The Aftermath of the Rim Fire
Forest Sustainability Action Coalition
April 23, 2014
This is a chart of the board feet harvested out of the forests plotted against the acres destroyed by fire. As the board feet declined, the fire destruction increased proportionally. The excess timber is either carried out or it is burned out.
For the past six years that I have attended these meetings, this comes up every time – and yet timber yield continues to decline, from 1.9 billion board feet in 1980 to 223 million board feet last year.
Now we have had the Rim Fire. It is estimated that on the current trajectory of fires, every acre of productive forest land will be destroyed by fire within 35 years.
For this, the Forest Service is deeply answerable.
But I do want to thank them for at least attempting to expedite the Timber Salvage Plan and for their assistance in drafting legislation that would cut through the red tape and prevent litigation from running out the clock.
That legislation passed the House, but languishes in the Senate. I met with Senator Feinstein last month, who indicated support for the legislation, but nothing has happened. With it, salvage could begin this month. Without it, salvage cannot begin until August at the earliest, and litigation then could once again run out the clock until this timber loses its commercial value.
We are losing 2.2 million board feet of salvageable timber every day the Senate refuses to act.
Meanwhile, on the 16,000 acres of privately held land, salvage is more than half finished. A portion of those proceeds will be used to re-plant that acreage, which just a few years from now will be thriving, growing new forest. Meanwhile, the public lands are on track to be overwhelmed by brush. Our management of the public lands will be measured against the management of the private lands, and at this point it is clear will be found grievously wanting.
The Forest Service plans to sell 400 million board feet of fire-killed timber next year, but only 100 million board feet of excess timber – adding to the overgrowth in the forests and hastening the next major fire.
At present, we are only harvesting 7 percent of the annual growth of the Sierra and that will be further reduced by the current plan.
The second issue I would like to raise is the overwhelming impact of special interest groups and their influence on the Forest Service. When the Forest Service says it consults and listens to the public, it is usually referring to a handful of activists on the public’s fringe, who are accorded disproportionate influence and attention.