In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, many sequoia and redwood trees were tunneled through in an effort to entice tourists to visit parks and resorts. The tunnels were tall and wide enough to accommodate cars of the day. In January of 2017, however, as a result of winter storms, California’s famous tunnel tree, the Pioneer Cabin, fell. The giant sequoia stood over 250 feet tall and was more than 1,000 years old. Unfortunately, these majestic giants have transitioned from threatened to endangered.
Many believe that the Pioneer Cabin’s demise was a result of the large, manmade cut through the center of its trunk. Because of the tunnel, the tree was no longer able to support growth at the top or through its roots. The root system of the weakened tree finally became too shallow to withstand the seasonal rain.
Although visiting parks can support wildlife conservation, it is paramount that we consider the negative impact tourism may have on natural environments. Human interaction can disrupt fragile ecosystems. For example, carving out pathways for trails physically alters the landscape and may cause areas to erode at a faster rate due to increased foot traffic. The presence of humans can also threaten nature conservation by subtly changing the behaviors of animals and plants.
Appreciating nature and ecotourism focus on minimizing our impact on natural environments and their communities. Ecotourism comes with an added responsibility to our fellow man and the Earth for the benefit of future generations.
There is no arguing that ecotourism has helped bring awareness to national and state parks, thanks to attractions like the Pioneer Cabin Tree. To keep sequoias and other trees from extinction, we must enjoy nature responsibly. And we can take comfort in the fact that fallen trees can still be a source of life as they send up shoots or are used as compost, where new seeds take root.
We all have something to gain by helping conserve redwood forests. Trees purify the air, hold soil in place and shelter animals. It’s no wonder they symbolize growth, transformation and sustenance. Preserving sequoias and redwoods is also essential to local and indigenous communities who have cultural and social ties to them.