Rim Fire Logging Lawsuit

Yes, we all knew it was coming but there is one surprise. (See the 3rd plaintiff)

Again, owls will “occupy” almost ANY landscape, as long as there is prey there. If the nest stands were cooked, then they will have to find, and build, new nests. Owls are notoriously lazy in building nests, and often will use abandoned goshawk nests (and vice versa). One question I’ve wondered about for a long time is; Why do PACs retain their “protected” status when nesting habitats (the reason the land is protected) are destroyed? The loss of spotted owl (AND goshawk) nests is merely another part of the “whatever happens” strategy, so loved by the plaintiffs.


“The complaint issued by the Earth Island Institute, the Center for Biological Diversity, and the California Chaparral Institute seeks an injunction to halt logging within the 37 occupied California spotted owl territories within the burned area. That would prevent logging in about 40% of the Rim Fire areas already approved by the decision for tree removal.”


24 thoughts on “Rim Fire Logging Lawsuit”

  1. “This is an ecological travesty,” said Chad Hanson, a forest ecologist and founder of the John Muir Project, an environmentalist group. “It’s basically an extinction plan for the California spotted owl.”

    From another article. Hey, Chad! Ya got a lil rhetoric hanging, there!

  2. I would expect that the lawsuit will fail in District Court, and the TRO will not be supported. So, can SPI get enough fallers to get all the trees on the ground before the case can be appealed? I think they can but, will they recognize the need to make that part of the project a “moot” point? So, what happens when all the trees are down but the plaintiffs prevail on appeal? Chances are, those logs will be held hostage in the settlement phase. So, if that happens, what will the plaintiffs desire, in exchange? Certainly, they will want some of those logs left on the ground, “for wildlife” (for whatever “rare” creature “uses” them). They might force additional “clean-up” measures, beyond what is in the contracts or what is in the EIS. Of course, the Forest Service would grant them anything they want, if most of the volume is still on the ground.

    The Forest Service and SPI are on the clock, and need to understand that they will probably lose in the Ninth Circuit Court. Settlements have no requirement to follow the EIS, or even site-specific science.

    • Mention of a “complaint” means that a lawsuit was filed, but there’s no mention of a TRO being sought and it’s unlikely there would be. The plaintiffs may ask for a preliminary injunction for the time period while the case is being litigated in district court (which might take up to a year or so), but there’s no indication that they have done so at this time. If Plaintiffs lose in district court, they might ask the 9th Circuit for an injunction pending appeal, which is basically analogous to a preliminary injunction. There’s really no such thing as a “settlement phase”, though the parties might agree to settle before the case is decided, or the judge (or 9th Circuit) might impose some compromise solution which might seem similar to a settlement. You’re right that there’s often a race to get all the trees cut so that a loss for the FS in court would basically be a moot point. The FS (and DOJ) are very much aware of that, and typically strategize (e.g., delay) cases to take advantage of it.

      • From another article:

        “The Center for Biological Diversity and two other groups seek an injunction against the U.S. Forest Service, which unveiled a plan last week to allow logging on 52 square miles of forest killed in the massive central California blaze.”

        I guess maybe that is what I meant, instead of a TRO. On the Power Fire, they did get a 7-day stay from the District Court. Seems like standard practice for litigants of salvage sales. Yes, the court system isn’t always one-sided, politically. This District Court always seems to support the Forest Service through “deference to Agency science/scientists”.

        The assumption that the Forest Service will lose on appeal should be driving the actions of the Forest Service and SPI. Is there some sort of Appeals Court “penalty” for having an injunction denied, in lower court?

