Saturday, October 12, 2013

salvaging the forest.

Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., might have known that his proposal to salvage burned timber from Yosemite’s Rim Fire would not go over smoothly. Not only is he trying to auction off logging contracts in a national park while his own party’s antics have kept that park closed to citizens, he wants to sidestep the whole “public process” thing to prevent environmentalists from getting in the way. Even when public input is allowed and citizens aren’t being arrested for setting foot in national parks, the mere suggestion of salvage logging is enough to draw controversy.

The idea itself is simple: In the aftermath of a forest fire, the U.S. Forest Service sometimes contracts private companies to haul out dead or damaged timber, removing fuel that could feed future fires and gleaning some money from an otherwise grim situation. But opponents say the process inhibits the forests’ natural ability to heal, punching new roads into already damaged land, sending heavy machinery trundling over sensitive soil and removing the dead snags that benefit wildlife.

The most recent high-profile controversy was Oregon’s 2002 Biscuit Fire. Environmental opposition there delayed salvage logging for years, and by the time the wood finally made it out of the forest, only a fifth was sold, in part because the logs were already rotting.

McClintock wants to make sure the same thing doesn’t happen to the 1 billion board feet left by Yosemite’s Rim Fire. To try to expedite salvage, he’s introduced a bill to commercially log 257,000 acres of Yosemite National Park and Stanislaus National Forest without the public notice and environmental review that applies to most salvage timber sales on federal lands. McClintock’s bill, which has 11 co-sponsors and is now in committee, would also exempt the entire process from lawsuits.


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