Rim Fire: What's Next (ecologically)?

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Nkane

Trad climber
San Francisco, USA
Topic Author's Original Post - Sep 8, 2013 - 05:25pm PT
Question for SuperTopo botanists, ecologists, horticulturalists, forestry professionals, and others:

How will the forest recover from the Rim Fire?

I drove back on 120 today and there was great variety in the level of damage. In some areas, everything was toast, from the forest floor to the crowns. How will recovery look in these areas? What species will colonize those areas first? How long will it take for species to succeed back to a mature forest?

Possibly a more interesting question is the areas that were less heavily damaged. Some trees still have their needles but they've turned brown. Are they dead, or will they recover next year? What species like to grow in the recently burned soil under an intact canopy?

I feel like I don't know enough about California ecology and would love to learn from your collective wisdom.
eKat

Trad climber
Less than a second shy of 49 minutes
Sep 8, 2013 - 05:31pm PT
Epilobium and other pioneer species will spring up. . . read about them here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chamerion_angustifolium

eKat

Trad climber
Less than a second shy of 49 minutes
Sep 8, 2013 - 05:33pm PT
Lodgepole pine are interesting. . . really good info here. . . and further down the thread.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pinus_contorta
the albatross

Gym climber
Flagstaff
Sep 8, 2013 - 08:33pm PT
I like to believe that fire is a natural process. For whatever multitude of reasons (i.e. a warming planet, a century of fire suppression, more humans in the woods), in the last twenty years we have witnessed more severe wildfires. Severe meaning larger, hotter burning fires. Of course within any fire some areas burn hotter than others. In areas which are "moonscaped" (burned extremely hot due to heavy fuel loading) some soils actually become water repellent (hydrophobic). Those areas might take centuries to "recover" whatever that means. In areas that burn with less intensity, perhaps mimicking burns which occurred for tens of thousands of years before this last century, it probably will be springing with life after the first rains. In areas burned of less intensity, fire sort of 'cleans house', removing accumulated fuels from the forest floor, releasing nutrients back into the soil, opening up the forest for sunlight to reach the floor, etc... I've seen many moderately burned areas bursting with life just weeks after being burned. I'm fairly certain that most scientists would consider a fire such as the Rim fire to be "unnatural" due to reasons stated above, so it will be interesting to see how the land recovers in the coming decades.
I don't know if he has anything online, but Dr. Walter Covington of Northern Arizona University has done extensive research on fire effects on the ponderosa forest of NAZ.
On a side note, a few days ago one of my pilots told me he saw a large black bear running from the area where firefighters were working. It sounded neat that the bear knew enough to escape the fire area. This pilot spends his career working on fires and believes that much wildlife is able to escape the flames, almost as if it were a part of their evolutionary development.
Ron Anderson

Trad climber
Soon to be Nipple suckling Liberal
Sep 8, 2013 - 08:38pm PT
I think the worst culprits will be invasive weeds/brush. If Great basin burns are any indicator. They have abilities to spring up and over take a lot of natural vegetation in much harsher climates.
mongrel

Trad climber
Truckee, CA
Sep 8, 2013 - 09:39pm PT
The lodgepole pine (P. contorta ssp. murrayana) does not have serotinous cones (opened by high temperature). The other subspecies do, but not that one, which is the taxon that is widespread in the Sierra and Rockies. And regardless, most or all of the Rim fire occurred at lower elevations than lodgepole forest. Also, there won't be much fireweed: too dry.

What there will be is a TON of lupine. There was a fire some 15 or so years ago along 120, possibly re-burned by the Rim fire, and there were spectacular displays of lupine for years. Also, there will be lots of shrub regrowth, mostly from seeds that germinate after fire (e.g. ceanothus, of which several species are abundant in west slope Sierra vegetation), but also from sprouting. It will probably not take very long for pine seeds to blow in, but oaks will take a while. Fires in the Great Basin often are followed by weeds, but this is less of an issue in the region of the Rim fire. Unless of course they are transported in by equipment.

I don't know about the post-fire succession of the west slope conifers. I would suppose that the stand-replacing parts of the fire (trees totally burned up) will regrow only from seeds that blow in, but areas of ground fire might still have viable seeds that will germinate. Trees whose leaves are all browned may or may not survive the first year, but if the buds of most branches are sizzled, the tree won't make it long term. If there is very much green canopy, it's no problem, they'll just carry on growing.

Edited to expand: Since you've opened the fire ecology can of worms, and the thread is still in the realm of information rather than insults, a few other notes:

There is excellent paleoecological science showing a good correlation between periods of warmer, drier climate and incidence of large fires in the western U.S. And indeed, if you look at the list of the 20 largest fires in California history (the earliest of these being in 1932 - earlier, there just isn't good enough documentation), 11 of them have occurred in the last 10 years, and only 3 in the 10 years before that, 3 in the 10 years before that, 2 in the 70s, and the one in 1932. That's not chance; there's a definite climate connection. Fuel accumulation may have contributed a little bit, but only in conifer forest, and many of the really large fires are in coast range or southern California chaparral, where the issue of fuel accumulation and suppression is totally irrelevant.

It is also interesting that about 2/3 of the 20 largest fires were human-caused (including power lines). But this was ALWAYS the case. The high incidence of ground fires in the Sierra prior to, say, 1900 was from them being set by both the Indians and U.S. immigrants. There's some interesting information that maybe the heavy grazing pressure from cattle and sheep since then eliminated the low fine fuels needed for spread of these "healthy" understory fires, but I've just seen one paper about that. Need more info.

Going further back, there never was a period of the hypothetical "pristine" Sierra forests. EVER. Just as soon as the glaciers melted about 10,000 years ago and the climate became suitable for conifer forest, in came the first (or maybe by then the second) wave of immigrant peoples coming from Asia, and you can bet they were setting fires to make good herbivore and herbaceous-product-gathering vegetation any time they could. Before Smoky, why would you extinguish a fire? It's a useful thing, you or some other traveler might be happy to find it still going. So, there were a lot of fires since forever. All available lines of evidence indicate this was the case for centuries, even thousands of years. And most of them human-caused.

That said, the human-caused fire frequency in some places, most especially So Cal chaparral, is way to high and is resulting in conversion from chaparral, which is excellent habitat, to non-native weeds and grasses, which is not.

Food for thought!

One last edit: link to the Calfire list is http://www.fire.ca.gov/communications/downloads/fact_sheets/20LACRES.pdf
tithaf

Trad climber
Sierra Madre, CA
Sep 8, 2013 - 09:42pm PT
Hi all - I am at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. We are preparing with the state of California, USGS, USFS, NPS, NSF, etc. to perform coincident imaging spectrometer and lidar flights over the Rim Fire scar (once it is just that). Some parts of the scar had been flown multiple times this last spring for snow studies. The imaging that we perform in the next month or so will give us a strong idea of the impacts of the fire immediately post-fire and a baseline against which we can determine with annual or so flights to determine the ecological recovery and the hydrologic implications. I will come back with image results when we have them and update you all.

tithaf
bergbryce

Mountain climber
California
Sep 8, 2013 - 11:09pm PT
Cool. I'd get back into remote sensing and GIS if I could get into a land cover change study like that. Who has my funding?? ;-)
FortMentäl

Social climber
Albuquerque, NM
Sep 9, 2013 - 12:37am PT
Depends on how hot the fire was.

Some get hot enough to sterilize the ground far below the seed zone, in which case in could be decades before native species get any kind of a toe hold. The other thing to consider is how an area this large will affect precipitation: will snow fall in the same amounts as it once did? In Los Alamos, where forest fires half nuked the city, the burned areas still look freshly burned: very little grows there, even after 13 years:

khanom

Trad climber
Greeley Hill
Sep 9, 2013 - 07:34am PT
mongrel, thanks for that very informative post!
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
And every fool knows, a dog needs a home, and...
Sep 9, 2013 - 07:53am PT
I've heard that soil sterilization bit before. They said when the Priest Grade burnt, down below Groveland, that the fire approached 2000 degrees on the ground and had sterilized the soil.

The next spring the wild flowers and other annuals that inundate burnt chaparral zones blossomed by the millions. More than a decade later the you're hard pressed to know a fire burnt it all out. Sterilized it even!

So I'm dubious of this sterilization bullsh#t. I think its reporters repeating reporters, for the most part.

In terms of the ponderosa forest / yellow pine and upper black oak regions that have burned - they are all fire adapted with various strategies to deal with this natural succession of a forest. Left to its own devices the forest will return to a mature canopy. Climate change may push the forest upslope though, as it reestablishes, extending chaparral onto higher sunny slopes.

The hardest thing to do? Look at a burnt moonscape and realize this... the forest is still there. I know that's an esoteric and empty feeling notion right now, but... its nevertheless true.

Its part of the fire cycle. That forest will grow back has it has countless times past.

DMT
Wade Icey

Trad climber
www.alohashirtrescue.com
Sep 9, 2013 - 08:33am PT
From the Yosemite Conservancy.....

Help us Restore Yosemite
Restoration efforts begin after the devastating fire that burned more than 65,000 acres in Yosemite National Park. As the Rim Fire reaches containment, we ask for your help to restore areas damaged in the blaze. Your gift to the Yosemite Fire Restoration Fund will go directly to the National Park Service to help restore trails, facilities, and wildlife habitat destroyed by the fire in Yosemite. Donate now.

Curious what a "Restoration Effort", entails...
the albatross

Gym climber
Flagstaff
Sep 9, 2013 - 10:15am PT
Some interesting observations on this thread.

Mongrel, That was an informative post. I'm curious that you stated most fires are human caused and have been for thousands of years. I have worked perhaps a hundred forest fires which were started by lightning. I know that northern Arizona and Florida have hundreds of fires started most every year by lightning. I do understand that human caused fires are a significant source of fire ignitions and have worked many such incidents. Everything from arson, to downed power lines, car and airplane crashes, careless burning of toilet paper and refuse, abandoned campfires, fireworks, careless welding, etc...

Fort Mental, you are correct that Los Alamos first burned (from an escaped prescribed fire) in May 2000. There was another fire there in 2011 called the Las Conchas ( I believe we were able to contain it without any structures being burned). Your photo looks like it may have been from the more recent fire. I'm not sure how snowfall would be effected by the loss of vegetation, but it would certainly melt much quicker with the loss of canopy cover.

This is an good thread, I hope it remains positive and educational.
FortMentäl

Social climber
Albuquerque, NM
Sep 9, 2013 - 11:15am PT
Albatross, that photo is from the Los Alamos fire, not Las Conchas. I went through Los Alamos 2 years ago and was stunned by how fresh the burn areas still looked. Soil sterilization doesn't just depend on absolute flame temperature. Soil moisture, thermal conductivity, and humus depth will dictate if a fire is hot enough to effectively sterilize the soil.

In the high deserts here where range cattle have wiped out native grasses, pinion-juniper grow at the expense of everything else. Burning these trees destroys surrounding soils, despite relatively low temperatures, and completes a cycle of desertification whereby nothing will grow for perhaps hundreds of years.