        • The article’s worded a little confusingly. I think by “injunction” they’re not talking about a preliminary one, but rather that a court victory in the case will “enjoin” the FS from conducting the project (i.e., a permanent injunction). But it would make sense that the plaintiffs would also go after a preliminary injunction (PI) at this point, to try and keep the status quo during litigation (a TRO is only of short “emergency” duration, so a PI is more likely since it lasts longer). I think you’re right about it being a fairly standard practice, especially if the chainsaws are ready to get to work. As far as I know, there’s not supposed to be a penalty in the appeals court for having had a district court injunction denied, but who knows? Path of least resistance might be to just follow the trial court’s decision and logic. And injunctions in the 9th get decided by a 3-judge panel (that rotates monthly), so it can be a crap shoot which three personalities you draw…

          • The Rim was over a quarter million acres, right? So we have roadside hazard removal, and five percent of the burn? And is that shot above one of yours, LH? I can’t imagine how salvage there is going to hurt anything — there’s nothing alive.

            And of course, resident owls would move to unburnt nests or hog what they can find, especially if there is still a prey base. But the logging is in BURNT stands? So what’s the problem?

            • Well, that roadside hazard tree volume also includes roads that Hanson has successfully litigated against. Main roads are fine to salvage hazard trees but, in the past, it was ruled that secondary roads didn’t deserve (road maintenance “Level” is too low) to have hazards cut and removed. That would be one aspect of the lawsuit they would probably win, outright (unless the Forest Service has, somehow, closed that loophole).

              Yes, that picture is one of mine, shot back in April, along the main road into Hetch Hetchy. Still Forest Service land. Us pro-management people will just have to endure the litigation against salvage sales, and the stark reality that no salvage plan will ever pass the Ninth Circuit Court. The plaintiffs seem to insist that we allow owls and woodpeckers the freedom to choose any given acre in those 257,000 acres, (minus the plantation thinning and roadside hazard trees along main roads, which they seem to be alright with) as their new “home away from home”.

              Amazingly enough, these groups are less “radical” than those seeking to make the Rim Fire into a protected National Monument, preserved in all its majestic brushiness and royal re-burns.

              Regarding owls and goshawks, they are territorial and will defend their nesting habitat. All the other nesting habitat in green forests are already “occupied” with nesting pairs. Maybe a displaced pair can oust an existing pair but, there are no empty nesting territories. Many will try to establish new nests but, those would be subject to predation by bigger and/or more aggressive birds. Many others will live out the rest of their lives not nesting.

              Hanson insists that dense snags are essential to the owls, as foraging habitat. I tend to think they probably prefer those areas, IF they have prey but, don’t actually “require” it. The thicker the forest, the fewer the prey. Modern salvage projects often leave clumps of snags, within cutting units, in addition to individual snags. There are also ample amounts of snags that are outside of cutting units, “preserved” forever (or until they fall over, whichever comes first).

  3. http://www.earthisland.org/journal/index.php/elist/eListRead/us_forest_service_moves_to_start_clearcutting_in_rim_fire_area/

    “This would include essentially clear-cutting 95 percent of the snags (standing fire-killed trees) in 19,462 acres of the fire area. An additional 17,706 acres of “roadside” logging is planned along roads, including old logging roads, which are not maintained for public use (and many of which are closed roads, long since decommissioned). Much of this would be clearcut too, including live, healthy, mature, and old-growth trees, which would be removed by the thousands, for no credible public safety benefit, based upon profoundly vague criteria that allow just about any tree to be cut.”

    Ramping up the rhetoric, eh folks? Once again, clearcutting has been banned in the Sierra Nevada National Forests since 1993! He also whines about trees not being marked in advance for his personal inspection. MANY old trees along roads have damage and extensive rot. The Forest Service is absolutely required to make roads safe for its own workers and the employees of purchasers and their contractors. How can Hanson know that clearcutting will happen, when the trees haven’t been marked yet??? He can’t even get into the area of the salvage units.

    “… one of the largest commercial logging projects in the history of the national forest system.”

    By what metric?!?! It isn’t fair to use the “maximum management” alternative in the plans, and using those volume figures to sway the layman public. Eco’s would say the same thing if we used the “No Action” alternative to show that the Forest Service “proposed doing no salvage logging at all”. Use the ACTUAL Record of Decision, now that it has been decided! It is disingenuous to use the details of the non-preferred alternatives to criticize the project.

    This rhetoric should also be brought up in court, to show judges how far the plaintiffs will go to “make their case”. If this “information” is brought to court, the Forest Service needs to stand up and point out these obvious slanted “facts”.

