Fire is as natural as rain in the mountains of Northern California. Forests have been shaped and influenced by fire for millennia. In fact, of all the acres that burn in forest fires most often less than 10% burn at high severity, meaning that 90% burns at low and moderate severity, clearing and opening the forest floor.
Forests Need Fire — Not Destructive Salvage Logging
Post-fire landscapes are alive and vibrant. They are more biologically diverse than unburned forests and provide for an array of plant and animal species. Post-fire landscapes are considered to be one of the rarest and most ecologically important forest habitats in western forests, and the stand-transforming fires that create this habitat are not damaging the forest ecosystem. Rather, they are advancing ecological restoration.
Multiple plant and animal species depend on post fire habitats. Fire maintains the quality and quantity of foraging habitat for wide-ranging species such as deer and elk. Damaged and dead trees (snags) are important structural forest components and are key habitat for numerous species. They provide forage, cavities for nesting and protection, perch sites, and den sites. Large snags are one of the most distinctive features of an old-growth forest and contribute shade, providing cool microclimates and future soil nutrients.
Fire suppression and the military style of fire fighting can be more environmentally destructive than wildfire itself. Suppression tactics often include cutting down large snags, bulldozing miles of ridge tops and lighting high severity fires to “control” fire behavior. Furthermore, it is often natural elements such as rain, topography or weather that ultimately put the flames out.
While suppression may be justified around homes and communities it can often lead to devastating negative environmental effects far from human life and property. It is well know that creating a defensible “fire-safe” area and building with fire resistant materials is the best way to prevent loss of homes and structures.
Post Fire Logging
Fire and tree mortality are essential elements in a forest ecosystem. Logging on fragile post-fire soils inhibits and damages natural growth and recovery.
Logging of large snags and trees within post fire landscapes does not contribute to recovery of forest habitat. The best available science indicates that post-fire logging may result in significant impacts to soils, wildlife, late-successional characteristics and hydrology.
Threats to Our Public Lands from Current Salvage Logging Proposals
As of January 2013, and in the wake of several large fires on public lands in the summer of 2012, there are a series of new salvage logging proposals being promoted by timber sale planners on the Mendocino and Klamath National Forests. Click on the following links to find out more about the environmental threats of each of the new salvage logging projects.
Unfulfilled Promises – EPIC Documents Forest Service Failures in Past Post-Fire Salvage Logging Project Implementation
When looking at proposed projects it is instructive to review recent salvage projects to compare the project proposal with the results of project implementation. EPIC monitoring of past salvage projects demonstrates a failure on the part of the United States Forest Service to fulfill their promise in project implementation to avoid environmental degradation from industrial activity. This is another argument against letting these new destructive projects proceed unchallenged, as after on-the-ground monitoring revealed multiple inconsistencies between project planning and what actually happened on the ground. Click below to read about EPIC’s monitoring of the following projects:
EPIC is encouraging a different plan of action
We are working to incorporate the traditional ecological knowledge of the region’s native people with a new scientific approach to wildfire management. Prescribed burning, selective thinning and similar measures are tools that can begin changing the way state agencies think about wildfire and return our region to a natural fire cycle.
The documentary by the Klamath-Salmon Media Collaborative, Catching Fire: Prescribed Burning in Northern California tells a compelling story of how a small but committed group of local, tribal, state and federal land managers are bringing back the use of prescribed fire as a tool to protect communities and ecosystems across Northern California.
Forests Born of Fire, produced by Wild Nature Institute is another short film that demonstrates the beauty and life found where burned forests are left to wild nature.
As a society, we must understand that fire is an essential element in maintaining healthy ecosystems.
People continue to move deeper and deeper into Northern California’s forests and balancing the needs of private land owners with effective wildfire management techniques is not easy. However, working with state agencies, local fire safe councils, regional Indian tribes, and other community members, we look to form a holistic approach to wildfire management that addresses the needs of the land and the people who call it home.