Did the Rim Fire sterilize soils? Hell if I know. But it happens, and not just in the Southwest.
the albatross

Gym climber
Flagstaff
Sep 9, 2013 - 11:58am PT
That's amazing that all those snags in the photo are still standing from the Cerro Grande fire in May 2000. One might think that wind and snow would have knocked over more of them by now.
Dr.Sprock

Boulder climber
I'm James Brown, Bi-atch!
Sep 9, 2013 - 12:37pm PT
if you drive Hwy 70 towards Lake Almanor, on the left is a good chunk of land that used to be forest but has nothing growing there now, looks like the desert, been that way about 5 years,

look down from mt woodson to the south-east, still scorched from a fire in the 90's,

on the other hand, plants have took root on the blown out section of mt st helens, biologist had predicted that the area would remain void of vegetation,

FortMentäl

Social climber
Albuquerque, NM
Sep 9, 2013 - 02:33pm PT
For anyone interested in how fire affects soils:

Effects of Wildfire and Harvest Disturbances on Forest Soil Bacterial Communities

Fire Effect on Soil

Effects of fire on properties of forest soils: a review

Effects of Wildfire and Harvest Disturbances on Forest Soil Bacterial Communities
TwistedCrank

climber
Bungwater Hollow, Ida-ho
Sep 9, 2013 - 02:44pm PT
Ewoks.


Pioneer species.
mongrel

Trad climber
Truckee, CA
Sep 9, 2013 - 04:24pm PT
Albatross, absolutely a spot-on comment about relative frequencies of human-caused and lightning fires. I should perhaps have emphasized more strongly that I was talking about California. If you look at the Calfire list, there's the info on which of the 20 largest are human-caused, which lightning, and the dates and acreages. There is very definitely more lightning, and lightning-caused fires, further inland. (Just look at the months when precip falls in California locations, and compare with stations further and further east in the SW desert, and you immediately see that the incidence of summer thunderstorms increases along that geographic gradient.) Lightning-caused fires are relatively uncommon in the California coast ranges and southern cal. chaparral; but there are huge fires in those places occasionally. Naturally, there's no way to speculate about relative frequencies of human-caused vs. natural fires in California prior to the historical era (say, prior to 1850 or so). But from the earliest records we have, there were a LOT of human-caused fires, so it is reasonable to extrapolate that these have been common from the arrival of humans in the area. Fires are useful! and being genetically predisposed to be pyros was probably a key adaptation that conferred an advantage on H. sapiens, which figured out how to use this scary tool early on.

The supposed "sterilization" of soils is much more complicated than it may sound. True, the surface may lose all living cells to some variable depth, but the few that remain below that depth can recreate the microbial community at a rate that varies depending on many factors. Same with seeds, albeit to a lesser extent because they are larger. But some of them get carried down macropores, others brought in by wind or vertebrates, and so on. I'm somewhat wary of restoration efforts, they can be very misguided. Nowadays, there's much more reliance on native species, but still, you can go very wrong using native species from the wrong habitat type, or even the right species but short-circuiting ecological succession in an undesirable way. Increasingly, there's an appreciation that you can just wait for recovery.

Fire and its ecological effects vary greatly from one fire to the next within the same ecological system, and even more so between different ecological settings. Generalizing will always get you in trouble. If you surf around the internet for stuff written by Jon Keeley (USGS), and then follow up on his various co-authors, you'll find a treasure trove of really really smart ideas and excellent field science.

Nkane

Trad climber
San Francisco, USA
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 10, 2013 - 10:40am PT
Thanks for the extremely informative responses, everyone!

When did the area near Big Oak Flat burn? Obviously that region still hasn't recovered, though there is a lot of green there these days.

I'll be looking forward to the air surveys.
Ron Anderson

Trad climber
Soon to be Nipple suckling Liberal
Sep 10, 2013 - 10:55am PT
On more simpler terms, im sure there will be plantings of various species of trees native to the region and "zone". Arial seeding of grasses for erosion concerns also a common practice. That burn was sloppy in many places and leaves islands of trees/ seed sources , so near those areas natural regen is a possible. Other areas will require artificial regeneration to have any trees in it. Much of the north , north east sections of the fire, being so rocky wont see much if any rehab work. Even though trees grew in that area before the fire, artificial regeneration in those places tends to have little survival rates 5 yrs post planting. South facing slopes will also have a dire time recovering as they are naturally drier - facing the sun.

Then take in the siege of invasive weeds we experience these days from whit top to thistles. Cyanosis (sp?) species are also quite common post burn in many zones throughout NV/CA/Or/Wa. They can easily become the climax species and drown out competition.
Water erosion work will be a critical part of the rehab in the important watershed. Im sure there are teams there now, all planning the next ten years worth of rehab work on this burn. Its a slow process no matter the issues faced. The tree count alone is in the millions. Volunteer to go planting, and remember,, green side UP!;-)

mechrist

Gym climber
South of Heaven
Sep 10, 2013 - 11:02am PT
Lodgepole pine serotiny depends on adaptations to the local fire regime

Muir, P. S. and J. E. Lotan. 1985. Disturbance history and serotiny of Pinus contorta in western Montana. Ecology 66:1658-1668

and squirrels

http://www.uwyo.edu/benkman/pdfs%20of%20papers/serotiny.pdf

Just hope it doesn't get covered with white thorn. Hate that sh#t.



Arial seeding of grasses for erosion concerns also a common practice.

Studies I'm aware of show seeding with grasses is ineffective unless it is followed almost immediately by adequate rain, but not so much that it exceeds the infiltration capacity of the soil and causes overland flow. Not many people I know who work in BAER advocate aerial seeding any more... it is a waste of money. I'm sure they will have CCC crews hand seeding/raking/watering in highly vulnerable areas.
Ron Anderson

Trad climber
Soon to be Nipple suckling Liberal
Sep 10, 2013 - 11:27am PT
In a burn that size wes, i wouldnt take out arial work. Its a race against time as you know. Many states still use planes , especially on huge acre burns. Not the best way , but it does help.

Rizzou canyon down by walker Ca burned a few years back, and is now a massive plot of thistles as far as you can see. Incredible over taking by a noxious invasive weed. There are some old burns along the Carson front range which took place 80 yrs ago, and are 100% cyanosis. Even with good seed cast on steep slopes, the brush became dominant.

I see two priorities for rehab.. The watershed for SF, and the "view corridors" along any major roadways. Which includes any lands around established areas, towns etc.

And, they could take this opportunity to increase the sequoia groves !

mechrist

Gym climber
South of Heaven
Sep 10, 2013 - 12:01pm PT
What's the point of dropping seed if it ain't going to germinate? And it ain't going to germinate unless it is followed by the appropriate amount of rain.

Most (or all) of the aerial work will involve dropping straw mulch for soil cover. They may due some hydromulching (with or without seed) but unless they have significantly improved the mulch, it ain't going to work... and may make things worse.
the albatross

Gym climber
Flagstaff
Sep 10, 2013 - 12:07pm PT
I know of several helicopter companies that are involved in 'straw bale bombing", dropping straw over burned areas to slow the erosion process.
Ron Anderson

Trad climber
Soon to be Nipple suckling Liberal
Sep 10, 2013 - 12:08pm PT
Wes,, go to SE ELKO county and tell me arial seeding doesnt work..

They tend to plan things along with weather concerns/ wishes. Jus sayin..

Now a few questions arise as to what they will do for clean up. Immediate salvage sales where practical would be a good direction and good use of the wood, followed by some fire wood sales. Its going to need to be done quickly.

mechrist

Gym climber
South of Heaven
Sep 10, 2013 - 12:16pm PT
Rong, I don't need to go to SE Elko... I've helped study the effectiveness of post-fire treatments (including seeding) on over a dozen burned sites across the western US. The ONE example you are familiar with that (may have) "worked" does not constitute a valid sample.

I know, I know... YOU "know" better than everyone else. 78% of the 94 sites (out of almost 20,000) considered to be relevant are meaningless because you saw seeding work in SE Elko.

https://www.firescience.gov/projects/briefs/08-2-1-11_FSBrief147.pdf
Ron Anderson

Trad climber
Soon to be Nipple suckling Liberal
Sep 10, 2013 - 12:26pm PT
ohww youve been to almost a dozen burns ROFLMAO......

and you have a paper..


Ill keep this thread positive...






So yes, getting rid of much of the burned stems is now a priority i would imagine. Step one to rehab. Im positive they will consider some heli sales as well- as region 4 USFS my timber staff and crew did the first salvage heli sales done and it worked very well. Theres more than a few million board feet of still usable lumber there. And a few winters worth of fire wood for the surrounding towns. Any delay of this will delay a recovery. Heli logging can be quite sanitary with all slash still on the logs when they come into a deck. Chipped or stacked there. Lots of technique variables to be used.
mongrel

Trad climber
Truckee, CA
Sep 10, 2013 - 12:35pm PT
Excellent, great posts all around, and all true! Sometimes, aerial seeding can have great benefits, other times, not so much, even if you try really hard to take best advantage of weather, soils, aspect. Treatments that are great on a north slope might not work on a south slope of the same fire site, or vice versa. Or might work really well one year and not as well the next. I truly admire the agency resource folks, or anyone really, who know their areas well enough to make the difficult judgments of how to get the best environmental benefit from expenditures. The biggest takeaway message from all the great info here is, there's a lot of variation and the only way to sort it out is local knowledge.

Ron is SO totally right about how bad a post-fire weed infestation can be sometimes. That's Centaurea and Carduus (knapweeds and some of the thistles, like musk thistle that's rampant now in our area) I think you mean. (Cyanosis, that's from toking too hard and holding it in until you're literally blue in the face.) This is one of my pet concerns about doing anything: risk of introducing weed seeds that weren't there before. Straw bale bombing is a great method, but what's in that straw? Even if it's rice straw and you're bombing it up in the mountains where the low-elevation upland weeds might not be expected to survive, there are wetland weeds in rice fields, and those get in the burned mtn. meadow, and now we're screwed. Tall whitetop grows everywhere from sea level to at least 8,000 feet. Tools and equipment, the same deal. We always specify equipment to be washed before arrival, but that doesn't really happen. I know of two whitetop infestations in the past year just on exploration sites I'm working on, right there at the drill pads. Now, how did that happen?

Interesting papers, mechrist. Makes a lot of sense. Sorry about the whitethorn, there probably will be a ton of it at the elevations it prefers. Lower down, it will be non-thorny ceanothus. And poison oak! it loves a good burn and is brought in by birds. Oh, boy!
Crazy Bat

Sport climber
Birmingham, AL & Seweanee, TN
Sep 10, 2013 - 12:48pm PT
I can't answer the original question. I was in the area in July. Somewhere in the "Hyw 120 is closed" thread there was a map showing where previous fires had burned and when. I'm a biologist from the east and wondered about several of the different plant communities I had seen. After seeing the map I had a gut level understanding of some of the different plant communities.

mechrist

Gym climber
South of Heaven
Sep 10, 2013 - 12:52pm PT
yep, even "certified weed free" straw ain't weed free.

The gf just spent 14 days as a READ, mostly flagging weeds so the dozers didn't spread them. It was up in Humboldt, so she also identified plenty of weed, hopefully preveting the firefighters from accidentally "burning out."

Ron, seeding success in SE Elko is significant... but a dozen sites across the west (each with at least 3 treatments and one control) and a synthesis of the available studies is laughable? Idiot.
Ron Anderson

Trad climber
Soon to be Nipple suckling Liberal
Sep 10, 2013 - 12:59pm PT
wes,, your feeble attempt to post a link left me with no clue as to WTF yur talking about ,, therefore i noted you had a paper. But thats about all one can deduce from said feeble attempt.. And yur a phd..??