    • Actually, for the “newbies”, the USFS has had numerous 50 year contracts in the past. Ketchikan Pulp, Alaska Lumber and Pulp (Japanese company) and Wrangell Mills all had those long term contracts that required mills be built, and a specified volume be removed each year.

      Hines Lumber Company out of Chicago has the long term contracts at Westfir Oregon, Hines Oregon, and at least three in Wyoming and the Black Hills of South Dakota. Mills, railroads to bring the timber out, and lots of local infrastructure. There was the Simpson Timber contract in the Olympic NF that the USFS made (Camp Grisdale?) in order that Simpson’s fee simple lands could again grow a crop of trees, the USFS long term sale being a fill in timber supply until the fee simple was again harvestable. I am sure there were others that I can’t remember or never knew of. Some were to replace private timber overlogged in the WWII war effort, because there was not time enough to access USFS timber to feed the war machine, or the pent up housing demand after the War, and the GI Bill needs for low cost mortgages to buy homes. The intent of the US Govt was to create jobs and local wealth in areas where the cessation of homesteading on land not compatible with agriculture created large areas of Public Domain that was not contributing to the local or national economies. Civilization by creation of natural resource extraction contracts for long term use on USFS lands. So Hanson’s evaluation of the size and extent of the Rim Fire salvage project is just a pointed statement for his propaganda use, and in no way true at all.
      The largest group effort at salvage was in the Tillamook Burns in Oregon, where the solution was for the various land owners to subscribe to a single logging operation called Consolidated Logging Co., and each land owner in the salvage pool had an estimated percentage of the income based on the number of acres and amount of salvage and green timber inside the bounds of the Consolidated working areas which were determined by what could be accessed by either rail or the new truck logging on roads build with bulldozers. Every load of logs that was scaled and went to a mill was put into the escrow account, after logging costs were paid, of the individual owners of private land in the working area. The salvage amount, due to a succession of fires, ( four in all: 1933, ’39, ’45 and ’51) was measured in billions of board feet over more than a twenty year period. I seem to remember that it was 11 Billion board feet estimated to have burned, and over 4 billion feet salvaged. And lots of that was tree lengths that due to slipped bark and time since burned, once felled ran all the way to the creek bottom. Solution? Use bulldozers to run up the creek beds, using them as “roads”, to drag the tree lengths down to where they could be either bucked or drug to a downstream landing to be bucked and loaded on trucks. I distinctly remember being on a road, a “burn” salvage road, up the Kilchis, where logs were tied together and hung over a knife ridge, to hold the dirt to create the road bed to where a tree was rigged to high lead yard the logs to be landed, hooked onto a cat, and drug to a landing a quarter mile away. Scary place and practice. Steep, steep, steep country. Those logs ran mills in Astoria, Tillamook, Forest Grove and Willamina, and places I just don’t remember. Portland was probably a destination. Over 40 mills on the rivers in Portland at the start of WWII. Go to any hospital in Portland. Read the names of the big donors on the donor walls. There you can see who the big timber and mill people were a half century or more ago.

      And, the very same litigants now try daily to stop any and all logging in the Tillamook Burn, which was the first huge public attempt at reforestation. By the will of the people of Oregon. A statewide bond issue was voted on by the public and approved, to replant “the Burn.” Mistakes were made, and lots of off site seed sourcing has created some ugly reforestation. Swiss Needle Cast disease has stopped doug fir growth in the “fog belt” along the coast line. All that timber needs to be cut and replanted with site sourced seed for species, aspect, elevation, and all the other site specific needs. At least Oregon did something, and not all of it “right,” but the wrong is learned knowledge and improvements are made yearly due to research and actual experience. That should be the lesson for the Rim Fire rehab and recovery. Oh, and if you can’t have 2014 cumulative experience and knowledge to do the job, do find some Native American landscape burners, because Hanson, et al, conveniently leave out the major landscape alteration and management providers for the Rim area for maybe 10,000 years or thrice that. Man has been a part of it until the deep thinkers determined “natural” didn’t include man. Funny. How did plants move about so much around the Central Valley prior to the Spanish occupation and the advent of genocide against the Indians? Why was prior fire frequency so much more than today, when we are deeply mired in a long duration but not unusual drought? I would hope the deep thinkers will now put some energy into finding suitable and affordable housing for the residents of Weed who just lost homes to wildland fire. That is a unique and special community.

