Rim Fire Salvage Logging, by SPI

Bob Zybach and I went on a field trip to the Rim Fire. The first stop on the tour showed us the Sierra Pacific Industries’ salvage logging results. I’m posting a medium resolution panorama so, if you click on the picture, you can view it in its full size. You can see the planted surviving giant sequoias on their land which were left in place. You can also see some smaller diameter trees, bundled up on the hill, which turned out to be not mechantable as sawlogs. You might also notice the subsoiler ripping, meant to break up the hydrophobic layer. They appear to have done their homework on this practice, and it is surprising to see them spending money to do this. SPI says that their salvage logging is nearly complete, and that they will replant most of their 20,000 acre chunk next spring. They have to order and grow more stock to finish in 2016.


9 thoughts on “Rim Fire Salvage Logging, by SPI”

  1. Subsoil ripping!! Ahhh…horrible practice. So many better practices to mitigate hydrophobic soils they to rip them. Bad deal there. Reminds me of terracing on the Bitterroot NF.

    • I think there is value in ripping soils that are either highly hydrophobic, or highly compacted. SPI’s ripping looks pretty benign, in this case, especially since these soils are decomposed granite. They try to keep all their tilling “on the contour”, intending to intercept water and prevent it from channeling. In my career, I haven’t seen many chances to require its use.

      What other practices could be used to mitigate the impacts of hydrophobic soils?

  2. Please explain what you mean by “done their homework.”

    Soil ripping seems like a bad idea, unlike any natural process.

    Weeds, erosion, carbon loss, altered patterns of plant regen, nutrient loss, etc…

    Hydrophobic soils have not been shown to be a big problem. It’s a very localized effect and adequately mitigated by natural processes.

    • SPI doesn’t do ANYTHING that requires extra money to do, without researching and analyzing their bottom line. You obviously haven’t looked at the video I posted having to do with the Rabbit Creek Burn. I’d say that 150,000 cubic yards of slide material is a rather “big problem”. The McNally Fire had lots of significant erosion and infrastructure damage. And then, there’s all the Boulder flooding and erosion damage. That seems like a really “big problem”, to me. Do you ever think to look at the big picture before posting, Tree? Hydrophobicity can last for a very long time, if not “treated”, and the Rim Fire has the terrain that could allow huge erosion problems. Minor storms can mean major runoff events, as we have seen, over and over again.

    • One size does not fit all – Subsoiling has its place. Neither eliminating it as an option nor proclaiming that it is the only option is acceptable. Site specific prescriptions are the only answer.

    • Certainly, SPI treats their lands differently than the Forest Service. There is a fuels trade-off if you use slash for mitigation. And, yes, I have personally seen where ripping was misused, with catastrophic results. Yes, it showed up on my BMP report, too. (They should not have placed that landing in the bottom of a gully!)

      The combination of equipment use and slash application does have some value, and yes, I have used that practice more often than subsoil ripping. Actually, in my 15 years of salvage work, I’ve never used ripping to relieve hydrophobic soils. I have used it to relieve compaction, though. I do have pictures of using slash for “Special Erosion Prevention Methods” I have required.

      In cases of severe hydrophobicity, that top layer of soil needs to be broken up, and not just covered with slash. In the picture I provided, that doesn’t appear to be the case, IMHO. I have seen some bad erosion coming from salvaged SPI lands, in the past, too. I do think that SPI’s work displayed in my picture is quite good. They seem to realize that they are, more than ever, in the public microscope.

    • I know Pete Robichaud (I coached his kid in soccer), he does good work. There’s a very good (but kind of expensive) book he has out (he and Artemi Cerda are editors) called “Fire effects on soils and restoration strategies.” There’s quite a bit on post-fire soil water repellency, I’ve only read a little but its now moved higher on my list… especially after that video that Steve Wilent posted a week or so ago (Boise NF post-fire floods)

  3. Thanks for the head up on the book Guy. I’ll have to check it out.

    More so, as managers, I look forward to the day when we can accept post-fire erosional events as a natural process and not feel like we have to mitigate every aspect of wildfire events. We can get closer to this by focusing more on watershed resilience to these type of events and less on suppression and mitigation.

    I can dream.


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