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Action Alert: Protect Mendocino National Forest from Destructive Post-Fire Logging

Smoke from burnout. July 10, 2012. Credit: Steve Clark, USFS, NorCal Team II

Take Action Now! The U.S. Forest Service is proposing to conduct damaging “salvage logging” on  the Mendocino National Forest in an area affected by the 2012 Mill Fire.  This logging is planned to take place within the Blue Slides Late Successional Reserve (LSR) and designated Spotted Owl critical habitat.  Under the Northwest Forest Plan, the LSRs are supposed to be managed to promote old growth forest characteristics and the species that depend on big old trees for survival.  Damaged and dead trees (snags) are important structural components of late-successional forests and are key habitat for numerous species, especially Spotted Owls and Pacific Fisher.  Indeed, snags and downed wood have been found by leading researchers to be critical for numerous species and the integrity of old-growth forests.  They provide forage, cavities for nesting and protection, perch sites, and den sites. Large snags are considered to be one of the distinctive features of an old-growth forest.

Fire and tree mortality are natural elements in a forest ecosystem.  Logging of large snags does not contribute to recovery of forest habitat, but instead is one of the most damaging forms of logging that can take place.  In addition to removing legacy snags and old-growth components, the U.S. Forest Service is also proposing to arrest the natural recovery process by removing numerous living trees that have survived the fire.  Much of the area is already naturally regenerating.  Logging with ground based equipment such as tractors and bulldozers on fragile soils will destroy natural re-growth and exacerbate erosion and sediment deliver to waterways.

Post-fire landscapes and snag forests are alive and vibrant. They are more biologically diverse than unburned forest and provide for an array of plant and animal species. Post-fire landscapes are considered to be one of the most rare, endangered, and ecologically important forest habitat in western U.S. forests, and the stand-transforming fires that create this habitat are not damaging the forest ecosystem.  Rather, they are advancing ecological restoration and are part of the natural cycle.

The Emergency Situation Determination that the U.S. Forest Service officials are seeking will have the effect of short-circuiting responsible environmental analysis and would allow logging to begin immediately after a Decision by the Forest Supervisor despite an appeal or pending lawsuit. Science indicates that post-fire logging may result in significant impacts to soils, wildlife, late successional characteristics and hydrology, which necessitate the completion of an Environmental Impact Statement.


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