California Forum

Another View: Salvage logging after wildfires is complicated but necessary

The King fire restoration project will leave more than 33,000 acres of severely burned forest habitat untreated for species that thrive on dead trees and other plants that flourish after a wildfire.
The King fire restoration project will leave more than 33,000 acres of severely burned forest habitat untreated for species that thrive on dead trees and other plants that flourish after a wildfire. rbenton@sacbee.com

Wildlife biologist Monica Bond missed the intent of salvage logging from the King fire restoration project in the op-ed “End destructive practice of logging forests after wildfires” (Viewpoints, Sept. 27).

Severely burned forest habitat has an important place in the natural world, and the restoration project will leave more than 33,000 acres of this habitat untreated for species that thrive on dead trees and other plants that flourish after a wildfire. On another 13,000 moderately burned acres, there will be a complex mix of live and dead trees, with new seedlings generated from surviving trees. More than 73 percent of the King fire area in Eldorado National Forest will have no artificial restoration treatment and will be left to restore itself naturally.

Treating 11,000 acres of burned forest in the King fire area with salvage logging is complicated because these treatments have multiple objectives. Salvage logging will remove dead trees that threaten public and firefighter safety, create strategic fire management zones, prepare areas for reforestation and produce lumber for public consumption. This is particularly important for a state that imports most of its wood products. Another 6,000 acres of burned forest will be treated with prescribed fire and erosion control activities.

Research indicates that the amount of forest in the King fire area where no trees survived is above the historic average and is related to fuel buildup and climate change. Taking a portion of this area to remove dead trees and do active reforestation to bring back mature trees more quickly will contribute to habitat diversity.

Planting trees will also help maintain a sustainable reserve of trees for future wood products. Some of the salvage logging treatments are on strategic ridge tops and will help us manage future fire while others are adjacent to private property. The science community is saying we need to reintroduce more fire for ecosystem health. We can’t do that unless we can reasonably protect adjacent private property.

The King fire restoration project was designed with concern for many kinds of wildlife, but especially the California spotted owl. Some spotted owl territories were severely burned and can no longer support the owls while others remain largely intact.

We will limit operations during the nesting season and limit treatments in habitat that may support spotted owls to reduce the likelihood of any significant effect on the overall population. This balance is consistent with the multiple-use and ecological restoration mission of the U.S. Forest Service.

Laurence Crabtree is the forest supervisor for Eldorado National Forest.

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