Sierra environmentalist group sounds the alarm about Rim fire salvage-logging bill in the House

Sierra environmentalist group sounds the alarm about Rim fire salvage-logging bill in the House

28 November 2013

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USA — A group based in Twain Harte is urging Congress to reject a bill that would waive environmental review of salvage logging from the Rim fire.

The Central Sierra Environmental Resource Center contends that the review is needed to ensure that the logging leaves enough dead trees in place to protect the soil and sustain wildlife adapted to charred forest.

Executive Director John Buckley said the group supports a substantial amount of salvage logging in the part of the Stanislaus National Forest burned by the massive blaze. But it takes exception to House Resolution 3188, introduced in September by Republican Rep. Tom McClintock, whose district includes the burned area.

McClintock argues the salvage timber sales need to move quickly to prevent the wood from decaying to the point where it is useless for sawmills.

“But this can’t happen if salvage is indefinitely delayed by bureaucratic processes or the usual litigation filed by extremist environmental groups,” he said in a news release.

The fire, the largest in the Sierra Nevada’s recorded history, started Aug. 17 and burned more than a quarter-million acres in the national forest and Yosemite. It did varying amounts of damage to mature forest, plantations from past fires, brushland and other acreage.

McClintock’s bill, which passed the House Natural Resources Committee on Nov. 14, would exempt the salvage logging from the environmental reviews by the U.S. Forest Service, appeals by the public and further reviews by the courts. It had called for logging in Yosemite, which allows removal only of hazardous trees, but that provision was removed.

Buckley said the two Tuolumne County mills owned by Sierra Pacific Industries, at Standard and Chinese Camp, can run for several months on timber already available from the Rim fire. This includes logging on company land near Cherry Lake, which is regulated by the state, and trees that the national forest is taking out promptly near roads, campgrounds and other sites because they are hazards to the public.

In the meantime, Buckley said, the Forest Service can do the proper study on the rest of the planned logging. He noted that dead, standing trees, also known as snags, provide homes for some wildlife. He also said dead, downed trees are another kind of habitat and help keep soil from eroding.

“There are plenty that can be left for wildlife, watershed and soil purposes while still allowing a significant number to be removed to provide wood products for the timber industry,” Buckley said.

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