  4. “Why do PACs retain their “protected” status when nesting habitats (the reason the land is protected) are destroyed?”

    A guess, without having read the relevant forest plan, is that is probably what the plan says. And that won’t change until the plan is amended. A better plan would consider the ‘what if’ question before it happens, and potentially incorporate some flexibility. That would require answering questions about the value of burned forests to owls during the forest planning process. That would be a good thing.

    I question the ethics of trying to get the damage done before the legal papers get filed to ask for a PI or TRO. What I have often seen is that once a lawsuit is filed, the attorneys discuss the timing and often there is an agreement by the Forest Service to not take action until a hearing can be held. If the FS won’t agree to this, the plaintiffs at least know when they have to get to court.

    • With salvage projects, time is very important, and both sides know that, all too well. The Forest Service cannot just stop the project once it is under contract(s). Also, the Forest Service doesn’t see the work as “damage”. With the Ninth Circuit Court looming, the clock is running. Often, the pro-salvage side is talking more and more about the decay of timber. Yes, it does decay but, it isn’t so much of an issue, right now, just 10 months after going cold. The Biscuit had merchantable logs coming out even 4 years later!

      Regarding PAC’s, every Forest should have a contingency plan about what to do when the PAC’s burn. Certainly, that would take some analysis, as some PAC’s might actually be best served as that “rare” snag habitat, due to topography and watershed issues. I do favor a middle-of-the-road policy for this “problem”. Flexibility is good! There are so very few “viable” PAC’s, left on the Groveland Ranger District, due to fires of the last 50 years.

  5. The logs on the Biscuit that were still good 4 years later where the larger old growth and the wood that was up higher in elevation. Bug damage in the Biscuit wood became a big problem from one year to the next. Nobody want bugs in their wood.
    We just finished salvaging trees that burned in 2009, but they also were high attitude, of large diameter and in amazingly good shape, also some had died later after the fire.
    The smaller diameter trees should be harvested when still smoking. After a year maybe someone will buy them. After a couple of seasons it is really questionable.
    Plus some mills don’t even want burnt wood, especially if they can get enough green wood. Of course that might change, seems like we might be living on burnt wood for awhile with all the current fires and it seems more to come yet this season.
    I was looking at a Whiskey fire salvage sale on the Umpqua they other day. Mostly smaller diameter wood. I drove by a few stands of large old growth that had burned by the road, and not a tree was marked. So now we have roadside salvage sales but the Forest Service is afraid to mark the old growth?
    The district ranger has worked really hard to try and make this sale work and she should be commend for that, I just hope she didn’t trade off the old growth to enviros.

    • If I was the logger, I would sure as hell demand those hazard trees. If they can reach the road or a landing, they need to be cut. That is in the contract, and usually a part of OSHA rules, too. The “Safety Card” is one that a Sale Administrator rarely trumps. Also, there has to be a minimum of 25% good wood in a log to be shipped. Those don’t make much money for the logger, that’s for sure. Often times, just the butt log is good and the rest is not.

      I would say that the ultimate success of a salvage sale, here in California, is the profitable removal of all the small diameter stuff. After all, that is the stuff that both sides should want removed. It is counter-productive to delay the removal of the fuels most likely to raise fire risk.

  6. Larry asked: “Why do PACs retain their “protected” status when nesting habitats (the reason the land is protected) are destroyed?”

    Dave says and asks: ” I can’t imagine how salvage there is going to hurt anything — there’s nothing alive. … the logging is in BURNT stands? So what’s the problem?”

