Roadside logging on the Mendocino National Forest after the 2018 Ranch Fire, note the skid trails constructed to facilitate logging running parallel, above and below, the main road. Photo by Kimberly Baker.
The Mendocino National Forest has proposed extensive logging, up to 4,500 acres, within the August Complex Wildfire area. The Plaskett-Keller project is within the Black Butte and Cold Creek Wild & Scenic River watershed. Scientists who’ve studied the environmental harms of post-fire logging have determined that the negative effects are far-reaching and long lasting. Let the Mendocino National Forest know that these burned stands deserve a chance to recover naturally and that logging them to make a quick buck for timber corporations is unacceptable.
Fire is a completely natural and rejuvenating element of California’s forests. Many species rely on recently burned areas. Certain plants can only germinate when their seeds are exposed to high temperatures caused by wildfires. In addition, several animals are uniquely adapted to forage in areas affected by fire. For example, snags, large dead trees often killed by fire, are a necessary forest element for the northern spotted owl. Post-fire logging has been shown to accelerate the colonization of invasive species and disturbs this unique opportunity for native plants and animals to take advantage of complex forest habitat.
The project could negatively impact the Black Butte and Cold Creek Wild & Scenic National Rivers. These rivers were designated as “wild” in 2006 because of their outstanding fisheries, prevalence of Native American cultural sites and unique geological characteristics. The rivers also serve as critical habitat for steelhead trout. Post-fire logging is well known to cause sedimentation, which directly harms juvenile salmon and aquatic habitat. The proposed post-fire logging runs up to the edge of these rivers in some places and would likely harm water quality.
Post-fire logging also has negative implications for climate change. When a live tree burns in a wildfire, most of the carbon is not released into the atmosphere. In fact, roughly 95% of the carbon remains in the burned snag. As that snag naturally decomposes and decays, the carbon is returned to the soil where it can provide nutrients to plant species as they re-grow the forest. But, when snags are removed, that carbon is erased from the ecosystem and the already depleted soil is left without the nutrients it needs to replenish and regenerate. Logging, trucking, milling and manufacturing also greatly contribute to carbon emissions.
“Restoration” of dozer line created during the August Complex. Photo credit: Inciweb.org
EPIC understands that some campground and roadside hazard tree removal is valid in order to travel safely in forested areas. However, as currently proposed, the majority of this project is designed to capture the monetary value of these trees. The timber industry and agencies call this “salvage logging” but nothing is being saved except timber company profits, at the expense to taxpayers, water quality, wildlife and wild places.
The Plaskett-Keller project is currently in its scoping period. The Mendocino National Forest wants to hear from the public about what impacts and alternatives it should consider when preparing the environmental assessment. Let them know you support an alternative limited to imminent hazard tree removal on main roads and campgrounds, avoiding all of the negative impacts of post-fire logging and allowing forest stands to naturally recover. March 17th is the deadline to submit comments. Submit your public comment today!