SAN DIEGO — The photos were as striking as they were alarming — California’s majestic giant sequoias, the largest trees in the world, wrapped in foil-like blankets as a raging wildfire quickly approached.

Officials scrambled to protect a grove of the massive trees, which sport distinctive red-orange bark and can stand as tall as 250 feet, at Sequoia National Park in the Sierra Nevada as two large fires threatened to converge there in Sept. 2021.

The aluminum blankets seen wrapped around General Sherman and other famous trees in the park’s Giant Forest can withstand intensive heat for short periods, according to officials. They have been known to even help homes survive wildfires.

The trees in that premiere grove survived the 2021 blazes, thanks in part to a variety of measures taken by the forest service. Other sequoias, however, have not been so lucky.

In recent years, catastrophic wildfires have destroyed 19% of the world’s population of the trees. While periodic fires are part of the sequoias’ natural lifecycle, experts say that worsening droughts and rising temperatures have fueled fires that are too intense for the trees to survive.

Fire season is now widely considered year-round in California, but the most intense period remains late summer and early fall. As that peak time for fire danger approaches once again, a San Diego lawmaker is among a bipartisan group promoting a long-term plan for protecting the trees.

Rep. Scott Peters, a Democrat who represents coastal and central neighborhoods in San Diego and some northern portions of the county, introduced the Save Our Sequoias Act with Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and several other lawmakers.

The historic General Sherman tree which was protected from fires by foil-like wrap is seen at Sequoia National Park, California, September 22, 2021. (Photo by GARY KAZANJIAN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Citing the “existential threat” posed to the trees “due to decades of poor forest management, fire suppression, and climate change,” the lawmakers propose a variety of measures, including:

  • Enhanced coordination between Federal, State, Tribal, and local land managers through a variety of agreements
  • The creation of a “Giant Sequoia Health and Resiliency Assessment,” that would help track and study the trees
  • Adding funding and establishing a new grant program for forest restoration projects
  • Declaring an emergency in the giant sequoia groves to codify existing emergency procedures
  • Establishes a “comprehensive reforestation strategy” to help new giant sequoias grow

You can read more about the proposal here, and view the bill here.