Guest: Dr. Christy Brigham, chief science officer at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks; Also: Late breaking COVID news, democracy news, and callers...
By Brad Friedman on 9/20/2021, 6:30pm PT  

Today's BradCast is a bit of a grab bag of late updates on stories we've been covering, new breaking news of the day, a fantastic guest from on the ground amid massive wildfires in and near Sequoia National Park and listeners calling in with thoughts about all of the above. [Audio link to the full show follows this summary.]

First up today, just before we get to our guest, a bit of a rant about the not-in-the-least-"conservative" Republicans and rightwingers who forced taxpayers to spend millions to defend the U.S. Capitol from domestic terrorists during Trump's dumb, failed "Justice for J6" rally over the weekend. That's the same not-conservative Republican Party who just forced California tax-payers to cough up nearly $300 million for a sore loser do-over Gubernatorial recall election, where the Governor appears to have received a higher percentage of the vote than he did the first time he ran in 2018, and almost the exact same percentage of the vote by which Joe Biden trounced Donald Trump in the state in 2020. (Little wonder, with California now having the lowest COVID infection rate in the nation, and creating jobs at three times the national rate! Thank you, Governor Newsom! After months of being told by rightwing media --- and non-rightwing media alike --- that the popular governor was unpopular, we hope you'll keep that in mind as the media churns out a similar narrative right now about President Biden.)

Next, we pick up on a breaking story we covered first on Friday's show, as massive wildfires were then encroaching about a mile from the world's oldest and largest tree, known as "General Sherman", one of many majestic, awe-inspiring giants in Sequoia National Park that are as old as 3,000 years, stand as tall as 250 feet, and as wide as 100 feet around at their base.

That tree and thousands of others are being defended right now in the park from fires that have already scorched hundreds of square miles in the national forest, with many of the trees being wrapped, one-by-one in fire-resistant blanketing at their base. We're joined for the latest on this active, potentially unspeakable tragedy by DR. CHRISTY BRIGHAM, Chief of resources management and science at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, which are located about 3 and a half hours north of Los Angeles on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Despite the threats of at least three different, major, converging fires, Brigham reports today that "the news so far is quite good." She explains that "the fire has burned into Giant Forest, but because of five decades of prescribed burning in that forest, the fire really laid down and is not progressing rapidly in the grove." She describes seeing "great fire behavior in that grove, the kind of fire that sequoias like." That new is "quite good," indeed!

In fact, the reason Sequoia's trees are so old and enormous is due to natural, fire-resistant tannins in the bark, which can be as thick as 12 inches. But after decades (centuries!) of fires, holes in the base of the bark can allow fire into the tree, which can kill it. Brigham also explains how climate change is now "at the root of this problem," resulting in fires and dryness the likes of which we've "never seen before in recorded history, or even deep history looking at fire scars."

This, she says, "has changed everything in terms of how we fight wildfire and keep it out of these sequoia groves if we can." Citing more than 10% of the world's giant sequoias that were lost in one single fire in the area last year, Brigham notes four groves of giants have burned in recent days, but that they've yet to be able to get to in order to survey the damage. "Fingers crossed that we won't see terrible outcomes, but we've got a long way to go with this fire still burning, and still threatening a number of groves."

Next up, a number of stories breaking today, including the U.S. easing pandemic travel restrictions on foreign visitors by mandating that they must prove they are fully vaccinated and have been tested within three days of traveling to the U.S., and another related-ish story on Pfizer finding that the use of its COVID vaccine is effective for children between the ages of 4 and 11. The FDA will review their application for emergency authorization in the next few weeks.

We're certain that even COVID vaccine opponents don't want unvaccinated foreign travelers flying into the U.S., right? So, surely they support the Biden Administration's new travel guidelines, right? And, like all of the other vaccines mandated for public school children, the same folks almost certainly support kids being vaccinated amid a deadly pandemic, now featuring a huge Delta variant spike in pediatric infections and deaths, right?

We open the phones today to listeners on all of those topics and more. Please tune in, won't you?...

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