North Versus Hanson

Experts Frustrated by Stalled Efforts to Counter Megafires

“Use every damn tool you’ve got,” he said. “If we could have beavers on crack out there I’d be donating to that process — anything that will speed up the pace and scale of this thing.”

Dr. Malcolm North

Slanted News?

I found an LA Times article regarding the Rim Fire, as well as the future of forest management within the Sierra Nevada. Of course, Chad Hanson re-affirms his preference to end all logging, everywhere. There’s a lot of seemingly balanced reporting but, there is no mention of the Sierra Nevada Framework, and its diameter limits. There is also the fact that any change to the SNF will take years to amend. There was also no mention that only about 20,000 Federal acres of the Rim Fire was salvaged, with some of that being in 40-year old plantations.

There might also be another ‘PictureGate“, involving Chad Hanson displaying supposed Forest Service clearcut salvage logging. His folks have already displayed their inability to locate themselves on a map. If he really had solid evidence, he SURELY would have brought it into court

Additionally, the comments are a gold mine for the misinformation and polarization of the supposedly ‘progressive’ community of readers.

Trump “demands” more logging. Really? Does he ever request, suggest or ask for information? I’m tired of hearing of Trump’s “demands.” It could be that some logging would be beneficial but the minute Trump “demands” it, it is suspect. One of his friends will be making millions on the logging and probably giving a kickback to a Trump business. Trump is the destructor of all things beautiful or sacred, the King Midas of the GOP.

A tiny increase in logging of small trees is very unlikely to generate “millions”.

You have no idea what “forest management” is. You want to clearcut all of the old growth forests and then turn them into Christmas tree lots and pine plantations. That is industrial tree farming, not forest management. That is the dumb dogma, speaking, not actual management of the forests.

Most people in southern California don’t know that Forest Service clearcutting and old growth harvesting in the Sierra Nevada has been banned since 1993. The article makes no mention of that.

Riddle me this, Lou. How did the forests manage before we spent $2.5 billion dollars a year on fire suppression? Are we the problem or the cure? Is this just another out of control bureaucracy with a life of its own?

Of course, no solution offered.

Howdy, Folks

I’m just going to drop this here. A side by side comparison of the land that some serial litigators insist is clear evidence of Forest Service salvage clearcutting in the Rim Fire. The caption reads, “Post-fire clearcutting on the Stanislaus National Forest in the Rim fire area, eliminated the wildlife-rich snag habitat and left only stump fields.” Where is the “wildlife-rich snag habitat” in that burned-over plantation on private land? The picture on the right is before logging started, from Google Maps.

Yes, the story is still up on their website, in all its slanderous glory.

Have a nice day!


Rim Fire Images

The media does like to sensationalize events like the Rim Fire, often implying that the lands have been “destroyed”. The Rim Fire is so huge and burned across so many differing kinds of vegetation that you cannot summarize too much. Even my own “sampling” from the access roads doesn’t cover very much of the impacts and effects of a 250,000 acre wildfire.

Much of the wildfire burned in plantations generated from previous wildfires. Here is an example of one of those plantations that wasn’t thinned. I can see why it wasn’t but, maybe a “pre-commercial thinning” kind of task could have been included into one of the other commercial plantation thinning projects that I worked on, back in 2000.


In the same area were blocks of land that were left for “Mother Nature”, after the early 70’s Granite Fire. Here is what a 40 year old brushfield looks like. Those blocks are choked with deer brush, whitethorn and manzanita, with very few conifers, and fewer oaks than the “natural stands” (as they called the unburned portions).


As you can see, sometimes there is a fine line between a total plantation loss and one that has survived a wildfire. This is one of the thinned plantations, near Cherry Lake.


Here is another example of an “old growth” brushfield. While this one didn’t burn much, there are many examples of them burning at moderate to high intensities. Looking at Google Maps, I can find examples where the flames from the brushfields were pushed into the thinned plantations. The Forest Service should be treating those old brushfields with prescribed fire, instead of “whatever happens”.


This unburned stand, within the fire perimeter, is a good example of the work we did back in 2000. I don’t really know of any other reason why this large patch, near Cherry Lake, didn’t burn


The Clavey River, long-cherished by the local eco-community, acted like a conduit for the Rim Fire, as it burned so many acres in just one day. However, you can see that the intensity and damage is rather minimal. There is a fork in the river, down there, and the main fork of the fire went up that way, finding more conifers to burn. (It also found the big block of Sierra Pacific Industries lands.) I found it very interesting that the isolated pockets of Douglas-firs had very high mortality, but only a low-to-moderate intensity.P9206804-web

Here is one of those pockets, alongside the Clavey River. In the past, this kind of pocket would be thrown into a large helicopter salvage project.


The Rim Fire Salvage Seems Done

My last expedition included another trip to Yosemite, and the Rim Fire. I DO think that there are enough dead trees for the owls to “enjoy” in their respite from breeding. Then again, maybe this new “Circle of Life” will provide more food, in the form of baby owls, to larger predators?


You might also notice the ongoing beetle kills, which will increase when spring and summer come into play. This next picture shows the little bit of harvesting that was done along Highway 120. You can see the drainage where the Highway sits, and you can also see how wide the hazard tree units are. The barren area in the foreground is/was chaparral.


I am glad that the Forest Service “took my advice” about getting the work done before there was any chance to appeal to a more liberal….errr….. higher court. However, is THIS what we want our salvaged wildfires to look like? This area should be ready for re-burn in a few short years. Also, be reminded that two of the plantation salvage projects did not sell, despite the prompt action by the Forest Service. My guess is that SPI was low-balling the Forest Service to get those smaller trees at less than “base rates”. That means that the prices remain the same (rock bottom) but, some of the non-commercial treatments would be dropped. It appears that the Forest Service wasn’t willing to go as low as SPI wanted. So, those perfectly good salvage trees will be left, “for wildlife”, it appears.