Keep this positve wes. that is all, over and out.





mechrist

Gym climber
South of Heaven
Sep 10, 2013 - 01:01pm PT
Here is a positive tip for you Ron, cut and paste the url into the address bar on your browser. I know you can do it, you are smart like that.
Ron Anderson

Trad climber
Soon to be Nipple suckling Liberal
Sep 10, 2013 - 01:14pm PT
Mongrel,, yes,, unfortunately the invasives we have now are the most prolific bastards ever eh! Wind driven seed three feet off the ground can do RAPID damage. The Rizzou canyon deal was gawd awful quick, the quickest ive ever seen a burn be over run. 18,000 acres of thistles two years. The burnt pinion seemed to be the perfect host micro climate for the seed as a shelterwood situation if you will.

Im not aware of the weed problems of the local area in the rim fire, but its prime land for them what ever they are..






mongrel

Trad climber
Truckee, CA
Sep 10, 2013 - 01:45pm PT
On the more general topic of postfire seeding, the summary note at the url posted above has a few key bits in it that emphasize why, in most respects, you can't just generalize all good or all bad.

The one most consistent finding is that, in the arid West, seeding is almost never effective in controlling erosion of upland areas. This principle holds not only for post-fire, but generally for disturbed soils. You can sometimes get a nice photo-op of a lot of green, but in reality our climates (and there are multiple, even within the arid West) do not support the level of vegetation cover of pioneer species that is necessary to control erosion. You have to achieve that by other means that are impossible and/or prohibitively expensive from the air (there are significant ecological downsides to those fancy expensive sprayed mulches too). Running equipment on recently burned soils is just about the absolute worst possible thing you can do with respect to erosion control.

The summary at firescience.gov makes it clear they're talking about treatments from 1970-2006. It would be a lot more valuable if they subdivided the papers they're summarizing by time period and what was in the seed mixes. It's not very relevant what happens from seeding non-native annual grasses, because that's not what's usually happening nowadays. Then there's an item (and I haven't gone back to the originals, though one would want to) to the effect that, about half of the reported cases of seeding to prevent takeover by weeds, it was effective, and the other half, it wasn't. What I would love to know is, what, if anything that we can discern, differentiates between the sites and treatments where this worked and the ones where it didn't? Even if it was 90 percent ineffective but 10 percent effective, why did those work? That's where the potential progress lies.

For my part, I've seen postfire sites in the Great Basin where seeding didn't do sh!t, and others where it was really beneficial. You really need to burrow into every last detail to learn from this. For example, seeds of some of the shrub species that you might judge to be highly desirable, like sagebrush and rabbitbrush, are really tiny and have very limited period of viability. Everything can be just perfect only if your sagebrush seed is older than it should be, it's a flop. My beef about seizing on failures and successes is lack of these tiny details that make all the difference. Was the sagebrush really the subspecies that it should be for your site? Can you trust that supplier? What did the label tag say about weed content, not just percentage, but species? If you already have cheat grass, well, maybe a half percent of it isn't that big of a deal in some otherwise desirable seed. But in a cheat grass free area, it's zero tolerance. And so on. Details are the whole thing.
Ron Anderson

Trad climber
Soon to be Nipple suckling Liberal
Sep 10, 2013 - 01:57pm PT
Indeed they are Mongrel. And yes ive seen both good and bad of aerial seeding, and have been involved in both good and bad. But on huge burns from what ive seen taking advantage of any percentage is normally practiced. Even hand planting seedling pines will have high mortality rates at 3 yr exams. For One, the critters love them! Deer nip terminal buds like grapes off the vine lol! Gophers prefer the chewy roots.. Ive fed massive amounts of wildlife in my time ..;-) THe wildlife will return to the edges. Deer roll in the fresh ash to get the bugs off them. Of course, there is also new structure paths for the local predators as well in those same edges. Things will change habitually for the local wildlife for some time to come. They are essentially displaced from much of the acreage of the fire now, for food and cover. Competition will be UP in the edge territory's.






mechrist

Gym climber
South of Heaven
Sep 10, 2013 - 02:02pm PT
mongrel, those are good questions... but reveal a bit of idealistic thinking. No way in hell you are going to find a source of native, locally adapted seed that comes anywhere close to covering the areas that would need to be covered for most post-fire restoration. I know some ecologists throughout the west who have collected seed mixes for specific restoration projects (fens, meadows, native plant gardens, etc). It is labor intensive and tricky for many of the reasons you point out (viability with age, weed free, etc). The notion of doing that for post-fire restoration is pretty far fetched... but doing it for my yard works pretty well!!!
Ron Anderson

Trad climber
Soon to be Nipple suckling Liberal
Sep 10, 2013 - 02:09pm PT
That is true wes.

Seed collection should be happening,, uhhh NOW !

As far as trees,, common matches of altitude/aspect/species shouldnt be a problem. Area specific? No clue as to the collection process of the "Stan" these days. I know when i collected seed for the Toiyabe, i got a wide variety from most established aspects altitudes and species needed for the next ten yr plan plus any special collections from current events that year. But this is also a 2.5 yr minimum process via nursery's on contract to the USFS. That is a best case scenario of any collected seed this year.
FortMentäl

Social climber
Albuquerque, NM
Sep 10, 2013 - 02:57pm PT
Regrowth following a fire also depends on pre-existing health of the forest floor; plants, of course generate their local soil chemistries. If pre-fire conditions were already unhealthy, a post-fire floor chemistry will definitely become inhospitable to re-seeded natives.
slidingmike

climber
CA
Sep 10, 2013 - 03:39pm PT
I can see it now: a new forest of poison oak!
Kalimon

Social climber
Ridgway, CO
Sep 10, 2013 - 06:57pm PT
Ron do you perhaps mean Ceanothus?
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
And every fool knows, a dog needs a home, and...
Sep 10, 2013 - 07:10pm PT
Prediction - despite doomsaying to the contrary, I think the Tuolumne River forest will regrow itself just fine. Certain species may migrate upslope upon re-establishement due to a warmer climate. But that forest was made to burn and made to grow itself back again.

I learned this in chaparral country, which has a much shorter burn-to-mature fire cycle - its easy to look at a charred landscape and feel despair. Its so easy maybe 10,000 years of civilization has it hard-wired into us. But you don't have to look at it like destruction, because IT IS NOT!

In the coming months and years, take note of the life as it returns instead of dwelling on what was lost. Watch the annuals come in and the herbs and other understory plants. And watch the deer return with them!

And in a few seasons you'll see your first saplings. Stop and go look at them! Take some pictures, pick one out and resist the urge to interfere, but document it for a few years, watch it grow.

I did this on Fiske Peak, a coast range area repeatedly burned over the last decade (by a fire bug volunteer fireman! Who was finally caught) - this landscape of ours comes back fast. We won't see 100 year old mature trees replacing the ones that burnt, make no mistake. But we will see THOSE TREES that will make their 100 year mark.

Try it. As it rolls around perhaps we can have a thread here to celebrate the new awakening, and even in its charred slumber the landscape is alive with life and vitality.

Cheers
DMT
mechrist

Gym climber
South of Heaven
Sep 10, 2013 - 07:22pm PT
atch the annuals come in and the herbs and other understory plants.

I don't doubt your plant knowledge Dingus, but how many of the above mentioned weeds can you readily id in the field?
Ron Anderson

Trad climber
Soon to be Nipple suckling Liberal
Sep 10, 2013 - 07:29pm PT
Yep K,, i knew i didnt have the correct spelling.Thanks...
TGT

Social climber
So Cal
Sep 10, 2013 - 07:52pm PT
Ten years after the 2000 Manter Fire.

Domelands 2010


Credit: TGT

Credit: TGT

Credit: TGT

What was once one of the most beautiful campsites in the S Sierras. <br/>
...
What was once one of the most beautiful campsites in the S Sierras.

(and it wasn't the two dirtbags that ruined it!)
Credit: TGT
wilbeer

Mountain climber
honeoye falls,ny.greeneck alleghenys
Sep 10, 2013 - 07:56pm PT
DMT is right.
Have you ever been to yellowstone before the fire and then years later too see the rebound .

Truly amazing.
mongrel

Trad climber
Truckee, CA
Sep 10, 2013 - 08:57pm PT
Mechrist, no, the things I mentioned are not idealistic at all, in fact, they are precisely what I do for all seedings I've specified or otherwise collaborated on, and other people I know do it too. The whole cycle, from contracting for collection, through storage, choosing supplemental species from the supplier's stocks by reviewing the provenance and full label data (germination rates, date of collection, weed percentage and composition). This is exactly what you do in order to do good revegetation, and I'm nowhere near the only person who does it this way. So, it's not true that paying attention to those details is idealistic. The seed suppliers have all this data in their computers, you just ask, and they e-mail it right over.

You leaped ahead to a totally different topic, namely, native seed and how much of it one can get. There, I totally agree with you: it's impossible to come up with adequate quantities for revegetating these enormous fires in the sagebrush or in conifer forest, and it's why I think generally aerial seeding isn't a practical, effective technique. But maybe some in specific instances it is, and for those we ought to advance the science of how to get them to be maximally effective.

Then there's the point about locally adapted seed. I personally think a lot of the concern about this is overblown. In special cases, like maybe Tahoe, I can see there might possibly be a point, but for species that range all the way north and south in the Sierra, for example, there's probably so much gene flow that the idea of local adaptation is pretty speculative. I'd prefer not to source, say, ponderosa pine from the Rockies to use in California, but from just about anywhere in California it'll be good enough. In the Great Basin, the degree of local adaption of, say, big sagebrush, is probably pretty limited. Seed from anywhere in Nevada will be fine anywhere else in that state. Stuff from eastern Idaho, not so sure, the climate truly is pretty different there.

Actually, for long-lived species like trees, it's probably preferable to revegetate with a mixture of different genotypes as Ron suggests, just in case there's one or another ecological change that's hard on one of your source genotypes. I just don't think area-specific needs to be all that narrow of an area.

Collecting seed specifically for postfire restoration is difficult to infeasible for exactly the reasons everyone has mentioned. But it's predictable that there will be a few hundred thousand acres of burns every year, it WOULD be technically feasible to regularly collect (or produce in seed farms) stuff they we know we'll use almost every year. But that's truly idealistic: agency resource folks get battered from all sides if they try to take forward-thinking actions.

And don't get me started on the waste of many many millions on expensive mulches sprayed from the air, like they do in LA....
mechrist

Gym climber
South of Heaven
Sep 10, 2013 - 09:09pm PT
Sorry mongrel, I thought you mentioned native seeds. I don't envy the work you do... honestly, I hate plant id and latin.
Ron Anderson

Trad climber
Soon to be Nipple suckling Liberal
Sep 11, 2013 - 08:46am PT
Concerning DMTs the forest will regenerate statement that is true for some fires, while completely false for others.

Moon scaped burns tend to have vast areas where the soils dry out as they are exposed to 100% sun. Without artificial regeneration, these areas convert to mostly, invasive weeds and brush.

