Public input sought on removing trees hit by Rim fire

03/12/2014 7:56 PM

03/13/2014 12:01 AM

The Stanislaus National Forest is seeking public comment on its proposal for removing hazardous trees from the Rim fire area.

The trees threaten to topple onto roads, campsites and other places the public will frequent once the fire zone reopens, the forest staff said. These trees, along with others cut down by firefighters while battling the blaze, would go to sawmills.

The proposal is separate from the forest’s plan for salvage logging, which includes fire-killed trees that are far from roads.

Both projects are in the early stages of the recovery from the fire, which spread across 257,314 acres in the national forest, Yosemite National Park and private land from August to October.

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 plan calls for hazardous tree removal along 194 miles of “high-use” forest roads and on 1,329 acres developed for camping, power lines or other uses.

“The dramatic change in forest condition as a result of the Rim fire significantly increased the risk to human life, safety and property,” the staff wrote in an environmental assessment.

That document is subject to public comment over a 30-day period ending April 10. Forest Supervisor Susan Skalski will consider the comments in making a final decision, expected in May.

The larger salvage logging plan, also awaiting a decision, would cover 29,648 acres, about a tenth of the total fire area. It would not be done in parts of the national forest that are brushland, young plantations, river corridors or conifer stands with less severe damage.

Yosemite does not do salvage logging but can remove trees that threaten people or buildings. Sierra Pacific Industries, by far the largest private land owner in the Rim fire perimeter, has started salvage logging under state regulation. It has two sawmills in Tuolumne County.

SPI and the national forest also will be replanting conifers in suitable areas, repairing roads and other assets damaged by the fire, and watching for erosion where the flames degraded soil.

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