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SaVe the Redwoods 


John JWuir 

Eeprinted from the Sierra Club Bulletin, Volume XI, Number 1, 
San Francisco, 1920, for the SAVE THE EEDWOODS LEAGUE. 


Photo by Herbert W. Gleason 



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. 


Photo by U. S. Forest Service 


Photo by California State Forester 


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