Post-fire logging in Hastings bill is opposed by 250 experts

Rim Fire recovery
A recent photograph of an area in the Rim Fire that burned in and near Yosemite National Park this summer. InciWeb photo.

A bill introduced by Representative Doc Hastings that passed the House would require in some cases salvage logging after fires, would eliminate or reduce environmental restrictions in those projects, and prohibit legal challenges. An editorial in the New York Times has come out against the bill and 250 fire, forestry, and ecology experts have signed a letter opposing it. Below is the first paragraph in the letter:

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Open Letter to Members of Congress from 250 Scientists
Concerned about Post-fire Logging
October 30, 2013

As professional scientists with backgrounds in ecological sciences and natural resources management, we are greatly concerned that post-disturbance legislation addressed in HR 1526, which passed the House in September 2013, would suspend federal environmental protections to expedite and increase logging of post-fire habitat and mandate increased commercial logging of unburned forests on national forests. In addition, HR 3188, as currently proposed in the House, would override federal environmental laws to mandate post-fire clearcutting operations in national forests, Yosemite National Park, and designated Wilderness areas within the 257,000-acre Rim fire on the Stanislaus National Forest and Yosemite National Park. Both bills ignore the current state of scientific knowledge, which indicates that such activity would seriously undermine the ecological integrity of forest ecosystems on federal lands…”

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire. Google+

8 thoughts on “Post-fire logging in Hastings bill is opposed by 250 experts”

  1. There’s an unfortunate view that forests that have burned are somehow like a car accident that needs to be cleaned up. The same people that see the wisdom in sinking Christmas trees in a lake to provide structure for fish can be upset by dead trees on a hillside. Hopefully they prevent any “salvage logging” in this case. I’m looking forward to seeing the areas affected by the Rim fire regenerate, including providing needed habitats for wildlife. Hopefully we’ll get some 1, 2, 3 and 5 year photo essays out of there as well to show people that all the “nuked” rhetoric claiming the Rim fire left just “charred earth” does not reflect the reality.

    1. Well said.

      It’s good to see that letter making the rounds. Disturbance ecology is a subject that needs to be taught in grade schools!

    2. The Rim fire was a stand replacing event. After driving thru some of the most devastated areas I realized that it will never be the same. Not in my life time or my grandchildren’s. The regeneration will be the choking brush and dog hair un managed fir and pine that was allowed to become closed stands of match sticks. To think that just leaving it to “regenerate” on its own is foolish. I saw what the Complex did, areas of fine timber and wildlife habitat was changed into stands of brush. Think of all those owl and Goshawk pacs, gone. It was protected to death and with the above comment it will not change. Forgive me if I sound a bit emotional about the Rim fire. That was my back yard, a place that I grew up in. Its gone. The deer herds are returning to the Jawbone winter grounds. Its gone nothing for them to winter on. Its gone for a long ways not just one winter ground but miles and miles. You can protest and say it will be natural selection, survival of the fittest. I say if the forest had been managed correctly this would not have been so devastating.

      1. Well, I’m sorry to hear you are so emotionally affected by it. It’s true it won’t be like it was before it burned in your lifetime or your grandchildren, but that’s the price we all pay these days after more than a century of fire suppression.

        We had a stand replacement fire here in North Texas in April of 2009, many old-growth Post Oaks were killed. Some people have dozed out all their standing dead trees and turned it into “improved” pasture or grassland and now they complain they have no deer or turkey on their place. Ain’t hard to figure that one out. In the areas that have been left alone, the Oak re-sprouts are already 12-15ft tall, with lots of shrubs and grasses interspersed. In another 60 years or so we’ll have a young woodland, then a forest, and then another fire will come along. No big deal, really – it’s happened thousands of times before; same thing goes for the Rim Fire area. Everything is cyclical in nature.

        Mother Nature operates at a temporal scale that spans far beyond man’s ability to perceive and comprehend. It may take 200 years or so for it to be back “the way it was” (as you remember it), but in the big picture, the “way it was” doesn’t matter, as that was only a moment in time. Forests and grasslands are always changing, always adapting to disturbances, environmental stresses, and changes via weather and climate and man’s actions.

        Many people said Yellowstone was damaged “badly” and “for a very long time”. I drove through there in 1998, ten years after the fires, it was coming along just fine – the Lodgepole Pine had regenerated itself into a fine young stand, most of it the classic doghair thicket typical of early stage regen for that species.

        As for the Rim Fire, it’ll be fine. Go look for the Oaks, they’ll be re-sprouting. Go look for forbs and grasses; see past the black and charred. Go back next spring and see more new growth and changes, wildflowers especially, and some new conifer seedlings. Go back again in the summer and hear the Black-backed Woodpeckers going to town on the snags – their new and short-lived habitat. Just because it comes back different doesn’t mean it’s bad, and there’s more to a forest than trees and timber dollars. All forests start from the ground up as they slowly emerge from the competition of the pioneer species (the guardians of the soil), and what you will witness over the remainder of your lifetime is classic forest succession.

        80% of the land-based ecosystems in North America – Rim Fire area included – evolved WITH fire over the past millions to thousands of years. Fire is not going away, and nor should it; it’s the reason we have such great forests as the ones in the Sierra Nevada and elsewhere.

        And as for the people who see burned timber that remains standing and not logged as going to waste, that’s a long misguided notion. Nothing is ever wasted in Nature – everything gets used by something.

  2. Well SR I agree

    So then I would have to make a practical suggestion………

    Time for the NPS to get high school volunteers and paid staff on a large photo point essay mission of the ENTIRE Rim Fire.

    Two things will happen….you get the PAID staff out of the office and then see those HS students who you can spark into a career field due to ALLLL the up-n- coming retirements…..

    Otherwise, it is just talk about proof that the NPS care about both…….

    Time will tell……OTOH lots of hazards trees out there , that I would suggest NPS mark and inform the public…….’cuz this is just something waiting to happen….for the next few years of hikers that want to get off the marked trail!!!!!

  3. But then…..

    Seeing the error in my thought process……the Parkies would probably not allow 18 and younger “in the hazard area” due to hazard trees and issues unless there were plenty of waivers to be signed…….

    Still……it could be done.

  4. It is true that the area won’t be the same in a single person’s lifetime or several. Many fire regimes operate at long temporal scales and we can’t make decisions based on the tiny perspective that human life gives us.

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