    The simple answer is that salvage logging followed by replanting results in the development of a plantation, a tree farm, a homogeneous and ecologically depauperate stand structure. Whereas, a forest that develops after a stand replacing fire that is not logged and replanted is much more likely to develop complex ecological features that are favored by spotted owls and other wildlife.

    Large snags and logs add structure to the forest and provide wide variety of ecological functions. Without replanting, diverse vegetation will develop and it will be more spatially variable and heterogenous.

    See Rose, C.L., Marcot, B.G., Mellen, T.K., Ohmann, J.L., Waddell, K.L., Lindely, D.L., and B. Schrieber. 2001. Decaying Wood in Pacific Northwest Forests: Concepts and Tools for Habitat Management, Chapter 24 in Wildlife-Habitat Relationships in Oregon and Washington (Johnson, D. H. and T. A. O’Neil. OSU Press. 2001) http://web.archive.org/web/20060708035905/http://www.nwhi.org/inc/data/GISdata/docs/chapter24.pdf

    Lindenmayer, Franklin, Hunter, Noss, et al., ECOLOGY: Salvage Harvesting Policies After Natural Disturbance, Science 2004 303: 1303. http://www.eebweb.arizona.edu/courses/ecol406r_506r/lindenmayer&noss-2005-effectslogging4.pdf

    DellaSala, Hanson, Bond, Hutto, Halsey. 1-3-2014 letter to the USFS regarding Rim Fire salvage. http://www.californiachaparral.org/images/rimfirescientistsignonletter12_13_2013.pdf

    Dominick A. DellaSala 2006. POST-FIRE LOGGING SUMMARY OF KEY STUDIES AND FINDINGS. World Wildlife Fund, February 2006.

    • NONE of which actually addresses a return to an old growth state and nesting habitat restoration. Again, owls do NOT use snag habitat for nesting. Remember, California Spotted Owls are a DIFFERENT species from the Northern Spotted Owl, which has different requirements for their nesting and foraging habitats. NONE of this actually addresses the CASPO! NONE of this addresses the ample snags left within the 200,000+ acres not salvaged. NONE of this addresses the facts that ample snags are left within actual cutting units and within the whole of the project areas. The assumption that a partial salvage of a small part of the entire fire will impact owls is dubious and not supported by science.

      Regarding replanting, how about explaining how the actual plan for reforestation of the Rim Fire will affect ANYTHING! Tell us all, so we can be enlightened, bud!

      • First, “ample snags” is in the eye of the beholder. Stand replacing fire results in a temporary abundance of snags but this fleeting abundance hides a serious long-term snag shortage – a “snag gap” – that occurs after most of the fire-created snags fall and before large trees regrow. Snags are not “ample” at this stage. Large snags that are “salvaged” are removed from the equation and exacerbate the snag gap. Salvage logging makes the snag gap deeper and longer.

        Second, salvage of a “small part” of the fire area is misleading because salvage logging is not randomly distributed across stand types. Salvage is always concentrated where the largest and most ecologically valuable snags are located, so salvage logging typically has adverse ecological effects that are large and disproportionate to the small acres affected. For example the Biscuit salvage proposal affected something like 6% of the fire area and 24% of the large tree habitat.

        Third, complex old forest habitat (for spotted owls of other wildlife) is more likely to develop from complex young (unsalvaged) forest, rather than from dense, uniform (salvaged) plantations.

        • You’re, obviously, out of the loop on this. The entire length of the Clavey River is a haven for snags, both large…. and larger! It has been publicized that the Forest Service doesn’t intend to plant on a grid system. Try and stay up, Tree! If salvage logging was like kryptonite to owls, then you would think that 50 years of it would have killed off the owls, by now. The “largest and most valuable snags” sit within the huge buffer for the Clavey River. Again, you are wrong about site-specific facts, Anonymous Tree. And yes, Tree, I was at the Biscuit, marking those “largest and most valuable snags” with orange paint, in the cutting units, “for wildlife”. Your accusations are stuck in the 80’s, methinks. Here in the central Sierra Nevada, where site-specific data says that fires have burned, historically, about every 16 years. This means that re-burns are a serious problem here, as evidenced by most of the Rim Fire being a re-burn. The Clavey River was a disaster waiting to happen, and the winds from the column collapse sheared off the tops of large trees. Extreme fire behavior from burning old growth, INDEED! Local foresters have predicted this fire for decades.

