward swift, visually appealing results that were appropriate to parks managed for the enjoyment of people. As the 1900s progressed, natural sciences gained importance and played an increasingly significant role in park policy decisions. This was to have a profound effect on park management and the Giant Forest.

In the decade beginning 1954, the National Park Service effected a dramatic change in land management policy, especially regarding giant sequoia groves. These changes were directly influenced by the results of three scientific studies. In 1954, the Yosemite Report, commissioned by the Yosemite superintendent, concluded that human impacts were harming the roots of sequoias in the Mariposa and Tuolumne groves. The report recommended removal of development.
 
Tent cabins were common throughout the Giant Forest

Human presence altered the grove in numerous ways.

nps photo

In 1962 and 1965 Richard Hartesveldt submitted a pair of influential reports to the National Park Service. In these reports, Hartesveldt concluded that humans were adversely affecting the sequoias of the Mariposa Grove in Yosemite National Park and the Giant Forest Grove in Sequoia National Park, but in ways not previously suspected. Hartesveldt found that altered hydrology in the Mariposa Grove and increasingly dense competing vegetation in the absence of natural fire in both groves were causing the most severe impacts to sequoias. Impacts of development on sequoias were most damaging where major roots had been cut for road construction. Although Hartesveldt did not find other results of development - covering of roots by asphalt, soil compaction, or soil erosion - to cause profound impacts to sequoia survival or growth, he suggested that their probable effects on future sequoia health warranted action by the National Park Service.

In 1963 came the Leopold Report, which had an enormous influence on science in the parks, from both research and management standpoints. The Leopold Report was the product of an advisory panel headed by Dr. Starker Leopold, appointed by the Secretary of the Interior. In essence, the report called for maintenance or restoration of natural systems to the greatest extent possible. This had direct implications for the Giant Forest, which was specifically mentioned in the report. The Secretary of the Interior issued an order that the report's recommendations be followed. This gave tremendous backing to the movement to restore the Giant Forest. Additionally, the report resulted in the establishment or expansion of numerous park research programs.
 

Did You Know?

The Four Guardsmen (four sequoias), with the Generals Highway running between them.

Sometimes you will see sequoias in a straight row. This may happen because sequoia seeds prefer mineral-rich burned ground. When a fallen log burns long and hot, it leaves a strip of bare mineral-rich soil — an ideal place for new sequoias to grow. Years later, we see a line of sequoias!