Vintage Yosemite Photo

I’ve been digging through my old Kodachrome slides, and I found this view of the Tuolumne River and Poopenaut Valley, within Yosemite National Park. This area burned in the Rim Fire, and it is representative of what lies below, in the Stanislaus National Forest. Of course, little of this would even be worth salvaging, even it is wasn’t in the National Park. You might notice the abundance of digger pines, even on the north-facing slopes. This is the beginning of an impressive canyon, and it becomes a Wild and Scenic River, when you reach the Park boundary. Of course, very little fuels work could have been done, within this awesome canyon. However, fuelbreaks could have been installed all along the edge of this canyon, knowing that there would eventually be an ignition, within the canyon. Lightning fires happen all the time in this portion of the Sierra Nevada. I really want to get in here and re-visit these spots, for some repeat photography.

Poopenaut-web

12 Comments

  1. might have been hard to put fuel breaks in here even on upper slopes above rim. None or minimal road access. And how often would those brushy slopes need to be retreated?

    I really do not know how well they have been sbown to work in other locations. WIth a hot fire climbing up out of the canyon, how wide would they have to be with sparks moving over the tim?

    • Wouldn’t that be better than abandoning half the Ranger District? Fuelbreaks alone don’t stop wildfires. They provide a safety zone, where firefighters can safely work the fire, instead of backing off even further, and letting the fire do whatever it wants. Fuelbreak maintenance is a given, and the fire folks should know that. Unfortunately, they don’t seem to be very good at it. The north side of the canyon has plenty of “bald spots”, already. They also did do some fuelbreaks on the south side but, the canyon is, utterly, huge and vast. However, it isn’t like they didn’t know of the danger of wildfires in the canyon. Chalk one up to denial and a lack of funds. If there had been some excess timber in the western end, they could have offset the costs with logs. The eastern end has a road that rides the edge, for a long ways, and more could have been done there, with thinning projects funding the fuelbreak.

      (Edit) Remember, everything in the picture is National Park.

  2. That’s the thing, Larry. Manage what makes economic and physical sense. No point in going down into those slopes except perhaps post-fire heli-salvage of good wood in excess of snag requirements. But a nice road, or not so nice admin singletrack with a belt of managed fuels would be a good deal. Good luck on getting in there again, it will be neat to see what you find.

    • I really doubt that anyone will go into this area for their studies. It doesn’t illustrate what they are trying to prove. Preservationist groups don’t want to compare this burned land with Forest Service burned lands. Chances are, they will compare the Tuolumne Giant Sequoia Grove with Forest Service post-fire plantations.

  3. They might but it would be easy enough to counter, there are plenty of responsible scientists out there who will not put up with gross misrepresentations of this area which will be getting a lot of attention.

    You perhaps assume that most enviro groups are preservationists. Enough are, esp in CA but as i have repeated, plenty of groups in oregon were into active management of some sort to forestall severe fire. But i have little idea of the opinions of CA ones,

    • PBCS is already making such comparisons, even before they have started. They will talk about clearcuts and herbicides, compared to higher elevation old growth that was never logged. They will not talk about the 20-year ban on cutting old growth and clearcutting. They will assume the burned plantations are from clearcutting. They will not study the protected areas on Forest Service lands that burned at high-intensity. PBCS is a “birds-first” organization, looking to expand their influence and impact, and other scientists will probably look the other way, as the flawed conclusions become public. We’ve seen this mindset before, in the case of Donato, where some scientists did see the flaws but, the public didn’t care.

      • That reminds me of a classic Sierra Club clearcuts picture that was on a mailer. I probably still have it someplace, will find it when I’m downsizing to move under a bridge, I’m sure. Shot of stumps on naked ground, no veg at all. But way way way in the fuzzy wuzzy background, you could see a SHORELINE.
        Yep, reservoir bottom presented as typical forest practice. Typical Sierra Club.
        As for Donato, the reason the public didn’t care is because the brilliances of southern Oregon journalism didn’t care — or if they did, cared only that they had to defend their inept narrative. Because at the time I was working for Jim Petersen’s Evergreen, I ended up going on the press dog and pony tour before the Dreadford hearing. Wow, free eats and a good seat!
        All the “journalists” are checking their emails and yapping about their crummy jobs, while I’m sitting next to this hippie looking guy in a Hawaiian shirt who was actually looking out the windows at the fire area we were being motored through.
        I figured “altweekly” writer if anything, so asked, “Dude, what’s your gig?”
        “Oh, I got the grant this whole circus is about.”
        Now, I’d never previously even seen this gent’s name in print, so you can imagine my instant change in demeanor as we had a rather interesting chat right under the upturned noses of the watchdogs.

  4. Oh, and what were those specific donato flaws? I was on all of their study units.

    I keep hearing stuff like of course there were less seedlings in salvage areas since it was tractor logged while none of their surveyed units had tractor logging. Etc. Etc, on and on.

    It was as if the critics never read the article, and their response in Science was weak at best.

    Whatever spin was put on the donato study, the gross misinformation put out about it by their opponents was dismaying. And it kept getting repeated endlessly such as that they put all their survey units in one small area while they actually covered the 5 plant associations across the northern burn, and worse, a complete lie in fact, that they deliberately moved their transects after the prelogging survey to skew the data.

    That was an outright lie.

    And in contending that, it implies that the FS was complicit in lying to the public too since they were also responsible for study design.

    The spin on the data might be questioned but anyone contending that the methods were flawed are in serious error. After all, Tom Sensinig the FS ecologist for the Siskiyou was involved with study design . He did not like what was done with it politically but I never heard he questioned his own methods. And he sure as heck never lied to anyone.

    • It sure seems that what they ultimately expected to prove was that, when trees fall, seedlings get crushed. It only studied where trees were cut, and didn’t admit that when dead trees fall “naturally”, they also crush seedlings. Additionally, when those logs weren’t harvested, the crushed seedlings do not recover, as they sometimes do when logs are flown out. What was also not addressed was the fact that stocking levels, post-harvest, were still acceptable, in many of the study units. I really doubt that “recovery was hindered by post-fire harvest”, in this particular case.

      One other disturbing trend was that peer review wasn’t critical enough of the results and conclusions, IMHO. The study didn’t analyze the longterm benefits of the salvage logging, one of them being a reduction of re-burn intensity. The title of the study, itself, was disingenuous, and designed to reach a political goal.

    • Greg,
      The Donato paper was flown past Sensenig into “Science” and then blasted out, generating 58 press articles the first day on a very narrow-spectrum inference that seedlings were being squished. It was only year 1 of a two-year study, that certainly did not warrant the splash it got.
      Never mind that seedling damage is a given, never mind that immediate salvage before seedling start would render Donato moot, never mind that in places with heavy regen, it’s probably a good thing to squish a few seedlings so the survivors release further and faster over time.
      I kind of wish both Toms were here.

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