All too often, once a firestorm goes cold, a fickle public thinks the disaster is over with, as the skies clear of smoke. In the situation of the Rim Fire, the public hasn’t had much chance to see the real damages within the fire’s perimeter. All back roads have been closed since the fire was ignited. Besides Highway 120, only Evergreen Road has been opened to the public, within the Stanislaus National Forest.
From my April trip to Yosemite, and Evergreen Road, this unthinned stand burned pretty hot. This would have been a good one where merchantable logs could be traded for small tree removal and biomass. Notice the lack of organic matter in the soil.
Sometimes people say there is no proof that thinning mitigates fire behavior. It’s pretty clear to me that this stand was too dense and primed for a devastating crown fire. I’m guessing that its proximity to Yosemite National Park and Camp Mather, as well as the views from Evergreen Road have made this area into a “Park buffer”. Now, it becomes a “scenic burn zone”, for at least the next few decades.
There is some private land along Evergreen Road, which seem to have done OK, at least in this view. Those mountains are within Yosemite National Park. Sadly, the media likes to talk about “reduced burn intensities, due to different management techniques”, within Yosemite National Park. Only a very tiny percentage of the National Park lands within the Rim Fire have had ANY kind of management. Much of the southeastern boundary of the fire butts up against the Big Meadow Fire, generally along the Tioga Pass Road (Highway 120). Additionally, much of the burned Yosemite lands are higher in elevation, as well as having larger trees with thicker bark. You can also see that there will be no lack of snags for the blackbacked woodpecker. Can anyone say, with scientific sincerity, that over-providing six years of BBW habitat will result in a significant bump in birds populations? The question is really a moot point, since the Yosemite acreage, alone, does just that.
People have, and will continue to compare the Yosemite portion of the Rim Fire to the Stanislaus National Forest portion, pointing at management techniques and burn intensities. IMHO, very little of those comparisons are really valid. Apples versus oranges. Most of the Forest Service portion of the fire is re-burn, and there is no valid Yosemite comparison (other than the 2007 Big Meadow Fire). It has been a few months since I have been up there, and I expect that there are plenty of bark beetles flying, and the trees around here have no defense against them, with this persistent drought. Everything is in motion and “whatever happens” is happening.