A dozer makes a fireline through the forest during the Gap Fire. The area where Klamath National Forest is proposing the Horse Creek Logging Project. Photo courtesy of inciweb.
But there is another way. The Karuk Tribe has submitted their own alternative for the Klamath National Forest to consider, the “Karuk Alternative”. EPIC fully endorses the Karuk Alternative. Developed by the Karuk Tribe’s Department of Natural Resources, the Karuk Alternative is based on forest .science not timber markets. It recognizes that logging post-fire forests harms natural forest recovery as well as nearby salmon-bearing streams. The Karuk Alternative places an emphasis on returning fire to the landscape, using fire as a natural fuels reduction solution to ensure the safety of rural landowners. The Karuk Alternative still provides for jobs for rural landowners through the development of fire breaks and through fuel reduction work near private property. In short, it provides local jobs while protecting wildlife: a win/win.
The Karuk Alternative limits salvage logging because the Karuk Tribe recognizes that salvage logging can harm fish bearing streams and can increase the potential for high-severity fire. Salvage logging results in tremendous amounts of “slash”—unmerchantable trees, limbs, branches, and tops. This slash becomes “jackstrawed,” piled on top of each other like a game of pick up sticks. This slash dries out and, without contact with the ground, takes a long time to decompose, increasing the occurrence of a high-severity fire for around 20 years.
The Karuk Tribe has a special relationship to Horse Creek. Horse Creek is an important cold water refugia for salmon and is near traditional Karuk fishing grounds. As part of mandated government-to-government consultation, the Karuk Tribe asked the Forest Service to consider the Karuk Alternative. The Klamath National Forest has thus far refused to consider the Karuk Alternative. Instead, the Klamath National Forest uses the Karuk Alternative as a tool to argue in favor of their big-timber project.