SaVe the Redwoods
Eeprinted from the Sierra Club Bulletin, Volume XI, Number 1,
San Francisco, 1920, for the SAVE THE EEDWOODS LEAGUE.
IN THE REDWOOD FOREST
Photo by Herbert W. Gleason
SAVE THE REDWOODS*
JOHN MUIR f
NOTE: In his intimate acquaintance with nature John Muir recognized 1 //\
and loved everything that was natural and honest, but his interest focused
upon the things which represented the most splendid expressions of creative
power. Not only did he instinctively select for close personal companionship
the elements of nature that had most to give for him but, as no other western
naturalist has done, he set forth their fullest meaning in the language of the
Of all Muir's special interests in nature it is probable that none made
to him a stronger appeal than the giant Sequoias of the Sierra and Coast
Eange forests. It was his firm conviction that they represented the supremest
examples of majesty among all living things, and his journey around the
earth to compare the Big Trees with the trees of the world left him with
settled conviction regarding the correctness of this view. For many years
he gave himself to the protection of these ''Kings of the forest, the noblest
of a noble race." At this time of national movement for the preservation of
these forests through the Save-the-Eedwoods League, it is particularly fitting
that we present the sentiments written years ago, in support of just such a
movement by the friend who fought so hard, so faithfully, and so long in this
good cause. JOHN CAMPBELL MERRIAM, Chairman, Executive Committee of
the Save-the-Eedwoods League.
WE are often told that the world is going from bad to
worse, sacrificing everything to mammon. But this right-
eous uprising in defense of God's trees in the midst of exciting
politics and wars is telling a different story, and every Sequoia,
I fancy, has heard the good news and is waving its branches
for joy. The wrongs done to trees, wrongs of every sort, are
done in the darkness of ignorance and unbelief, for when light
comes the heart of the people is always right. Forty-seven
years ago one of these Calaveras King Sequoias was laboriously
cut down, that the stump might be had for a dancing-floor.
Another, one of the finest in the grove, more than three hundred
feet high, was skinned alive to a height of one hundred and
* Found among Muir's papers after his death and now published for
the first time.
sixteen feet from thV 'ground' "and the bark sent to London to
show how fine and big that Calaveras tree was as sensible
a scheme as skinning our great men would be to prove their
greatness. This grand tree is of course dead, a ghastly disfig-
ured ruin, but it still stands erect and holds forth its majestic
arms as if alive and saying, ' ' Forgive them ; they know not what
they do. ' ' Now some millmen want to cut all the Calaveras trees
into lumber and money. But we have found a better use for
them. No doubt these trees would make good lumber after
passing through a sawmill, as George Washington after passing
through 'the hands of a French cook would have made good food.
But both for Washington and the tree that bears his name higher
uses have been found.
Could one of these Sequoia kings come to town in all its god-
like majesty so as to be strikingly seen and allowed to plead its
own cause, there would never again be any lack of defenders.
And the same may be said of all the other Sequoia groves and
forests of the Sierra with their companions and the noble Sequoia
sempervirens, or redwood, of the coast mountains.
In a general view we find that the Sequoia gigantea, or Big
Tree, is distributed in a widely interrupted belt along the west
flank of the Sierra, from a small grove on the middle fork of the
American River to the head of Deer Creek, a distance of about
two hundred and sixty miles, at an elevation of about five
thousand to a little over eight thousand feet above the sea.
From the American River grove to the forest on Kings River
the species occurs only in comparatively small isolated patches
or groves so sparsely distributed along the belt that three of the
gaps in it are from forty to sixty miles wide. From Kings River
southward the Sequoia is not restricted to mere groves, but ex-
tends across the broad rugged basins of the Kaweah and Tule
rivers in majestic forests a distance of nearly seventy miles, the
continuity of this portion of the belt being but slightly broken
save by the deep canons.
In these noble groves and forests to the southward of the
Calaveras Grove the axe and saw have long been busy, and
thousands of the finest Sequoias have been felled, blasted into
manageable dimensions, and sawed into lumber by methods de-
structive almost beyond belief, while fires have spread still wider
and more lamentable ruin. In the course of my explorations
twenty-five years ago, I found five sawmills located on or near
the lower margin of the Sequoia belt, all of which were cutting
more or less Big Tree lumber, which looks like the redwood of
the coast, and was sold as redwood. One of the smallest of
these mills in the season of 1874 sawed two million feet of
Sequoia lumber. Since that time other mills have been built
among the Sequoias, notably the large ones on Kings River and
the head of the Fresno. The destruction of these grand trees
is still going on.
On the other hand, the Calaveras Grove for forty years has
been faithfully protected by Mr. Sperry, and with the excep-
tion of the two trees mentioned above is still in primeval beauty.
The Tuolumne and Merced groves near Yosemite, the Dinky
Creek grove, those of the General Grant National Park and the
Sequoia National Park, with several outstanding groves that are
nameless on the Kings, Kaweah, and Tule river basins, and
included in the Sierra forest reservation, have of late years been
partially protected by the Federal Government ; while the well-
known Mariposa Grove has long been guarded by the State.
For the thousands of acres of Sequoia forest outside of the
reservation and national parks, and in the hands of lumbermen,
no help is in sight. Probably more than three times as many
Sequoias as are contained in the whole Calaveras Grove have
been cut into lumber every year for the last twenty-six years
without let or hindrance, and with scarce a word of protest on
the part of the public, while at the first whisper of the bonding
of the Calaveras Grove to lumbermen most everybody rose in
alarm. This righteous and lively indignation on the part of
Californians after the long period of deathlike apathy, in which
they have witnessed the destruction of other groves unmoved,
seems strange until the rapid growth that right public opinion
has made during the last few years is considered and the peculiar
interest that attaches to the Calaveras giants. They were the
first discovered and are best known. Thousands of travelers
from every country have come to pay them tribute of admiration
and praise, their reputation is world-wide, and the names of
great men have long been associated with them Washington,
Humboldt, Torrey and Gray, Sir Joseph Hooker, and others.
These kings of the forest, the noblest of a noble race, rightly
belong to the world, but as they are in California we cannot
escape responsibility as their guardians. Fortunately the Amer-
ican people are equal to this trust, or any other that may arise,
as soon as they see it and understand it.
Any fool can destroy trees. They cannot defend themselves
or run away. And few destroyers of trees ever plant any; nor
can planting avail much toward restoring our grand aboriginal
giants. It took more than three thousand years to make some of
the oldest of the Sequoias, trees that are still standing in perfect
strength and beauty, waving and singing in the mighty forests
of the Sierra. Through all the eventful centuries since Christ's
time, and long before that, God has cared for these trees, saved
them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand storms;
but he cannot save them from sawmills and fools; this is left to
the American people. The news from Washington is encourag-
ing. On March third [1905?] the House passed a bill providing
for the Government acquisition of the Calaveras giants. The
danger these Sequoias have been in will do good far beyond the
boundaries of the Calaveras Grove, in saving other groves and
forests, and quickening interest in forest affairs in general.
While the iron of public sentiment is hot let us strike hard. In
particular, a reservation or national park of the only other species
of Sequoia, the sempervirens, or redwood, hardly less wonderful
than the gigantea, should be quickly secured. It will have to be
acquired by gift or purchase, for the Government has sold every
section of the entire redwood belt from the Oregon boundary
to below Santa Cruz.
MARGIN OF THE REDWOOD FOREST
Photo by U. S. Forest Service
ONCE GONE, NOT TO BE RESTORED IN OUR TIME
Photo by California State Forester
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