Happy Earth Day!

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26 years after “protected” forests burned, in Yosemite National Park, this is what we now have. Chances are, it will burn again, before conifer trees can become established enough to resist the next inevitable wildfire. You might notice that even the manzanita is having trouble surviving. I doubt that John Muir intended this on public lands. This landscape is probably the future of parts of the Rim Fire, within Yosemite National Park.

Update From the Yosemite “Laboratory”

Here is a stitched-together panorama from the Foresta area of Yosemite National Park. I’ll have to pair it up with my historical version, one of these days. Restoration processes seem to be minimal, as re-burns continue to ravage the landscape, killing more old growth forests and eliminating more seed sources. Even the brush is dying off, due to a lack of organic matter in some of those granitic soils. With the 200-400 year old trees gone, we have to remember that these stand replacement fires, in this elevational band of the Sierra Nevada, weren’t very common before the 1800’s.

Foresta-panorama-crop-webYes, it IS important that we learn our lessons from the “Whatever Happens” management style of the Park Service. Indeed, we should really be looking closely at the 40,000+ acres of old growth mortality from the Rim Fire, too! Re-burns could start impacting the Rim Fire area, beginning this fire season.

Yosemite Visit

I recently spent three days in the Yosemite National Park area, shooting each day, in different locations. Yes, I did find a marvelous group of dispersed camping sites (free!) within the Rim Fire perimeter. Of course, they were there before the fire but, those spots still look great. Yes, there are also patches of high-intensity burn along Hardin Flat Road (the old highway) that have been salvage logged, too.

One of the places I went to, inside the park, was a large patch of high-intensity burn, all around Hodgdon Meadow. The campground wasn’t really impacted much by the fire. All around the fringe of the large meadow were green and healthy trees. They should be a good source of seeds, and it looks like most sugar pines had an excellent “cone year”. The problem will be the inevitable re-burns, with heavy fuels from trees like these:


Yes, there are some tufts of green up there but, will the trees be able to fight off drought and bugs, with damaged cambium? Probably not. Yosemite has become a giant incubation “Motherland” for bark beetles, who don’t stay inside the lines on the map. However, I would recommend Hodgdon Meadow Campground (right near the Highway 120 Entrance Station) for your visit to Yosemite. There is something very primitive to camping under such giant trees (non-Sequoias).

Speaking of Giant Sequoias, I dropped into the Tuolumne Grove, to see how the Rim Fire impacted the area. I knew that firefighters had set up sprinklers, and I could tell by looking at the Google Maps view that there wasn’t much intensity there. This area (pictured below) was about as scorched as much as I could find, along the trails. Certainly, nothing to worry about. I’ll bet there is more insect mortality in the area than fire mortality. I’m sure that some will say they wished it had burned a little more intensely. Most of the grove didn’t burn nearly as well as in this picture.


I went to Foresta, to view last year’s re-burn and the progress of “recovery” of the Yosemite side. Here are some views of that situation:


Nine years after the re-burn, and 25 years after the original A-Rock Fire, this area remains desolate. Even brush is having a hard time growing, in soils with very little organic matter. The soils dry out and growth stops, during the hot summers.


Looking westward, you can see last year’s re-burn, mostly on the Forest Service lands outside the Park. I worked on the original A-Rock salvage project, way back in 1991. I still have some Kodachrome slides from those days, up on that long ridge. The snags in this view probably survived the A-Rock Fire but not the Big Meadow Fire.

Yes, I did go into Yosemite Valley and found some uncrowded hiking along the Merced River.


I did see some significant pine beetle patches, in Yosemite Valley. It seems like a “normal” level of bark beetles, considering the horrible drought, and all.


There is a lot more to see over on my Facebook page

Rim Fire Update

Apparently, enough of the hazard trees within the Rim Fire on the Stanislaus NF have been cut so that the travel ban has finally been lifted, after more than a year. I heard one report that says that the litigation has failed at the District Court level, losing their pleas to stop the logging three times. The article below includes the Appeals Court but, I doubt that an appeal has been seen in court yet. It seems too soon after the District Court decision for the appeal to be decided.



Since the Rim Fire tore through the area and devoured over 250, 000 square miles of National, State and private forested land, the community has come together to put together a solution with positive environmental, economical and social sense. The whole effort to restore forests has been very successful due to cooperation of a diverse group of individuals, organizations and government agencies.

(Edit: Thanks to Matt for pointing out the acres/square miles error. That should be 250,000 acres.)

With a monster storm approaching California, we should be seeing some catastrophic erosion coming from the Rim and King Fire areas. Of course, very little can be done to prevent erosion on the steep slopes of the canyons with high burn intensity. Standing snags tend to channel water, while branches and twigs on the ground can hold back a surprising amount of soil. This flood event would have been great to document through repeat photography but, it appears that opportunity will be lost, too.

Bark beetle activity has also spiked where I live, northwest of the Rim Fire.

Throwback Thursday, Yosemite-style

I’ve found my hoard of old A-Rock Fire photos, from 1990! I will be preparing a bigger repeat photography article, after I finish selecting and scanning. Like several other fires this summer, the A-Rock Fire started in the Merced River canyon, burning northward. I really believe that this is the model of what will happen to the Rim Fire, if we do nothing to reduce those dead and dying fuels. Active management opponents never want to talk about the devastation of re-burns, as an aspect of their “natural and beneficial” wildfires. Most of those snags have “vaporized” since this 1989 wildfire. Indeed, this example should be considered when deciding post-fire treatments for both the Rim Fire and the King Fire, too.

It should be relatively easy to find this spot, to do some repeat photography, along the Big Oak Flat Road.