Urgent Action Needed to Save Sierra Forests

This viewpoint shows more of the reasons why the desire to have larger and more intense wildfires, in the Sierra Nevada, is the wrong way to go.

In this picture below, fire crews were run out of this stand, and back into the “safety zone”, on this fire I worked on, back in 1988.




Air quality the past two weeks has been several times worse than some of the most polluted cities in the world due to smoke from the King fire. Last year’s Rim fire emitted greenhouse gases equivalent to 2.3 million vehicles for a year.

Also, the lost habitat and recreational opportunities from major fires like these are significant. It is not an exaggeration to say that virtually all Californians are affected when these “megafires” occur.

The report points out that wildfires are getting larger and burning at higher intensity than ever before. The Rim fire burned at nearly 40 percent high intensity – meaning virtually no living vegetation is left – covering almost 100,000 acres. More acres have burned in the first 4½ years of this decade than in seven decades of the last century.

What can we do about it?

The main bottleneck in treating more acres is in implementation. The Forest Service is unwilling to increase the size of its Region 5 timber management staffs. They use some of the usual excuses, some of which are beyond their control but, not all of those issues are really significant, looking at the big picture. Yes, it is pretty difficult to implement extremely-complex plans when you are constantly training new temporary employees, hired right off the street.

3 thoughts on “Urgent Action Needed to Save Sierra Forests”

  1. Larry has put his finger right on the real issue, which is a gutted, dispirited, understaffed, grossly underfunded, back-of-the-pack agency. As compared to the giant federal group I once was part of called the U.S.Forest Service.
    I know things have changed drastically in the two decades since I bailed out. I also know that thinning hundreds or thousands of acres of forest each year will not cause a significant impact on the fire regime of this century. Too many other factors involved, the largest of which is a warming/drier climate, a factor that we don’t understand enough and which impacts us differently in the SIerras than it does in the northern Rockies or the southern Rockies or the east Texas piney woods.
    Dialogue on this blog has tried too many times to lump all these very different eco-regions into a prescription of “thin, thin,thin”. Just won’t work, IMO.
    I suspect in a decade or two we may understand the climate change factor better than we do currently. And maybe in a decade or two our precious national forests and parks will be more appreciated, and less defiled by two party politics. All we can do is hope…

    • It does seem like the Forest Service leadership continues to feel that it can keep training inexperienced people, to do forestry work. They don’t want to talk about those hiring issues, to Congress, who doesn’t want to hear about it, anyway. How can this top-heavy agency be “Caring for the land and serving people”? There will be no “quick fix” for this problem, and ultimately, it is up to Congress to earmark funds and mandate permanent lower level timber jobs, paying a “living wage”, without an annual hours limit.

      For now, we get “Federal McForestry”, where on-the-job training rules, workers are limited to 6 months of work, and the acres never end.

  2. Think of all the money the federal government could save on welfare if they put some people to work in our rural communities working for the Forest Service. There are so many things that need doing on the ground at the local level. (like cleaning the culverts out) Enough with the meetings at district headquarters.
    We better get to work trying to save our old growth forests from destruction by wildfires, before the fires starts.


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