I ran across this excellent article from Eric Holst, Senior Director of the Environmental Defense Fund’s “working lands program”.
This picture is a view looking down into the Tuolumne River Canyon, from the “Rim of the World” overlook. Down there is where the fire started. I’d bet the spin on this wildfire would be VERY different if it was ignited by lightning.
Holst is showing some excellent judgement in looking at the bigger picture of the realities of the Rim Fire, seeing that “letting nature take its course” isn’t the way to go on every burned acre.
The Forest Service recently proposed to conduct salvage logging – removal of dead trees – on about 30,000 of the 98,049 acres of high intensity burned area and remove hazard trees along 148 miles of high use road in the burn perimeter. While it may seem counterintuitive for a conservationist to do so, I support this effort. In the high intensity areas, the Rim Fire burned so hot that it not only killed every tree but the top inch or two of soil with critical soil microfauna, and seed stocks were also sterilized. Fire of this intensity has been relatively rare in the moist middle elevations on western slopes of the Sierra Nevada and the native forests are not adapted to bounce back from this type of fire.
There are also some “interesting” comments, and a hint of “eco-bickering”. In those comments is also a return of the “Chapparalian”, using his actual name (instead of one of his many pseudonyms and even fake names). There are also some other interesting names commenting about these issues. John Buckley, a local leader of an environmental group comments with an open mind and a dose of reality. Others continue to spout the misguided idea that leaving the Rim Fire alone is the only way to go. Some commenters talked about the reality that we have plenty of BBW habitat, protected within the National Park. One reality not covered is that re-burns cause extensive damage that is very difficult to recover from, especially in areas left to “recover on their own”.
I still see that post-fire management is essential to getting big trees back on the land. We already have site-specific evidence that forests didn’t return when post-fire management was excluded, 40 years ago. We ended up with old growth brushfields, and a few stunted trees. Those old brushfields burned at moderate intensity. We have a big variety of landscapes, with differing burn intensities and site-specific conditions. This partial comment is spot-on, regarding these facts
It is interesting to see how many comments Eric’s post attracted from authors who are vehement that absolutely nothing except ‘let nature takes its course’ on National Forest lands. Since we have 100,000 acres of National Park land for that experiment, it would be more interesting to apply some other options on the National Forest lands. In the climate change debate, we continue to witness the rapid expansion of vocal people so sure of their own story that they refuse to even consider the possibility that it is worth learning more about the changing earth. Hopefully, this fate will not befall the response to the Rim Fire.
It seems pretty clear to me that a few open-minded people from both sides are seeing the realities of the Rim Fire, and its future.