Look at the PELICAN FIRE of 78. The one that burned around the Phantom spires. Ceanothus is the rule not the exception. Miles of brush, and little/ no reproduction of trees..
Chaz

Trad climber
greater Boss Angeles area
Sep 11, 2013 - 08:55am PT
The next step is to close all the climbing areas. See "Station Fire" for the blueprint.
The user formerly known as stzzo

climber
Sneaking up behind you
Sep 11, 2013 - 08:58am PT
Look at the PELICAN FIRE of 78. The one that burned around the Phantom spires. Ceanothus is the rule not the exception. Miles of brush, and little/ no reproduction of trees..

Maybe a planting party is in order.
Ron Anderson

Trad climber
Soon to be Nipple suckling Liberal
Sep 11, 2013 - 11:09am PT
Fact is i can mention many fires that 30 yrs later have yet to recover to any significant form. Some hills around carson were clear cut for the mines in the comstock, and have forever changed the climate of those peaks. Once Jeffrey and sugar pine, they were changed into pinion /juniper which then burned, and are now nearly 100% cheatgrass and occasional sage repro.

They will NEVER again hold a forest of pine species. Every facet of the climate has changed from soils to air. The ONLY way for that to happen would be artificial regeneration combined with constant watering and care of each and every stem. In short, IMPOSSIBLE to achieve.

My first fire, the "hallelujah junction" fire was 40 some thousand acres of thick pinion and juniper. Most of the acreage of that burn, 37 yrs later, is cheat grass. About a 1% recovery of PJ has been seen.




mongrel

Trad climber
Truckee, CA
Sep 11, 2013 - 01:34pm PT
There certainly are quite a few examples of non-recovery of original vegetation after fires. We have one right in Truckee, some 40 years old, that's still mostly ceanothus and hasn't succeeded back into conifers. But there are counter-examples too - including some that are also right in Truckee, where Jeffrey pine grew back with or without planting. Why they differ, I don't think anyone has really tried to answer. But there are other factors that may be important elsewhere, specifically that the end of the Little Ice Age (cooler, more mesic conditions in montane regions) was roughly 1850. That's the climatic regime that prevailed when the Comstock-logged forest got established. So some marginal areas were probably due to gradually convert to P-J with or without logging or fire. Plus, there was a lot of livestock grazing which is a factor (regardless of what plants they're eating). It's not at all simple, and I agree with Ron that some of these places are not likely to support vigorous pine forest ever again, even if planted. Well, maybe pinyon.

The cheat grass that has taken over millions of acres is a real issue, regardless of the combination of causes (not just fire). In the Tahoe area, plenty of formerly cheat grass free areas are now infested due to use of fertilizer and compost in restoration projects, so the very category of actions that are represented as being beneficial is doing a lot of harm depending on how it's done. It's a huge problem and there isn't an easy answer that I know of.
Nkane

Trad climber
San Francisco, USA
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 19, 2013 - 11:10am PT
http://www.sfgate.com/news/science/article/Nearly-40-percent-of-Rim-Fire-land-a-moonscape-4826561.php#photo-5204761

New info on the extent of damage!

Any comments?
klk

Trad climber
cali
Sep 19, 2013 - 11:43am PT
baer's preliminary report on on previously fire-treated areas (fuel breaks, prescribed burns areas, mechanical thinning) suggests that treated areas tended to burn far less severely.

a few, like the pine mt break and the stuff at grower's, made it easier for fighters to occupy and hold that ground and save stuff.

way too early for more than impressionistic reports. but the map is useful for showing previous areas of treatment--

http://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5436551.pdf

Ron Anderson

Trad climber
Soon to be Nipple suckling Liberal
Sep 19, 2013 - 11:52am PT
the moonscaped areas more than likey hadnt burned in a hundred years. Those will most likely turn to invasive species that can live in nearly nothing of a climate. But 60% of the fire was a sloppier burn which is good news really. Those islands of trees and brush will begin to seed outward. Some species that require fire for reproduction will also bloom up around those islands and sloppy burn areas. Protection for the wildlife will also be aided by the 60% slop burn. Could have been much worse.
klk

Trad climber
cali
Sep 19, 2013 - 12:02pm PT
the grim thing is that we have a good picture of the spot with the worst burn intensitites, and it's right up the clavey.

compare the two maps from the baer team. the first shows preliminary assessment of burn intensity:

http://www.inciweb.org/incident/maps/3726/


the second, linked in my other post, shows ares of previous firet treatment (prescribed burns, mechanical thinning, wildland fire).

the maps both center on the clavey. there isn't easy access to that part of the drainage, it's steep and rough, and the rains are coming. much of it is in what seems like the lower part of the pine range these days. even if they get enough seed and teams, and even if the soil isnt sterilized, i see very little hope that this isn't going to be really, really f*#ked up.

one of my favorite spots in the frickin country. prolly the last indigenous trout in the sierra.

Ron Anderson

Trad climber
Soon to be Nipple suckling Liberal
Sep 19, 2013 - 12:10pm PT
That does indeed show proof that treatments via thinning , logging etc are quite viable in fire ecology. Wildfire was about how much bio mass was left after a burn, and mechanical/man means can replace that mass count of stems per acre so that it does better and more naturally survive wild fires.
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
And every fool knows, a dog needs a home, and...
Sep 19, 2013 - 01:25pm PT
The climate has changed.

Repeat - the climate HAS CHANGED. Fire doesn't prevent the regrets of a forest, climate change certainly can however.

Dome lands? The climate has changed in the last 10,000 years, markedly so. Same for the basin and range, same for the. Clavey canyon bottom lands.

Manzanita may replace ponderosa, ponderosa may replace firs.... Weeds may replace manzanita, quine sabe?
Ron Anderson

Trad climber
Soon to be Nipple suckling Liberal
Sep 19, 2013 - 01:32pm PT
well there ya go folks.. Worry knott. Enjoy the white top, cheat grass a ceanothus.. Dont worry ,, be happy.. ( or course this is all man made.)

ontheedgeandscaredtodeath

Social climber
SLO, Ca
Sep 19, 2013 - 03:02pm PT
Here is a good article re wildland fire and what might be done:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/22/magazine/into-the-wildfire.html?hp

klk

Trad climber
cali
Sep 19, 2013 - 03:14pm PT
the climate HAS CHANGED. Fire doesn't prevent the regrets of a forest, climate change certainly can however. Dome lands? The climate has changed in the last 10,000 years, markedly so. Same for the basin and range, same for the. Clavey canyon bottom lands. Manzanita may replace ponderosa, ponderosa may replace firs.... Weeds may replace manzanita, quine sabe?

indeed, and as mongrel pointed out above, much of what just got roasted was a remnant of the little ice age, which is why we're going to see oak scrub and manzanita and poison oak replace a lot of the pine forest. in geological time, it doesn't mean much at all. i'll be gone before the entire sierra is given over to poison oak and cockroaches, the two species that seem happiest in a high c02 climate.

but i'd like to have been gone before the clavey went. if we'd had the dough for regular mechanical thinning and occasional control burns, maybe we could've held off the poison oak a little longer. more to the point, maybe we could've held off on the uncontrolled experiment in learning whether or not a stand-clearing fire in that drainage would create the conditions to wipe out the clavey rainbow and the rest of the native fish.


Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
And every fool knows, a dog needs a home, and...
Sep 19, 2013 - 09:42pm PT
Yep. The Forest Sale's smoky bear put-it-out fire-is-bad routine f*#ked it all up! Their solution of selling more logs was bullsh#t. But the forest will return without input from them that's burnt her.

DMT
Ron Anderson

Trad climber
Soon to be Nipple suckling Liberal
Sep 19, 2013 - 10:18pm PT
there ya go "the forest will return" ... NO NEED for any rehab in that burn, so sayeth dingles.
mechrist

Gym climber
South of Heaven
Sep 20, 2013 - 08:02am PT
And "we can't predict the future with absolute certainty, therefore any action to reduce our carbon emissions is part of a vast government conspiracy"... no need for those who created the imbalance to take ANY action to reduce CO2 emissions, so sayeth He Who Stuffs Animals and understands nothing about atmospheric science.

edit: fixed it... although we can never be too sure what you actually wrote, what with all the mysterious disappearing posts and all
Ron Anderson

Trad climber
Soon to be Nipple suckling Liberal
Sep 20, 2013 - 08:05am PT
NEVER have i said anything of the kind there shytlip.. But you go twerp..

Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
And every fool knows, a dog needs a home, and...
Sep 20, 2013 - 08:13am PT
Smart rehab is cool. A monolithic forest of lumber trees isn't.

But I'm not against reseeding and sapling plantations. Not like the big penny pine plantations of the 60s though.

DMT
Timid TopRope

Social climber
'used to be Paradise, CA
Sep 20, 2013 - 08:23am PT
I've caught a few of those Clavey rainbows. Hope their population is not wiped out. The fire map looks like the woods around god's bath might have cooked as well.

nita and i used to volunteer at the Save the Clavey office in Sonora back when we lived in the area. We used to go in on Cottonwood road behind Tuolumne and the upper FS access road out of Long Barn. That little river is a treasure. Holding out hope it's not all toast.
Ron Anderson

Trad climber
Soon to be Nipple suckling Liberal
Sep 20, 2013 - 09:05am PT
I just have to ask Dingus.. Have you used any wood products in your life?

Do you buy lumber for your projects? Do you want that lumber milled in international waters then floated back to us? Or would you like nice dried lumber? The stuff we get today still has the squirrels popping out of it.

Would you rather by Rainforest wood or pangapanga from Africa?

The same evil lumber companies you bag on probably provided the wood for your house. You OBVIOUSLY have something against lumber companies and their lands.?
sullly

Trad climber
Sep 26, 2013 - 11:00pm PT
From 120 today.
Credit: sullly
Credit: sullly
Captain...or Skully

climber
Sep 26, 2013 - 11:05pm PT
Life is rooted in Death and Death in Life. They need each other.
Assist this process as you see fit. It's already begun, you know.....
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
And every fool knows, a dog needs a home, and...
Sep 27, 2013 - 07:00am PT
Ron I don't like the ball cupping routine the Forest Sale did with private industry for decades - you fund our agency, we will get you the best logs.

The practices allowed during this time undermined faith in all the fire control clap trap you talk about now. It was about selling logs to fund the agency, simple as that.

THAT'S my problem. You lament the departure of the old sales team, I say buy bye.

My uncle ran a saw mill in Maine his whole life. I've been around them since a little boy. I used to fell trees and sell cord wood in high school for extra money (till I learned slaves actually make more money than I did).

My house was built of wood, yes.

