Rim Fire Update

Apparently, enough of the hazard trees within the Rim Fire on the Stanislaus NF have been cut so that the travel ban has finally been lifted, after more than a year. I heard one report that says that the litigation has failed at the District Court level, losing their pleas to stop the logging three times. The article below includes the Appeals Court but, I doubt that an appeal has been seen in court yet. It seems too soon after the District Court decision for the appeal to be decided.

http://www.calforests.org/rim-fire-update-final-motion-halt-restoration-forestry-rim-fire-denied/

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Since the Rim Fire tore through the area and devoured over 250, 000 square miles of National, State and private forested land, the community has come together to put together a solution with positive environmental, economical and social sense. The whole effort to restore forests has been very successful due to cooperation of a diverse group of individuals, organizations and government agencies.

(Edit: Thanks to Matt for pointing out the acres/square miles error. That should be 250,000 acres.)

With a monster storm approaching California, we should be seeing some catastrophic erosion coming from the Rim and King Fire areas. Of course, very little can be done to prevent erosion on the steep slopes of the canyons with high burn intensity. Standing snags tend to channel water, while branches and twigs on the ground can hold back a surprising amount of soil. This flood event would have been great to document through repeat photography but, it appears that opportunity will be lost, too.

Bark beetle activity has also spiked where I live, northwest of the Rim Fire.

11 Comments

  1. Larry: I noticed this in article you posted, “Since the Rim Fire tore through the area and devoured over 250, 000 square miles of National, State and private forested land…” While we could debate “devoured,” I will note that the Rim Fire didn’t burn anyway near 250,000 square miles, or 160 million acres. I realize the false information was presented in the original article (and honestly, looks to me that someone tried to write 250 square miles and then add 160,000 acres, but made a mistake), but I think we should make the correction on this blog since we know the total. Thanks for making that correction.

    • I didn’t notice that, Matt. I don’t think that was the only factual mistake in the article, too. However, the District Court case is, indeed, closed, in favor of the Forest Service, as predicted. I would expect that an appeal will show up in court, towards late winter or early spring. If the Forest Service is smart, they did all the hazard trees and non-plantation salvage first. Most of the worst damages are in Yosemite, where more old growth forests burned and died. We will see how much flood damage happens in the Park, as opposed to National Forest. It won’t be an “apples-to-apples” comparison, though. The higher elevation Park lands didn’t burn as intensely as lower National Forest lands.

  2. Reading the article further, I found this:

    “The two sales have gone unsold had a heavy biomass component that made then uneconomical. The Forest Service and local leaders are working to repackage these sales to come up with a plan that works for the community as well as a benefit to the environment while upholding the environmental regulations and laws that guide all logging efforts.”

    It looks like SPI is low-balling the Forest Service with projects that cut small trees. That might work against them in Appeals Court, as one Judge will surely question the need for rapid action on small trees. The Forest Service should have packaged the sales to spread out the biomass units evenly into all salvage sales. After one year, those smaller trees should still have enough good wood in them to be useful. Logs with less than 25% good wood in them don’t have to be put on a log truck.

  3. It is encouraging to see people coming together to resolve issues. I can not stress enough the importance of maximizing diversity in any reclamation plans. If we don’t create a mosaic of diverse forest communities we will NOT reduce the risk of catastrophic events in the future. Plans must focus on indigenous species, variety of species and age classes, natural regeneration, direct seeding as well as planting, and above all applied to site specific units ( communities). The more you break the land into unique individual communities, NATURES WAY, the more success you will have in reducing future unacceptable events. Take the time to do detailed observation of the land and the site characteristics before you start applying treatments, READ THE LAND.

  4. The reference to the 9th Circuit could be to a request for stay pending appeal. The appeal would still be heard but the federal agency actions could continue while it is pending.

    This document looks like it was written by a PR specialist. The part I was curious about was this: “Areas in need of salvage logging are areas that were burned so intensely that trees and forests would have difficulty growing back. Salvage logging can improve the ecology of an area impacted by high-intensity burns and allow new forests to grow while making the landscape more resistant to future catastrophic wildfire. Replanting of a wide range of trees species natural to the area is also conducted to help the forest grow back strong.”

    Assuming that forests having difficulty growing back is a bad thing (a question that might be addressed by a forest plan), what is the science behind salvage logging “improving the ecology” (separate from any benefits of planting, which is a separate point)?

    • I remind you that bearclover is really dominant here and can cause trees to grow so slow that the next inevitable wildfire will kill those small slow-growing trees. We’ve already seen that occur in the Yosemite’s A-Rock/Big Meadow re-burn situation. There is also the brush species that grow back strong, too. I don’t think I would be in favor of replanting most of the unsalvaged burn, due to the reality of fuels, competing vegetation and fire issues. Most of the Rim Fire will default to “Whatever Happens”, anyway. Trees that, somehow, grow back will be subject to many reburns before they can get thicker bark and fewer ladder fuels.

  5. Three times there has been litigation and three times it’s they’ve lost? And, more is expected? Once should be enough. That the system allows a second or third seem like pandering to a bunch of spoiled kids who throw a tantrum when they don’t get what they want.

    250,000 square miles? That is a 500-mile square and 1.58 times the size of the entire state of California – that is one heck of a fire!!!!

    • “250,000 square miles? That is a 500-mile square and 1.58 times the size of the entire state of California”

      Yes, Dick, that’s obviously not true. I asked Larry to correct it, but so far he hasn’t…although looks like he’s had time to make three additional comments here. I’d correct it myself, but then I’d be accused of changing other people’s posts.

    • They first tried a TRO. then an injunction before finally losing the court case. If the Ninth Circuit Court refused another work stoppage, it is probably because their arguments have no new evidence to overturn the lower court’s decision. Now, that will probably change when the appeal makes it into their court. I still think the Ninth Circuit Court will overturn the decision, based on their prior choices and “more analysis”.

    • During the northern spotted owl litigation, the U.S. Forest Service and its Bush administration allies (BLM and FWS) lost in court many more than three times. Were they, too, acting like “a bunch of spoiled kids who throw a tantrum when they don’t get what they want?”

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