Feds reveal details of plan for Rim fire salvage logging

The Modesto BeeDecember 9, 2013 

The Stanislaus National Forest has released a detailed proposal for salvage logging from the Rim fire and is asking what the public thinks.

The plan calls for removing dead trees from 29,648 of the 257,314 acres that burned over several weeks after the Aug. 17 start of the fire.

The work would provide pine, fir and cedar logs to sawmills via timber sales that would help pay for replanting and other recovery work. The volume of timber is not known.

The salvage would not be done over the vast majority of the burn area, including Yosemite National Park, brushland, young plantations, river corridors and conifer stands with less severe damage. The plan also would not involve logging planned on private timberland within the national forest boundary, which the state oversees.

Forest Supervisor Susan Skalski announced the plan in the Federal Register last week.

"Vegetation burn severities in the project area varied from low to high, but many areas contain trees killed or so severely damaged that they are not expected to survive," she wrote.

The forest has launched a 30-day period, ending Jan. 6, for the public to comment on what should be covered in the draft environmental impact study on the logging. The study will guide a tentative decision expected in April and a final decision that could come in August.

The blaze, the largest in the Sierra Nevada's recorded history, is believed to have started from a hunter's illegal campfire near the confluence of the Tuolumne and Clavey rivers. The hunter has not been identified.

The salvage logging is in addition to the removal of trees in danger of toppling near roads, campgrounds and other places the public visits.

In the salvage areas, the forest staff plans to leave some dead, standing trees and downed logs for the benefit of wildlife that can live in burned landscapes.

The notice said many stands were overly dense before the fire and that logging would reduce the chances of future blazes.

Republican Rep. Tom McClintock, whose district includes the burn area, has introduced a bill that would waive the environmental review process for Rim salvage sales. The measure, which cleared the House Committee on Natural Resources last month, is opposed by environmental groups.

The bill also had called for logging in Yosemite, but McClintock dropped that language in the face of protest.

How to comment

Comments on the Rim fire salvage logging plans can be submitted in these ways:

• Email: Send it to comments-pacificsouthwest-stanislaus@fs.fed.us. Write "Rim Recovery" in the subject line.

• Mail or drop-off: Stanislaus National Forest, Attn: Rim Recovery, 19777 Greenley Road, Sonora 95370

• Fax: (209) 533-1890

More information is available at www.fs.usda.gov/stanislaus or from Maria Benech at (209) 532-3671 or mbenech@fs.fed.us.

Rim fire meetings

The Stanislaus National Forest will hold three open houses this week dealing with tree removal in the Rim fire area. All will be at the forest headquarters, 19777 Greenley Road, Sonora.

• Tuesday: Plans for removing hazardous trees near roads, campgrounds and other property will be discussed from 2-7 p.m.

• Friday: Larger plans for salvage logging will be discussed from 2-7 p.m.

• Saturday: Salvage logging will be discussed from 9 a.m. to noon.

The reporter can be reached at (209) 578-2385 or jholland@modbee.com.

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