DMT
klk

Trad climber
cali
Oct 1, 2013 - 09:48am PT
the baer specialist reports are out.

usfs turned the approval around within a matter of days, presumably to beat the shutdown. my guess is that some portion of the rehab has been designated "essential," given the obvious dangers of erosion and flooding if the workd isnt done before the big storms. but i don't know enough detail to really comment.

haven't had a chance to read the reports yet.

http://www.inciweb.org/incident/article/3726/21596/

Ron Anderson

Trad climber
Relic MilkEye and grandpoobah of HRKRNH
Oct 1, 2013 - 10:02am PT
m BAER Assessment Report Brief -- 9.30.13

Incident: Rim Post-Fire BAER Burned Area Emergency Response
Released: 16 hrs. ago
Related Information
Rim BAER Assessment Report Brief - 9.30.13 (PDF 173 kb)
RIM BAER ASSESSMENT REPORT BRIEF – 9.30.2013
Percentage of soil burn severity acres burned (255 000 acres):
 Unburned = 17% (43 000 acres)
 Low = 39% (100 000 acres)
 Moderate = 37% (95 000 acres)
 High = 7% (17 000 acres)
Acres burned by ownership = 255 000:
 USFS = 154 000 (80 000 Low; 64 000 Moderate; 10 000 High)
 NPS = 77 000 (49 000 Low; 23 000 Moderate; 5 000 High)
 BLM = 130 (100 Low; 30 Moderate)
 CA STATE = 0
 PVT = 24 000 (14 000 Low; 8 100 Moderate; 1 900 High)
Miles of Roads:
 USFS = 720 (levels 1-5) (Trails = 118 miles)
 NPS/BLM = 22
 STATE = 19
 COUNTY = 22
 PRIVATE = 161
 TOTAL = 864
Miles of Stream Channels: 2 655
 Ephemeral = 2 005
 Intermittent = 287
 Perennial= 363
Rim Fire 6th Code Watersheds (HUC_6) Analyzed by BAER Team = 25:
 Big Creek
 Kendrick Creek
 Cascade Creek
 Upper Middle Tuolumne River
 Lower Clavey River
 Jawbone Creek-Tuolumne River
 Upper Cherry Creek
 Crane Creek-Merced River
 Moss Creek-Merced River
 Grapevine Creek-Tuolumne River
 Reed Creek
 Bull Creek
 Bean Creek-North Fork Merced River
 Miguel Creek-Eleanor Creek
 Lower Cherry Creek
 Hetch Hetchy Reservoir-Tuolumne River
 Upper South Fork Tuolumne River
 Lower Middle Tuolumne River
 Lower North Fork Tuolumne River
 West Fork Cherry Creek
 Kibbie Creek
 Middle Clavey River
 Lower South Fork Tuolumne River
 Frog Creek
 Poopenaut Valley-Tuolumne River
Initial BAER emergency stabilization treatments approved on 9/13/2013 = $362 480:
ROAD TREATMENTS: $154 680
 Road Stabilization Measures
PROTECTION/SAFETY: $185 800
 Hazard Tree Removal
 Markers Warning & Hazard Signs
 Barricades & Gates
 Vault Toilet Sealing
 Hazardous Material Erosion Control
IMPLEMENTATION TEAM: $22 000
Interim #1 BAER emergency stabilization treatments approved on 9/30/2013 = $4 204 600:
LAND TREATMENTS: $775 000
 Mastication
 Cultural Resources Protection-Stabilization
 Noxious Weed Detection & Removal
 Hazmat Stabilization
CHANNEL TREATMENTS: $5 600
 Bear Gully Stabilization
ROADS & TRAILS: $3 140 000
 Road Drainage Restoration
 Rolling Dips Crossings Waterbars
 Roads Stabilization Culverts Rip Rap Overside Drains Debris Racks
 Trails Stabilization & Stabilizers
 Recreation Site Traffic Control
 Guardrail Reflector Damage Repair
 Storm Inspection Patrol and Response
PROTECTION/SAFETY: $274 000
 Hazard Tree Clearing
 Hazard Signs
 Recreation Site Closure and Signs
 Temporary Barrier Placement (Mine Shaft)
 Implementation Coordination & Planning
MONITORING: $10 000
 Mastication (Mulch Effectiveness)
NOTE: As new information is received this BAER briefing paper will be updated.
klk

Trad climber
cali
Oct 15, 2013 - 12:12pm PT
some of the baer work got funded in time to continue, but a bunch of folks have been pulled off due to the shutdown.

one bit of possible good news-- i heard, 2ndhand, from somone who had been with the soils team in the clavey drainage, that the soils they tested there are still absorbing water. the fire there seems to have been a heavy crown fire, so the soil didn't get fried the way it did in other areas. that would be great news, if it's true. i don't know anyone on the baer team, so can't confirm. if anyone here knows more, fill us in.

and the current baer update is out at inciweb.

http://www.inciweb.org/incident/article/3726/21607/
klk

Trad climber
cali
Oct 21, 2013 - 04:10pm PT
one bit of possible good news-- i heard, 2ndhand, from somone who had been with the soils team in the clavey drainage, that the soils they tested there are still absorbing water. the fire there seems to have been a heavy crown fire, so the soil didn't get fried the way it did in other areas.

spoke with the neighbor on cal fire-- he was on duckwall mt during the surge, then was moved to the clavey. he seems pretty optimistic about upper clavey, although he said it wasn't a crown fire. he's not with baer, but has worked a lot of these and is local, so i have some confidence in his impression that upper clavey may come out of this pretty well. he did say that lower clavey got toasted. not clear how far up.

Reilly

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Oct 21, 2013 - 04:30pm PT
today's LA Times:

Rim fire puts a dent in High Sierra wildlife habitat

The blaze that burned through mountain forests has altered the home of some of California's rarest animals, including the great gray owl and the Pacific fisher.


By Louis Sahagun
October 21, 2013



GROVELAND, Calif. — The Rim fire that scorched a huge swath of Sierra Nevada forests also severely altered the habitat that is home to several of California's rarest animals: the great gray owl, the Sierra Nevada red fox and the Pacific fisher.


The fire burned 257,000 acres of High Sierra wilderness straddling the Stanislaus National Forest and Yosemite National Park that harbors a geographically isolated and genetically distinct clan of roughly 200 great gray owls.

The blaze also came within 12 miles of 10 breeding pairs of the subspecies of red fox clinging to survival in the cold, steep slopes above the tree line, raising fears they could have been eaten by coyotes trying to escape the smoke and flames.

The existence of the foxes, which were thought to have been wiped out in the 1920s, was confirmed in 2010. They are currently under consideration for listing under the federal Endangered Species Act.

Federal wildlife biologists are also concerned about the loss of potential habitat for the Pacific fisher, a member of the weasel family. Pacific fishers, members of an isolated Southern Sierra group of about 500 individuals that live in dense old-growth forests south of Yosemite's Merced River, are under consideration for federal listing.

"In the Rim fire, only birds that could fly the farthest and animals that could run the fastest survived," said John Buckley, executive director of the nonprofit Central Sierra Environmental Resource Center. "It killed squirrels and bears. For animals of which only a handful exist, it could be especially tragic."

The exact toll on wildlife will not be known until biologists are allowed to survey severely burned areas, which, for safety reasons, could remain closed for more than a year, federal forest officials said.

Even without that information, federal agencies are developing post-fire management strategies such as reforestation and salvage logging projects to protect certain species from extinction. That effort has been interrupted by the federal government shutdown, which furloughed federal wildlife biologists.

Preliminary reports from the fire area indicate that the blaze destroyed or damaged dozens of nesting and roosting areas for spotted owls, goshawks and great gray owls — the largest owl in North America. They stand 2 feet tall and have a 5-foot wingspan, with piercing yellow eyes accented by large facial disks.

Roy Bridgman, wildlife biologist for the Stanislaus National Forest, said he "visited a great owl nest that had been around for 20 years and it was collapsed. For a species with a tiny population, any loss at all is a big hit."

On a recent weekday, however, John Keane, a U.S. Forest Service research wildlife ecologist, found a reason for cautious optimism at an expanse of lush meadowlands about 10 miles west of Yosemite where he has studied great gray owls for 15 years.

The meadows edged with 80-foot-tall cedars and ponderosa pines were spared by the fire, which began burning in August. Peering through binoculars and methodically scanning the treetops, Keane said, "If I had to put money on it, I'd say there are still owls here."

Future research will help determine whether enough of the owls survived in the region to sustain the state-endangered raptor.

Two months after the fire raged across one of the wildest areas in the state, rare and common animals alike continue searching for food and shelter in, as one resident put it, "patches of green, wherever they can find them."

Lill Mcleod, general store manager at Camp Mather, a tourist destination about a mile away from the meadowlands patrolled by great gray owls, said, "Starving animals including countless bobcats and at least four mountain lions have been coming after the squirrels and chipmunks in the camp."

"The heartbreaker," she added, "was a horribly injured, emaciated bear we found staggering along a road here. He couldn't see or hear or smell because his head was so badly burned. He had a broken paw and kept wiping his face in the dirt."

That bear, along with an injured cub found a few days later, was euthanized by California Department of Fish and Wildlife game wardens. Three other adult bears were found dead nearby, Mcleod said.

Local populations of bears, deer and other relatively common animals are expected to recover. But prospects for the black-backed woodpecker, a candidate for listing under the California Endangered Species Act, remain uncertain.

The woodpecker plays a key role in post-fire forest ecology by creating nesting holes in snags for other birds and mammals such as Western bluebirds and squirrels, environmentalists say. It is also threatened by the salvaging of burned trees.

Those competing interests are already playing out on fire-stripped slopes where the woodpeckers are feasting on wood-boring beetles that began swarming dead trees while they were still smoldering.

Beneath the woodpeckers, crews with chain saws and big-rig trucks were removing snags and salvaging timber from roads and utility corridors.

"We're looking for silver linings," Bridgman said with a sigh. "But we're caught between extremes."

louis.sahagun@latimes.com


Copyright © 2013, Los Angeles Times

Go here for maps and pics:
Rim Fire Threatens 3 Species
Reilly

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Oct 21, 2013 - 06:30pm PT
So 'Little Joey's' trimmed tree gets how many hundred responses and nobody gives a damn about this stuff?
That's a sad commentary...
Nemesis

climber
Oct 21, 2013 - 07:00pm PT
Hopefully they won't drag their feet permitting timber salvage. LOTS of good wood to be used from the burn area that will be worthless in a few months if they don't log it now. Also, we are in for some serious mudslides this winter. Should be interesting.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Oct 21, 2013 - 08:50pm PT
large stacks of scorched logs at the Sierra Pacific mill in Chinese Camp this last Sunday, larger than recent history (since the housing bubble burst)...
clinker

Trad climber
California
Oct 21, 2013 - 09:49pm PT
The unnatural forest, but we call it nature or natural. It isn't. Forest management, my ass. Tell me any single tree of the couple hundred redwoods and firs in view from my windows is going to live over 200 years from today, you'd be lying.

Dear Forester,
Please study the old trees ,in the old growth forest, that burned without suppression and somehow produced thousand year-plus trees. What is the modern answer to reach the end result? No timber harvest management plan here, just clear 100+ feet from your house and watch all of it burn. This is the western US.
If we keep these current practices in place we will lose what is left of our forests. What is the tree count difference from old growth compared to an area that burned or was clear cut 50-80 years?
There are four big stumps and one huge stump close to my house. I hope a few of these living trees will grow as old.

The Rim Fire area should get a new plan of "action"
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
And every fool knows, a dog needs a home, and...
Oct 22, 2013 - 05:12pm PT
Reilly I mean you no personal disrespect and thanks for posting that LA Times article...

which I think is worse than useless 'news' reporting. Cursory facts about the fire, uninformed conjecture and a lot of maybe's.

A piece not worth the electrons needed to present it, utterly worthless crap. Not a useful nugget to be found.

