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Forest Service Proposes Massive Salvage Logging Project in Rim Fire Area
WASHINGTON— The Forest Service is proposing to log 661 million board feet of timber in the area burned by the Rim fire last summer in California’s Stanislaus National Forest. The new proposal, issued as part of a draft environmental impact statement, would sell almost four times the timber volume sold by the Forest Service in the entire state of California in 2013. It would ignore longstanding rules protecting old-growth trees and destroy habitat for roughly 60 percent of imperiled black-backed woodpeckers.
“This timber sale will be incredibly destructive,” said Randi Spivak of the Center for Biological Diversity. “The logging will hurt watersheds and wildlife and even increase the risk of unnatural fires by spreading invasive species. It’s little more than an excuse to cut old trees in forests that would otherwise be protected.”
Decades of science have shown the importance of preserving burned areas for wildlife like black-backed woodpeckers and the function of these complex ecosystems,” Spivak said. “Throwing that away to make the timber industry happy is shortsighted.”
By the Forest Service’s own admission, its proposal would:
* Increase risk of unnatural fire through the spread of flammable invasive species. Logging after fires makes it easy for invasive plants, which act as unnatural fuels, to establish and spread. The Forest Service’s proposal acknowledges “high risk for habitat alteration [and]; high risk of increased vectors” that will result in areas that would not ordinarily burn frequently or at high intensity to now do so in the future.
* Harm rare wildlife. Post-fire species like rare black-backed woodpeckers depend on intensely burned forests to nest and forage for food such as insects that initiate nature’s recycling of the burned trees. The shrubs and plants that begin to grow also provide food and cover for an abundance of birds and pollinators; they provide nutrients like nitrogen to the soil for the regrowing forests. The Forest Service’s proposed action would destroy the homes of about 60 percent of black-backed woodpecker families.
* Log old-growth trees. To protect older forests on the Stanislaus National Forest, trees larger than 30 inches in diameter at their base normally cannot be logged. But in the name of “salvage,” the Forest Service would remove those limits so that the oldest and largest trees can be cut down.
* Harm watersheds. The proposal would road and log the largely roadless and pristine watershed of the Clavey River.
* Lose taxpayers money. Flooding the log market would be a boondoggle for the timber industry and would have an “adverse economic” impact on taxpayers, as the Forest Service concedes. This is because the glut of timber would result in depressing the market price.
In an unusual move, the Forest Service held collaborative workshops to develop its proposal, including inviting recommendations from wildlife experts on how to best protect wildlife habitat and watersheds. Woodpecker experts, for example, recommended retaining habitat to protect at least 75 percent of black-backed woodpecker pairs. But the draft environmental impact study rejected this recommendation without any sound basis.
“This plan is an enormous disappointment,” Spivak said. “The Forest Service essentially ignored scientists in order to allow massive logging for the timber industry. Post-fire wildlife habitat is one of the rarest habitat types in the Sierras and deserves to be conserved, not destroyed.”
The forests in the Rim fire area continue to thrive: Hillsides are now covered with blooming flowers and plants, birds are feeding off of the dead trees, new conifers are sprouting, and deer and other wildlife thrive.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 775,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.