  7. After the Biscuit fire, which in the hot areas, actually removed all the organic material in the soil and by actual measurement in the Baby Foot Lake RMA of a long standing soils project, some to inches of the actual top soil, fines, leaving behind dry ravel of larger size particles. No seeds left in the top germ layers. So where is the science, the research, that says ground machinery in a fire salvage does NOT bring up viable local native seed from deep in the soil or from under protected areas, putting it in the germination opportunity layer of the now disturbed soils? Where is it said that conifers only put out seed one year after a fire? I seem to see overplanted, high density stems per acre land, as land that has annual seeding from above, and annual “naturals” growing in the ample space between the planted trees following logging. The issue in forestry and fires is not a paucity of regrowth, but that of too many trees in the regen stands causing crowding and ladder fuels. We need fewer trees, less dense stands of trees in forests. The common sense answer is to “remove” them, aka logging with a profit and a market for the logs. The very things that produce the taxes that allow the PhDs to make a living.

    I was part of a private restoration project that began with the small diameter trees still smoking. Late August burn. All the merch logs were out of there before Oct 1. All the slash machine piled. We bought Willamette Valley grass seed for this 8-14″ moisture area: 50% Paiute orchard grass, 30% tetraploid annual ryegrass, and 20% Alta tall fescue. Why? Because we wanted seed with a good germ count that we could spin spread onto the first significant snow fall, which will put the seed and moisture on the ground in spring and it will sprout and be green feed for whatever shows up to eat it. And seed that would not stay in the local ecosystem due to incompatibility with local conditions. Birds, deer and elk, pronghorn, rodents, even bears, eat grass in spring. And each of those animals will further disturb the soil, will leave their wastes, biologicicals and nutrients on the soil, and foot prints to hold rain shower water, and every footfall breaks the fire crust. All of which we thought would jump start the biological process now seared by fire, killed by heat, the organic material burned out of the top soil. The US Natural Resource Conservation Agency gave the land owner money to buy the grass seed as part of the FEMA recovery process.

    The aspens root sprouted, as is their way and the native shrubs grew from the ground. The place was and is now alive with wildlife, and the surrounding 100,000 acres of USFS land was and still is, years later, a bleak ceanothus blanket with no trees growing tall enough to see. Unsalvaged white snag land. The 50,000 Ponderosa pine (from Oregon Dept of Forestry fire recovery offering) that were planted that first fall are now over head high. The local rancher (who lost his USFS permit to the fire) now grazes the place in spring, and then again in fall, for twice the duration as before the fire. Cropping the grass renews it, and keeps new growth coming all the warm months. The excavator that was used to pile the logging slash for the owner to burn in winter, which was his wish and a job he finds satisfying, was also used to rip the willows choking the native wet lands. Now the creek that runs through that meadow has meandered more, slowed down in the spring freshet, and is home to a significant new redband trout spawning area., now open enough to attract sandhill cranes in spring, and ducks and geese and open enough that pronghorn show up occasionally. The willows are refreshed and are more palatable. And the place does not have any of the off site grass still growing there. The native grasses, forbs and wild flowers have regained their foothold and the non native grasses have lived out their lives. The Paiute orchard grass is native, albeit the commercially grown forage type we planted has been bred (but not GMO) to grow with alfalfa in intermountain hay operations. That is still there, and the number of elk that show up to crop it are as well.