DMT
julton

climber
Oct 22, 2013 - 05:18pm PT
What is that greenish stuff that's been sprayed on the slopes and tree trunks in a few places along Hwy 120?
Reilly

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Oct 22, 2013 - 05:22pm PT
DMT, I don't know about yer credentials as a wildlife biologist but I'm gonna
believe Roy Bridgman, wildlife biologist for the Stanislaus National Forest.
Granted, it was not a peer-reviewed paper but some informed conjecture and
interesting anecdotes don't devalue the article in my eyes.
klk

Trad climber
cali
Oct 22, 2013 - 05:34pm PT
Cursory facts about the fire, uninformed conjecture and a lot of maybe's. . . . Not a useful nugget to be found.

actually, dmt, i thought it was pretty good for its intended audience, but yr post makes me think it was a missed opportunity--

the piece doesn't help me much, but most readers of the la times don't know what a fisher is or anything about grey fox. instead, they have a lot of generic bambi-style concerns about wildlife and the fire that they want to formulate in moral certainties. the good part of the piece is precisely that it shows the competent folks doing what competent folks do-- telling us that they don't know yet. the "maybes" are the good part.

prolly a missed opportunity, since just a couple sentences could've pointed that out-- that this is new territory for us, we're not used to fires of this magnitude, the climate is changing, and we have to wait and see.

they also could've done a better job-- just a sentence or two --explaining why fisher habitat in the stanislaus matters even if the known fisher nesting pops are south of the merced.

but it's really tough to write competent technical/science stuff on the fly for pop audiences.





the albatross

Gym climber
Flagstaff
Oct 22, 2013 - 06:01pm PT
That LA Times article was all over the place, yet as KLK noted it was probably about right for the intended audience.

Last month a pilot on the Rim fire told me he would not be at all surprised if fires pop up all over the interior of the burn area next Spring. Said he saw a number of 1000 acre stands of green timber with smoldering edges.

It seems to me that with the planet warming and drought conditions getting more severe, we will be seeing more and more fires of this nature. That certainly has been the trend for the last couple decades.

the albatross

Gym climber
Flagstaff
Oct 22, 2013 - 06:21pm PT
Western U.S. Water Utilities Take Financial Responsibility for Reducing Watershed Wildfire Risk
Brett Walton
When residents in Santa Fe, New Mexico pay their water bills, they are now also paying for forest restoration.

By Brett Walton Circle of Blue
They are signs of the times – forests in the western United States are dust-dry and budgets in Washington, D.C. are diet-thin.
While the West is in the thrall of drought, ecosystem upheaval, and near-daily conflagrations, the nation’s capital is held by fiscal austerity and government-wide spending cuts — which makes partnerships like the one between several cities in the western U.S. and the U.S. Forest Service beneficial to both sides.
Aseverefireinacity’swatershedcanturnaclearmountainstreamintoacauldronof blackgoo.Theflushof ash and sediment clogs water treatment pipes and eventually winds ups in reservoirs, filling them and forcing

expensive dredging.
To avoid this, some cities are being proactive, first with grant funding and now with their own money.
After being underwritten for more than a decade by state and federal dollars, last month residents in Santa Fe, New Mexico began footing the bill for work to reduce the risk of wildfire in the city’s upper watershed, much of which lies in the Santa Fe National Forest.
Through its water rates, the city will spend $US 5.1 million over the next 20 years on a broad program of forest management and public education. Much of the money will go to the U.S. Forest Service to cut and burn redundant trees, restore streams, and test water quality. That amounts to roughly $US 0.83 per month for each household. The Nature Conservancy is also a partner in the project.
“We can’t keep wildfire out of the watershed, but we have to make sure that fire is not catastrophic when it does happen.”
–Dale Lyons,
The Nature Conservancy
Expenditures made now could save money in the long run.Amajor fire could shut down the two reservoirs on the Santa Fe River, and dredging the debris would cost between $US 80 million and $US 240 million, according to city estimates. That is in addition to the tens of millions of dollars to fight the fire and the added cost of shifting the water supply to groundwater, which is more expensive to pump and treat.
Santa Fe’s water department is one of several urban utilities – including those in Colorado Springs, Denver, and Flagstaf f , Arizona – that are putting ratepayer dollars to work in the f orests.
The U.S. Forest Service, for its part, helps the utilities with the technical aspects of forest restoration and some of the physical work while using most of the money in its budget to focus on other high-risk forests in the state.
“The benefit is that it allows us to do more work in other places,” Sandy Hurlockler, district ranger in the Santa Fe National Forest, told Circle of Blue.
The West is Burning
Ahistoryof forestmismanagementhascombinedwithdroughtandmassivebeetle-killstoturntheAmerican West into a pile of kindling. Recent f orest f ires, including the High Park f ire outside of Fort Collins, Colorado last year, have water utilities on edge. Yet the most destructive blaze f or drinking water inf rastructure happened more than a decade ago near Denver.
The 2002 Hayman fire, still the largest in Colorado’s history, burned 55,800 hectares (138,000 acres) southwest of the city. Subsequent rainstorms swamped Strontia Springs reservoir with enough sediment – 765,000 cubic meters – to fill Denver’s basketball arena five times. Combined with the damage from a 1996 fire in the same area, Denver Water, the public utility, spent $US 26 million dredging and restoring two of its reservoirs.
In 2010, Denver Water entered into a five-year partnership with the U.S. Forest Service with the goal of reducing the risk of catastrophic fire. The two agencies will each spend $US 16.5 million on forest restoration, with Denver’s share coming from ratepayers.
This type of investment is called a payment for ecosystem services, a financial model that protects the natural processes that benefit people. Forests filter water, and their soil helps to slow down the surge of runoff after
a storm, calming potential floods. Fires eliminate these benefits for some time. Erosion, poor water quality and higher f lood risks persist long af ter the f lames have been snuf f ed out.
Earth Economics, a research group, and the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities, a nonprofit advocate f or f orests, charted at least 17 instances in the U.S. in which money f rom city or utility budgets is being put toward watershed management, most in areas other than wildfire risk.
Spending money on fire prevention is tricky, said Rowan Schmidt, an analyst at Earth Economics, because there is no rule of thumb f or how much investment in a watershed will pay of f .
But that has not stopped cities from signing onto programs.
Last November voters in Flagstaf f , Arizona approved a $US 10 million bond to cut f ire risk on 5,460 hectares (13,500 acres) in the Rio de Flag and Upper Lake Mary watersheds.
And this spring Colorado Springs Utilities signed a five to 10-year agreement with the U.S. Forest Service, providing $US 6 million from ratepayer funds to restore parts of its watershed scarred by the Waldo Canyon fire last summer. The money will also be used to reduce future fire risks in other areas where the city draws water.
“Our ongoing relationship with the Forest Service will help us channel customer rate dollars in the most efficient way possible to protect our most vital resource and the forest that surrounds it,” said Gary Bostrom, chief water services of f icer f or Colorado Springs Utilities, at an April 4 press conf erence.
This interactive map from the U.S. Forest Service shows the relative threat of wildfire to forested areas that are the source of drinking water for cities and towns.Ash and debris from a wildfire can turn a clear mountain stream into a cauldron of black goo. Erosion and flood risks persist long after the flames have been snuffed out.View Larger Map
Reducing Risk, Not Eliminating It
As far as fire goes, Santa Fe’s watershed is a bull’s-eye that has not been hit.Amap of fires in northern New Mexico since 1970 shows burn scars looped around the capital but no direct hits.
In fact, Hurlockler said, tree-ring studies indicate that the watershed has not had a major fire in several centuries.
Roughly one third of the Santa Fe watershed has been thinned and selectively burned since 2003. Forest managers have not attempted any treatments in the wilderness portion of the upper watershed, but the city is preparing to release an environmental assessment that will propose prescribed burns for 1,175 hectares (2,900 acres) in that area, according to Dale Lyons. Until recently taking a job with the Nature Conservancy, Lyons worked for the Santa Fe water department and he helped write the city’s watershed management plan, updated this spring.
Tree thinning and prescribed burns can reduce the risk of wildfire but they will not eliminate it.
When Lyons saw the smoke over Santa Fe in early June from the Tres Lagunas fire burning a few ridges east of the city’s watershed, he hoped that the wind would not change directions and blow embers to the west. With the fire now almost contained, that particular threat has been stamped out, though others undoubtedly remain.
“We can’t keep wildf ire out of the watershed,” Lyons told Circle of Blue. “But we have to make sure that f ire is not catastrophic when it does happen.”
is a Seattle-based reporter for Circle of Blue. He writes our Federal Water Tap, a weekly breakdown of U.S. policy. Interests: Southwest, Pacific Northwest, Pricing, Infrastructure.
Email: Brett Walton :: Follow on Twitter :: More Articles

This entry was posted on Thursday, June 20th, 2013

http://www.flagstaffwatershedprotection.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/US_Water_Utilities_Take_Financial_Responsibility_for_Reducing_Watershed_Wildfire_Risk-2.pdf
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Oct 22, 2013 - 07:27pm PT
What is that greenish stuff that's been sprayed on the slopes and tree trunks in a few places along Hwy 120?

aquaseeding, probably with a polymer to give it a skin to shed rain while the seed gets started... to prevent erosion of the road cuts during the winter rain storms
khanom

Trad climber
Greeley Hill
Oct 23, 2013 - 08:19am PT
Believe it or not the increase in wildlife just a few miles from the fire's western perimeter is, subjectively, quite noticeable.


And last week I saw a mountain lion running full tilt across 395 just south of Lee Vining. I've never ever seen one on the east side ever. Only on the west. Co-incidence?
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
And every fool knows, a dog needs a home, and...
Oct 23, 2013 - 08:30am PT
kik and reilly thanks for your thoughts.

I think the fire is GOOD for wildlife. I do not agree with fire=bad tenor of the article. Likely it is the reporter's bias and did not come from the biologist.

As to pop audience I do understand. This article perpetuates the popular myth that forest fires are bad and cause damage to the ecosystem, which is total bullsh#t. Like the article.

DMT
Ron Anderson

Trad climber
Relic MilkEye and grandpoobah of HBRKRNH
Oct 23, 2013 - 08:47am PT
Dingus,, you WERE right about 75 yrs ago. FIres could have been left to burn "naturally" then. NOW they do not burn "naturally" because of the fire suppression. NOW we have manmade stands that are stocked 100% above their "natural" stocking levels and perhaps 1% of fires can burn "naturally. As for the rest it burns far hotter than previous burns in an all natural system.


If KIRKWOOD lakes area burns, it will do so with UNNATURAL amounts of fuel and fire. Nit like those in the long past that came through every 10 to 30 yrs. The rim fire is a perfect example of a man made stand going up.

apogee

climber
Technically expert, safe belayer, can lead if easy
Oct 23, 2013 - 08:55am PT
"What is that greenish stuff that's been sprayed on the slopes and tree trunks in a few places along Hwy 120?"

Probably the same stuff they've been spraying all over the burned areas in our local mountains.

I wonder if it really is aquaseeding (or simply slope stabilizing), and what kind of seeds they are?
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
And every fool knows, a dog needs a home, and...
Oct 23, 2013 - 10:39am PT
Dingus,, you WERE right about 75 yrs ago. FIres could have been left to burn "naturally" then. NOW they do not burn "naturally" because of the fire suppression. NOW we have manmade stands that are stocked 100% above their "natural" stocking levels and perhaps 1% of fires can burn "naturally. As for the rest it burns far hotter than previous burns in an all natural system.

