Guest Post from Foto

Thanks to Foto for this post and these photos.

Two years after the Park Service burned up 16,000 acres (trying to burn only 95 acres during near-record heat) of Yosemite National Park and spending $17,000,000, this is what has grown back. What used to be majestic old growth pines that has survived countless pre-historic fires, is now lupines and deerbrush, with no conifers and few oaks. These pictures shows that deerbrush will dominate the next several decades, if not an entire century. There simply is no seed source for pines to get re-established. The Park Service fire folks still arrogantly cling to the idea that prescribed fires during the heat of the summer is the way to go.

The Forest Service fire folks seem to also think they can “re-introduce” fire into fuels-choked forests without pre-treating fuels with thinning and selective logging. The Yosemite picture shows the future of our ponderosa pine forests, if we exclude commercial fuels projects. How long can we continue to embrace whatever grows back from catastrophic wildfires?

Note from Sharon- I think most people agree that trees sequester more carbon that shrubs.. therefore conceivably the sooner you start ’em growing again, the better for the environment. Just another example of how climate change forces us to question that concept “”natural” is best.”

6 thoughts on “Guest Post from Foto”

  1. Foto/Larry:

    Do you have a pre-fire photo to your first photo so that we have evidence to back up your statement that what is pictured “used to be majestic old growth pines that [had] survived countless pre-historic fires?” Thanks. Also, that first photo appears to show maybe an acre or two of the slope. It appears as if there is a large tree on the upper left of the photo and also appears as if the other side of the slope might also contain some green trees.

  2. Yes, I do have photos from previous times. I have pictures from 1990 that show the high mortality of the old growth, still standing. I also have ones from 2007, before the devastating re-burn and from 2010, as well as these 2011 shots. In fact, the re-burn was so hot that even the tree roots were vaporized and the manzanita couldn’t resprout from their roots. If you do a search for the A-Rock Fire, there is a slide show of the firestorm while it was burning. 400 year old sugar and ponderosa pines used to live there, as Big Meadow/Foresta was a summer home to Indians in the area. They managed those lands with fire, for their own benefit, keeping the understory clear of fuels buildups. Somewhere, in my many boxes of slides, is a picture of this area even before the A-Rock Fire.

    In the 20 years following the A-Rock Fire, there were plenty of pines that seeded in, competing with the ceanothus and manzanita. Hidden underneath the brush were HUGE fallen snags. The intense heat generated at ground level caused the situation you see in the second photo. The first photo was adjacent to the fireline (Foresta Road) of the Big Meadow Fire, which escaped in late August, 2009. That is why you see a few trees in what was a fuelbreak created after the A-Rock. 20 years of forest recovery goes up in smoke, even expanding this fire zone all the way up to the Tioga Pass Road. It was the old growth snags that were still standing that caught the burning embers flying over the fireline. The firefighters were a little late in getting started that morning, and that was enough for the downslope morning winds to turn around and go back upslope, and the flames were off to the races, with 98 degree temperatures and intensely heavy fuels.

    This is also testament to what happens when there are no salvage/rehabilitation efforts done after a wildfire. Even the few knobcone pines in the area were cooked enough to make their seeds unviable (yes, I have photographic evidence!). One year after the second fire, this area was a “moonscape” (again, I have pictures!). Those still-standing snags USED to be much larger but, after 2 large wildfires, they look noticeably smaller. You can also see remnants of the fallen snags on the ground. I think we can all agree that this land, without a seed source, won’t have new forest for many decades. The deerbrush will dominate.


    Here is a 2010 picture taken from the same area as these shots. No matter how you spin it, the forest is devastated.

    Here is another view that matches photo #2. Yep, major moonscape!

    And here’s a view of the upper slopes, denuded of all plant life, due to fire intensity.

    This doesn’t look “natural and beneficial”, despite being inside Yosemite National Park. Could this be the future of “preserved” Forest Service lands?!? Once again, preservationism doesn’t always provide “protection” from catastrophic wildfires.

  4. Re-burns in fire killed timber (or bug kill)can be nasty, They can consume all or most of the snags, down logs, burn up any tree seedlings that started, and scorch the soil to the point where the soil is sterilized with most of the organics gone. For some reason it seems like reburns are not on the fire people’s radar screen. In some areas you can’t leave the high continous fuel loading from stand replacing fires and not have the potential for reburning, especially in the drier forest types.


Leave a Comment