The Power Fire, and the Blackbacked Woodpecker

This helicopter unit experienced significant dieback, even as the fallers returned multiple times. The marking guidelines allowed for cutting trees with low crown ratios, and with the Forest Service getting projects together so quickly (six months!), the bark beetles hadn’t run their course, yet. In addition to the snag specifications in the project’s plans, you can clearly see that there are a great many more snags now, than the plans required. Also important in this is that snag of certain sizes had to be cut and flown out, as part of the fuels treatment (a HUGE expenditure!)  The Power Fire salvage project was halted by the Ninth Circuit Court, due to the new salvage marking guidelines, and a perceived need for more blackbacked woodpecker analysis. The cutting unit below was completed, though.

Also seen in the foreground is that nasty bear clover, which will dominate, until it is shaded out, or killed with herbicides. It is great to have this smelly carpet (AKA mountain misery) under a nice canopy but, in this case, it will hinder all trees from germinating and growing. Their roots can go 12 feet deep. Even the deerbrush is kept at bay by the bear clover.

5 thoughts on “The Power Fire, and the Blackbacked Woodpecker”

  1. What sale is this a unit of? thanks!

    Also I experienced bear clover when I worked on the Eldorado and around its neighbors.. I bet trees plus bear clover sequester more carbon that just bear clover. But then you have to use herbicides, or ???

    I do remember that before the Consent Decree, R-5 had a major issue with the loss of herbicides due to a court case. Was that in the late 80’s?

    • If I remember correctly, the name of this individual sale was Panther. A giant pile of unmerchantable fuels was flown out of this unit. There has to be a significant benefit to removing and utilizing the excess fuels. Certainly, some of the preservationist’s worries about salvage logging and bird habitat didn’t seem to apply, at this point in time.

      I remember one silviculturalist who, commenting on non-chemical bear clover treatments, said, “… grubbing just pisses it off.” It took many years to convince people of the need to keep herbicides as a tool in the toolbox (however, many in the FS still wanted them for use in clearcutting, before the 1993 ban). My current Ranger District has a strong herbicide program this year in the Power Fire area. However, I’d bet that the guy administrating the program (I know and respect him) would say they are falling behind the brush and bear clover growth.

      I’m still attempting to learn more about the CFLR projects that the RD is mandated to do. It was nice to chat with one of my former bosses this week. She is now the Timber Management Officer (or possible re-named position), as well as being the Forest Contracting Officer. She somehow finds time to mark timber, from time to time. I wonder if she knows how much I learned from her examples, in the 23 years I’ve known her. She sure placed a lot of trust in me over those years.

  2. “you can clearly see that there are a great many more snags now, than the plans required.”

    What does this mean?

    Fires create a pulse of snags but more significantly they reduce the population of green trees from which future snags must be recruited, thus large stand-replacing fires result in a future “snag gap.” This is one of the most profound and under-appreciated impacts of large fires.

    Salvage logging just makes the snag gap worse by reducing the number of large snags that would persist the longest and otherwise help mitigate the snag gap. Therefore, retaining “more snags than required” is a false mitigation, because removing any large snags just makes a bad situation worse by exacerbating the snag gap.

    • Tree: I don’t think “snag gap” is a real thing; nor do I think, whatever else it might be, a cause for particular concern. So near as I can tell, and admittedly using very rough calculations based on past readings, observations, and conversations, North America is currently experiencing a super-abundance of snags — quite likely the greatest number of standing dead trees over the greatest number of acres of land in 12,000 or more years. More than after the 1871 Peshtigo Fire, the 1902 and 1910 wildfire complexes, or the Great Tillamook Fires of 1933 and 1939. A lot of the reason was a lot wider spacing between trees in early historical times, and also a lot more openings in the canopies, and much greater extents of grasslands and shrublands were merely rejuvenated by widespread burning.

      I’m assuming because of this relatively recent accumulation of record numbers of snags (by many other accounts, too, and not just mine) that the animals for which they provide “critical habitat” will irrupt shortly. That’s what elk would do, if we let them. Wolves, too, and salmon.

    • Salvage logging in California is also a way of dealing with unnatural fuels build-ups, after an intense wildfire. Both merchantable, and unmerchantable logs of specific sizes were required to be removed. Fuels reductions were a main part of the salvage efforts on the Power Fire. Remember, only 55% of the Power Fire was salvaged, ensuring PLENTY of snags for birds. Additionally, snags were retained at significant levels within the cutting units, both as individuals, and as clumps.


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