Yes yes yes soil dead down to ten feet and such.

Bollocks.

DMT
Ron Anderson

Trad climber
Relic MilkEye and grandpoobah of HBRKRNH
Oct 23, 2013 - 11:11am PT
id be willing to bet, five years from now, 40% of the rim fire will be invasive weeds. White top, cheat grass and cyanothus (sp?). And it will be those area charred to the soils.
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
And every fool knows, a dog needs a home, and...
Oct 23, 2013 - 11:15am PT
Interesting idea. Maybe the biologist will do such a study, perfect opportunity.

Say, you could do this study as well, forest man!

DMT
Ron Anderson

Trad climber
Relic MilkEye and grandpoobah of HBRKRNH
Oct 23, 2013 - 11:18am PT
what a concept lol! Should i refer you to the : Mitchell canyon burn,, or the Little valley Burn, or the Sage creek burn, or the Kings canyon burn or~~~..
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
And every fool knows, a dog needs a home, and...
Oct 23, 2013 - 11:20am PT
So long as study was not conducted or funded by the Forest Sale, I'll be glad to take a look.

DMT
sempervirens

climber
Oct 23, 2013 - 11:44am PT
Ron,
Maybe you're thinking of Centaurea (Cyanothus ?), as in Centaurea solstitialis which is yellow starthistle. Or another invasive plant, Centaurea maculata (spotted knapweed). Both were present before the fire. Ceanothus species (there are several species of Ceanothus in the Rim Fire)are native to California and they are expected to grow prolifically. They resprout vigorously after fire. But as native species they are not considered to be invasive. You probably know this but many don't: in general, native plants are not considered invasive. THe term "Invasive" is often confused, but in forest management it refers to non-native plants. Many of those are noxious weeds, meaning designated as such by some governmental agency (state, federal, etc.).

It's the noxious weeds that pose a great threat to the native plant community, and there are several, including those you've mentioned. They also change the fire ecology. The Ceanothus and other shrub plants also do change fire ecology and I agree that that is also a significant issue.
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
And every fool knows, a dog needs a home, and...
Oct 23, 2013 - 11:49am PT
While you're combing the internet for an unbiased study, Ron... take a gander at this one.

Chad Hanson, John Muir Project and UC Davis
Chad Hanson has a Ph.D. in Ecology from the University of California at Davis, and is an Associate researcher at UC Davis in the field of fire ecology in conifer forest ecosystems. He has published studies on topics such as fire severity patterns, wildlife response to fire, post-fire conifer survival, and landscape-level fire patterns and trends. Dr. Hanson is also the Director of the John Muir Project.

But read the summary, anyway, if you will...

http://www.johnmuirproject.org/documents/Hanson%20White%20Paper%2029Jan10%20Final.pdf

DMT
Ron Anderson

Trad climber
Relic MilkEye and grandpoobah of HBRKRNH
Oct 23, 2013 - 11:49am PT
Indeed Semper,, the classifications are often lumped together concerning rehab issues. My bad..



edit: Dingus that document even pints to what we say here, but then goes on to state that unnatural loading wont equal un natural heat levels of fires.

That isnt correct. Go to Rissou canyon east of walker and look for yourself. 20K acres of THISTLE and white top and cheat grass. There is abundant proof of the contrary.
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
And every fool knows, a dog needs a home, and...
Oct 23, 2013 - 11:58am PT
Popular myths and misconceptions about the ecology of fire and dead trees in western U.S. conifer forests are
numerous, and are strongly at odds with the recent scientific evidence, which indicates the following about
these forest ecosystems:


The only effective way to protect homes from wildland fire is to reduce the combustibility of the homes
themselves, and reduce brush and very small trees within 100 feet of the homes. Commercial thinning
projects that remove mature trees hundreds of yards – and often several miles – from the nearest home do
not protect homes, and often put homes at greater risk by diverting scarce resources away from true home
protection, by creating a false sense of security, and by removing large, fire-resistant trees and generating
combustible logging “slash debris”, which increases potential fire severity. Currently, less than 3% of U.S.
Forest Service “fuels reduction” projects are near homes.


Patches of high-intensity fire (where most or all trees are killed) support the highest levels of native
biodiversity of any forest type in western U.S. conifer forests, including many rare and imperiled species that
live only in high-intensity patches.
Even Spotted Owls depend upon significant patches of high-intensity fire
in their territories in order to maintain habitat for their small mammal prey base. These areas are ecological
treasures.


Current fires are mostly low- and moderate-intensity, and high-intensity fire comprises a relatively small
proportion of the total area burned. Areas that have not burned in a long time are not burning more
intensely.



Vigorous natural regeneration of conifer seedlings occurs after high-intensity fire. Numerous large trees also
survive, and their growth tends to increase substantially after the fire, which converts woody material on the
forest floor into highly usable nutrients for tree growth. By contrast, after very long absence of these fires,
forests can lose so much of their productivity that, ultimately, sites lose the ability to support forest at all.


There is far less fire now than there was historically. There is also less high-intensity fire now than there
was prior to fire suppression policies.


Fires are not becoming more intense.
The Myth of
“Catastrophic” Wildfire

DMT
Ron Anderson

Trad climber
Relic MilkEye and grandpoobah of HBRKRNH
Oct 23, 2013 - 12:02pm PT
Areas that have not burned in a long time are not burning more
intensely.






^^^^^^^^^^^ That single comment makes that report ABSOLUTELY horse nuggets..

The Granite mountain IHC died this year because of the MOST INTENSE BURNING ever seen there due to 50 yrs of no fires in that area and a historically HIGH fuel load.



Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
And every fool knows, a dog needs a home, and...
Oct 23, 2013 - 12:09pm PT
Baby, meet the bathwater.

DMT
Ron Anderson

Trad climber
Relic MilkEye and grandpoobah of HBRKRNH
Oct 23, 2013 - 12:21pm PT
Thee ARE some sections in that report that are correct Dingus, but THAT wasnt one of them.. Ive been there and ive seen first hand.

Heres an experiment you can easily do for yourself. Take a pile of weeds and burn them on one spot on your lawn. Then pile up weeds sticks and a chunk or two of wood, burn that and see which burns yur lawn more. I got a five spot on the one with sticks and such.
Ain't no flatlander

climber
Oct 23, 2013 - 12:27pm PT
DMT, that isn't a study. It's an opinion piece using cherry-picked data to support his job. Read it with a big grain of salt.
Ron Anderson

Trad climber
Relic MilkEye and grandpoobah of HBRKRNH
Oct 23, 2013 - 12:28pm PT
werd^^^^^


Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
And every fool knows, a dog needs a home, and...
Oct 23, 2013 - 12:36pm PT
Aintnoflatlander that reads like an opinion as well.

I've been following the Healthy Forest Sale initiative since it was called the Quincy Library Group. As you know the Quincy Library Group was a private enterprise formed by industry insiders composed of logging company executives and senior forest service managers for the purpose of revitalizing the LOGGING industry, starting in Plumas Nationl Forest. They formulated a proposal to log public lands more aggressively by trading 'forest clearing' for mature logs. After public rejection it was repackaged as the Bush Healthy Forest Initiative. An example of one of their goals - the revocation of the Clinton-era removal of forest sale road networks, as JOB ONE of the healthy forest initiative, lol. More roads equal healthier forest... lol lol. So long as you equate to MORE LOGGING = HEALTHIER FOREST. I do not subscribe to this view.

I don't buy the conventional salesman elevator speech that fires are bad. Its the same ole same ole from the same ole salesmen, in support of their best customers. Those customers don't own the trees though, and neither do the forest sale managers.

DMT
Ron Anderson

Trad climber
Relic MilkEye and grandpoobah of HBRKRNH
Oct 23, 2013 - 12:41pm PT
Dingus, MANY fires each year are LET BURN fires. Those that are in areas more suited to natural behavoir like higher altitudes where fuel loads are not that different from 50 yrs ago, or areas of thick mono cultured stands like those in AK where openings are badly needed. Or low resource value burns like those in many spots of NEvada. Where ranchers used to burn it off instead. But areas like the Rim fire for instance did not meet any of the above. Especially considering the major water supply there.

Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
And every fool knows, a dog needs a home, and...
Oct 23, 2013 - 12:45pm PT
Know what?


Sonora is going to burn in a major fire. So is Auburn. So is Placerville. It will be like San Diego county all over again, and it WILL happen.

It has nothing to do with fuel loads and has everything to do with people building homes in a fire place.

I have many friends that live and work in those areas. Quietly, over a beer, we can discuss the fact that Sonora with 2,000 people, is quite different from Sonora-Area with 20,000 homes. This time the fire started outside the suburban area... what happens when lightning strikes directly in the heart of it? It will burn, that's what.

Placerville area is a goddamn disaster waiting to happen.

The things that rile people the most, burning homes, have almost nothing to do with forest fuel loads.

DMT
Ron Anderson

Trad climber
Relic MilkEye and grandpoobah of HBRKRNH
Oct 23, 2013 - 02:13pm PT
Granted homes arent part of the ecology of wildfire itself, but it very much is in suppression efforts. As watersheds are as well.

Take for instance a proposed cut long ago on the Toiyabe, in upper clear creek canyon with one road as access, and many new homes on steep timbered hills. We wanted to create a cut that would also act as a shaded fuel break and at the same time take care of the misstle-toe spread there. The cut got nixed, and its still a fire disaster waiting to burn as it hasnt in 70 years. And on cue, the forest has begun to self thin through insect and disease there having reached a stocking zone of immanent mortality, where 70% of our forest land is now..


edit: And the zone of immanent morality is the point that a stand reaches where it will begin to self thin through inseact / disease or wildfire if not treated artificially. That zone is figured by the stand density index , ie How many stems per acre there are.
michaeld

Sport climber
Sacramento
Oct 23, 2013 - 03:13pm PT
We've done such a "good job" stopping forest fires, that there has been so much long lasting growth, that now since there are no roots or anything, I fear tons of mud slides, like what happened in CO this year.

And did I mention, I predict and extremely wet winter to come?
the albatross

Gym climber
Flagstaff
Oct 23, 2013 - 03:30pm PT
DMT that was an interesting link you posted on the previous page, in regards to forest management.

