Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Gridlock Impacts Post-Rim Fire Federal Land Management

Recent Controlled Burn on the Mendocino NF

Having both played and worked in timber country (Humboldt County -circa early/mid 1970s), I have a strong appreciation for well-managed private and federal forest lands.  That support has only deepened over the last 24 years based on my current career as an advocate for sustainable recreational opportunities which are dependent on healthy forests.

Many of us watched as the 2012 82K acre Mill Fire burned out the core trail network at the Stonyford OHV Area on the Mendocino National Forest.   That fire closed the area to all public access – including both casual and permitted OHV activity- for one year.  For any number of reasons (planning gridlock, fear of environmental lawsuits, appeals, burdensome regulations, etc.) the Forest Service was not able to get the salvage sale out in a timely manner and any merchantable trees were destroyed by the bark beetle.

Pre-Fire Fuels/Timber Project

Today as over 200 logging trucks per day haul salvage trees off of private timber lands damaged by the 2013 257K acre Rim Fire that burned in the Stanislaus National Forest, Yosemite National Park, and other lands, not one logging truck has hauled a load from NF lands. The agency appears to be jammed up by the same political, legal, and regulatory planning-noose that plagued the Mill Fire.

Article on the Rim Fire Planning Jam

In an effort to become part of a potential solution to this stalemate,  I proudly answered the call to represent recreation on the Mendocino National Forest’s Firescape Collaborative.  This is part of the Fire Learning Network’s effort to bring diverse stakeholders together to see if we can agree on some forest health projects that can protect both the resource and other related interests such as private property owners, recreationists, and local businesses.

Example of Shaded Fuel Break Project 

Fire Learning Network

I don’t have the answer to the aforementioned planning and project gridlock.  However, it is clear to me the current paradigm is not acceptable.  Prescribed fire has been used for thousands of years to manage timber lands and must be introduced back into the environmental equation.  I believe it is also important to reintroduce both pre and post-fire timber harvest into the planning mix. 

Trail/Resource Impacts from 2012 Mill Fire

Healthy forests and vibrant local economies are concepts that should be supported by both sides of the land-use debate.  Gridlock serves neither.

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