    The landowner did something. He was depressed in that he lost his timber crop for the future, which was there to put grandkids through college, but the joy he gets just watching his place flourish has diminished the loss to an after thought. His mental health and attitude were bolstered by the activity and work to get the rehab done before the snows fell. Now he enjoys his dotage watching the land be fertile and productive. He is saddened by the tens of thousands of acres of USFS land also burned in that fire, sitting static for now, a future fire zone of brush where yellow belly pine once were dominant. His land is bordered on one side by BLM, and they looked at what he did, and his results, and went about doing what they could on their land, including rebuilding the fence between them. And the BLM land is now showing signs of good husbandry, in an area where they are mostly concerned with sage grouse and grazing.
    I have no idea why people don’t understand that we live in a world of our own personal time frame, and we do need to think about forests in terms of our lifetimes, and in terms of forever or some fragment of that time. I once bid on a timber sale that included trees we planted one weekend when I was a Boy Scout. I have admired stands of timber I set chokers on when that land was logged in the 1960s, the trees now over 50 years old and many large enough for urban PhDs to consider as “old growth” due to the dbh. And I see nothing wrong with letting them grow another 50 years. However, on private lands, the demands of the tax code and capital require logging at a much earlier age than I would prefer. Unfortunately, the very same tax code, demands on capital, returns to stockholders, have determined when to cut and that has determined how mills are construed and constructed. It isn’t “greed”, unless you count on the demands of the public employee retirement systems to have returns based on their retirement schedules (30-40 year cutting schedules), or the term of a life insurance policy (30-50 years), and gee, it is us who are the greedy ones, the ones who need the returns in a prescribed number of years. “Cut and run” is about how our public employment work life spans and tax gathering are structured. If you don’t think the likes of Franklin, Johnson, et al, are concerned about pensions, retirements, dollars and certainty, as well as “science”, you are just kidding yourself. Government depends upon fast rotation timber farming, not old growth. Think about it. Old growth is a strawman set up to be pushed over, burned. An exercise in institutional raison d’etre. Or however the French spell that. Both the public and private interests are served best by the now prominent fast rotation forestry, huge volume small logs mills, and building specs that favor dimension lumber over finished lumber, which can be produced by composites and other faux wood products. So the 2×4, 2×6 and whatever wider dimension can be cut from a forty year old log is what drives the timber economy. Probably the best use of residential land is for housing over 40 years old to be torn down, razed, and more modern structures replacing those homes. And it just fits with tree cutting rotation ages, capital investment strategies, and the retirement and life insurance demands of the human life span.

    • I saw an area on the Kaibab Plateau, probably in the National Park, where all the pines burned up. Often, if you get a fire during a “non-cone year”, you won’t be getting much natural regeneration. With all the pines gone, for relatively large swaths, what did come back was the aspen. Is it odd that the fire was intense enough to kill all the pines, but spared the aspen clones? Chances are, the aspen will now dominate, until drought, age and wildfire brings back the pines, lurking along the edges of the perimeter of the fire.

      I like to find areas where I worked in the past, on Google Maps, to see how they fared after the projects were completed. It’s such a great tool for “seeing the big picture”.

  8. Just a question that may seem dumb. Planting trees with that magnitude of standing dead would be incredibly dangerous. The soils look to be in terribly bad shape. Are they? Is there any reason why logging and replanting is better for the forest ecosystem that not logging and dropping seeds of conifers and shrubs with an organic-matter tackifier? It appears that any large woody debris would have been burned out of the soil. It’s nutrients and structural components would be sadly missing for a more extended time frame under a timber sale scenario. If one considers the effects of the fire on the soils, I haven’t read anything that addresses soil health. Please add some.

    • Logging slash works great at mitigating erosion, as well as adding some more organic matter to the soils. Leaving too many fuels out there will add to the intensity of the next inevitable wildfire. In the area of the Rim Fire, blazes return about every 20 years. That fact needs to guide our forest management activities, including salvage logging. Even the smallest of twigs help out in holding back soil movement, and salvage logging supplies them when trees are felled. Those twigs stay up on the tree for years, if no salvage occurs. In fact, each and every snag is considered to be a source of rill erosion, intercepting rain and concentrating water flow.

      In a nutshell, yes, both SPI and the Forest Service are very concerned about soil damages. Re-burns within 50 years are the worst for soils, especially after unsalvaged fires. The Rim Fire was mostly a re-burn situation, and we have some excellent local examples of how forests do not return well when we “let nature take its course”.


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