TULARE COUNTY -- In the spring of 2000, then-President Bill Clinton came to California to sign a proclamation, establishing the Giant Sequoia National Monument.
The idea was to protect majestic sequoia groves and restore the surrounding forest.
In the 17 years since, Tulare County Supervisor Steve Worthley says the U.S. Forest Service has taken a hands-off approach to active management in the 328,000 acre monument.
"I don't think people understood that by doing nothing, you could have a very detrimental impact on the environment, and that's what we're living today," Worthley said.
President Donald Trump has called for a review of 27 monuments.
This week, Worthley and two other supervisors voted in favor of sending a letter to the U.S. Interior secretary that recommends the forest service remove thousands of dead, dying, or hazard trees in the monument, and to cut its size to 90,000 acres.
Part of the original proposed letter states:
"We believe the current National Monument designation has constrained the ability of the U.S. Forest service to use science-based, active forest management to thin the adjacent forests to protect the groves and buffer the areas from the risks posed by fire, disease, and insect infestations."
"So we know what works, we know that the forest service knows how to make this work as well, it's just about the politics of it and the litigation strategies of the environmental community have made it so they just find it easier to do nothing," Worthley said.
"I expect that the local communities here are going to do the right thing," said Mehmet McMillan, the founder of WildPlaces, an organization that focuses on connecting youth with nature.
If the monument shrinks, McMillan says his classroom will too.
"If logging and mining-- roads come in, how is that going to affect a community benefits organization like ours?" he said.
McMillan says wildfires are simply part of the natural ecosystem; something sequoias can withstand. But if the complex system is changed, he fears the damage could be devastating.
"Those buffer zones around those key core areas, are critical," McMillan said. "That's the protective zone for the very lifeblood of California. We get 65-percent of our water out of those mountains. A lot of people say that LA and San Francisco suck it up, but that's not true. Only 15% of that 65 goes to the urban cities."
Porterville city officials also passed a resolution about the monument, but removed language related to acreage.
The federal review is expected to be completed by late-summer.
The deadline for submitting comments is Monday, July 10.
Click here to submit your comments. Make sure to enter DOI-2017-0002 in the search bar.
You can also mail comments to:
Monument Review, MS-1530, U.S. Department of Interior, 1849 C Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20240.