Here is a link to a contrasting view, that of a rather popular forestry professor from Northern Arizona:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2_t6uovjoWw
Ron Anderson

Trad climber
Relic MilkEye and grandpoobah of HBRKRNH
Oct 23, 2013 - 03:54pm PT
Dr Covington is spot on. We either treat our forests artificially or insect disease and fire will.. Thinning and burning. The best solution available NOW. Heck,, bring back the CCC and gets some folks to work at the same time.
klk

Trad climber
cali
Oct 23, 2013 - 07:00pm PT
t has nothing to do with fuel loads and has everything to do with people building homes in a fire place.

fireplaces don't burn without a fuel load. if they did, my life would be a whole lot easier.

virtually all of populated california is built in fire regimes. the parts that aren't are built in flood regimes. and most of the pop also lives over earthquake faults. the question is what to do about it.

dmt, i'm not sure what you and ron have goin, but im guessing it comes partly from one of the other threads that i dont read. i'm not clicking the climate science thread.

i'm slammed and have to go read files, but will come back later and talk about why hansen is all over the pop media and why he strikes so many folks (not just timber industry apologists) as problematic.

of the popular media coverage, hcn has the best piece on the fire science warsof those i've seen:

ttp://www.hcn.org/issues/44.16/fire-scientists-fight-over-what-western-forests-should-look-like

the albatross

Gym climber
Flagstaff
Oct 23, 2013 - 08:49pm PT
Here is a link to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation website. This organization works to improve big game habitat in northern Arizona and across the West, using both prescribed fire and "thinning".

http://www.rmef.org/Conservation/HowWeConserve/HabitatStewardship.aspx

From the website:
"Habitat Enhancement

Fire suppression, invasive weeds, conifer encroachment and drought all degrade elk habitat. Some, like drought, are just nature’s way. Others, like fire suppression and weeds, are a direct result of human actions. Using tools such as prescribed burning, thinning, fertilization, seeding, water developments, noxious weed treatments and fencing, we are reversing the effects of these impacts on elk country."

the albatross

Gym climber
Flagstaff
Oct 23, 2013 - 08:59pm PT
Ron Anderson wrote:

"We either treat our forests artificially or insect disease and fire will.. Thinning and burning. The best solution available NOW. Heck,, bring back the CCC and gets some folks to work at the same time."

In some crazy dream I hear,
Land Managers announce: "Free firewood, just upwind of (insert town name). Grab a truckload, (just leave those marked trees). Help reduce local fire danger by heating your home. Take care of our lands!"
klk

Trad climber
cali
Nov 26, 2013 - 08:41am PT
one of the contractors for baer died on friday. hauling hay for the mulching ops. reports suggest that his brakes failed-- he went off the cottonwood bridge.

that's a deep canyon-- not sure if they have the truck out yet. his names hasn't been released as of this morning.

http://www.uniondemocrat.com/News/Local-News/Driver-killed-in-Rim-Fire-truck-accident

HighTraverse

Trad climber
Bay Area
Nov 26, 2013 - 09:54am PT
I wonder how many of you have actually toured the Rim Fire area?
I did two weeks ago returning from Fall Highball at Bishop.
Besides stopping at a couple of places on Tioga Rd and several places along 120 outside the park, I drove to Hetch Hetchy.
What I saw was illuminating but not surprising.
Earlier, someone mentioned that the burns were patchwork. This is indeed true. Very few areas that I saw were devastated.
Most of the devastation was in
1- dense stands of IMMATURE fir and pine with thick new growth. All trees appeared scorched and "dead" with zero green vegetation. These areas, some as big as dozens of acres had obviously been clear cut some decades ago. Possibly for logging, possibly for pasture.
Directly across the road from some of these devastated areas, in diverse forest, the fire had burned but left many trees with vegetation. It had clearly run along the ground, mostly without getting into the tree crowns.
2- thick chaparral. This is what you see when you look down the canyon from Rim Overlook.

In Yosemite:
Along Tioga road, there was extensive burning up to the road but very few devastated spots.
There are about 1/2 dozen places where the fire spotted across 120 but had in all cases been held to less than an acre.
Yosemite has been using controlled burns to create shaded fuel breaks along Big Oak Flat road. These areas had significant burning behind them where there had been no clearance, but the fire had only infrequently spotted across the road.

In burned areas where there was a mixture of tree/shrub/chaparral types there was spotty burning.

Along the road to Hetch Hetchy, Mather Camp and Evergreen Lodge had both been surrounded by the fire.
Mather Camp which had very little prior shaded fuel break protection was intact. It must have taken a massive effort to save it.

Evergreen Lodge was a much more interesting example. The fire had burned right up to the lodge cabins. There were slightly charred trees right along the road and all around the cabins. Clearly the fire had gotten very close. However, there was a prior shaded fuel break area all around the cabins and lodge proper. The fire had been stopped at the edges of the fuel break. This was a compelling example of defensible space. I'm sure there were plenty of fire crews to stop the fire but they had a great advantage.

Closer to Hetch Hetchy there were still crews mending the downed phone and power lines. I'd estimate that from my car window I saw nearly 3 remaining miles of downed lines. There was a large portable generator on the center of the dam running the control systems.
The fire had "spotted" all over the canyon, both below the dam and on the high country above the river and reservoir. There were small, isolated areas of "black sticks only" devastation but large areas of only singed or even untouched forest and chaparral.

My takeaways:
1 - defensible space, especially shaded fuel breaks are very effective. Evergreen Lodge, Big Oak Flat Road.
2- mixed mature forests don't get devastated
3 - It takes a really hot fire to burn chaparral to the ground. Below the Rim Of the World overlook.
4 - Large "islands" are left largely untouched. Everywhere except Rim Of The World canyon.

These are all points made by CalFire and professional foresters. Borne out by the evidence.

Unfortunately, I'm unable to upload pics for some reason. Will add them when I can.
Strider

Trad climber
ಠ_ಠ
Nov 26, 2013 - 01:35pm PT
Hmmmm... Interesting views and opinions on this thread.

I live in almost the center of the Rim fire scar and it has been an interesting journey. A few observations...

They are now doing aerial drops of hay and seed mulch along Cherry Lake rd / Mather rd. The guy who died as mentioned just above was on the bridge of the Clavey River, the trail head for Gods Bath. They have also been spraying seed mulch from trucks all over the place and especially along Hwy 120 in order to promote top-soil production and as much growth as possible. If we have a mild winter (like the past 2 years) this could have a tremendous effect in keeping flooding and erosion in check. If however we have a real winter then most of that will wash away and we will see what happens.

They have completed hazard tree cutting but contrary to what you may hear or see no (or at least VERY FEW) trees will be removed from the Forest Service land until an EIS is completed early next year. The logging trucks you see are mainly from National Park land (different rules) or private land owners getting ahead of the glut of cheap timber. It is estimated by the Forest Service that once logging begins it will continue for roughly 2 years. That logging activity will dramatically change the nature of driving in the area I suspect. Also, the Forest Service is rethinking how to re-plant / re-forest the burned areas, having learned plenty of lessons from the Penny Pines program of yesteryear.

I am particularly interested in replying to HighTraverse's comments. I am very interested in learning where you came about some of your information because my experience directly contradicts some/much of what you say. I have lived on Evergreen rd for ~10 years now, have logged thousands of road miles on the vast network of dirt roads that stretch East-West from Groveland to Yosemite, North-South from the Merced River to the Stanislaus River and have witnessed the logging, thinning and prescribed fires first hand.

1- dense stands of IMMATURE fir and pine with thick new growth. All trees appeared scorched and "dead" with zero green vegetation. These areas, some as big as dozens of acres had obviously been clear cut some decades ago. Possibly for logging, possibly for pasture.

I am not sure why/where it is obvious there was clear cutting decades ago because my experience in talking with local loggers is that this area (and especially any area you could have seen from the road) has never been clear cut. Logging and thinning has been an active part of this forest for decades however clear cutting has not. Mature trees of all varieties (Lodgepole, Sugar Pine, Oak, Cedar, Fir, etc...) are still prevalent and still alive in this whole forest district.

Directly across the road from some of these devastated areas, in diverse forest, the fire had burned but left many trees with vegetation. It had clearly run along the ground, mostly without getting into the tree crowns.

I am fairly certain I know the exact location you refer to, the last mile before you reach Evergreen Lodge. The West side of the road is devastated and the East side is still there. This has nothing to do with "clear cutting" and everything to do with thinning activities that occurred in 2009/2010. The east side of Evergreen road was thinned and ground fuel was removed. Many people decried this activity and called it "clear cutting" and destruction of the forest. In my opinion it was a blessing. This thinning activity occurred this year on Bear Mountain and Ascension mountain as well as prescribed burns this Spring. The roads are closed but from what I can see from Evergreen rd, this is true.

Mather Camp which had very little prior shaded fuel break protection was intact. It must have taken a massive effort to save it.

Camp Mather has an extensive border of shaded fuel brake. It is called forest roads 1S32, 1S32A, Evergreen rd and Camp Mather's old septic field and Mud Lake. There are also bi-annual (the weeks before Memorial Day and after Labor Day) cleaning events when crews come up from SF to remove and reduce ground fuel. Camp Mather was also saved because the Incident Command at the Miller Ranch was evacuated and moved to Camp Mather. They were also the beneficiary of at least (1) DC-10 drop along the approaching edge of the fire. Camp Mather lost no structures and suffered an absolute minimum of infrastructure loss.

Evergreen Lodge was a much more interesting example. The fire had burned right up to the lodge cabins. There were slightly charred trees right along the road and all around the cabins. Clearly the fire had gotten very close. However, there was a prior shaded fuel break area all around the cabins and lodge proper. The fire had been stopped at the edges of the fuel break. This was a compelling example of defensible space. I'm sure there were plenty of fire crews to stop the fire but they had a great advantage.

This certainly is an example of the importance of defensible space but compared to what Camp Mather had with their road breaks, it laughable. The fire break around the Lodge is 6ft wide and 6 ft high. The reason the Lodge still exists is because of the ~250 fire fighters (as was described to me by a few who were here) who were on property and placed a hose line around the property and initiated back-burns along the edge of the property to keep the intense fire away from the Lodge.

My takeaways:
1 - defensible space, especially shaded fuel breaks are very effective. Evergreen Lodge, Big Oak Flat Road.
2- mixed mature forests don't get devastated
3 - It takes a really hot fire to burn chaparral to the ground. Below the Rim Of the World overlook.
4 - Large "islands" are left largely untouched. Everywhere except Rim Of The World canyon.

1- Yes, defensible space is effective and I would add Camp Mather, Peach Growers, Dimond O campground and innumerable other examples. However I could also add innumerable other examples where defensible space did little to nothing to stop the fire. And Big Oak Flat Rd, aka Hwy 120 into the park had no better fuel breaks than anywhere else. The intensity of the fire there was much less due to an intensive effort to slow/stop the fire long the park edge to save the Sequoias and keep it from the park where fire suppression is a very different game with different rules.
2- I would say forests which are properly managed (young or old) are less likely to get devastated.
4- Large islands are left untouched, even in the Tuolumne River Canyon and Jawbone Ridge, where the fire started. What may look like devastation is not, it looked like that before.

Finally, I will fully admit these comments and opinions are not backed by science or research. They are back by my experience living where I do and watching and living in the forest itself. I have hundreds if not thousands of pictures of much of the Rim Fire burn area from pre-fire time because I have explored much of it that is on NF land. And honestly, much of what I have said and contrary view of others can all be refuted with plenty of counter examples on both sides. The fact is a fire of this size and intensity will do what it wants. Example: Berkeley Camp could be made an example of having a poor fire break but I have been there and their fire break was no less than that of Evergreen, Mather, Peach Growers, etc... You could easily switch the outcomes of these properties. A fire like this I would equate to a tsunami with High and Low spots. If you are in the path of a high spot, pray to god but call the fire fighters and get out of the way.

-n

ps. Sorry HighTraverse, nothing personal. I just felt your post was too "party line" with no specific/personal knowledge of the area. I may very well be mistaken and apologize if I am.
Strider

Trad climber
ಠ_ಠ
Nov 26, 2013 - 01:56pm PT
Here are some good examples of the "islands" or burned vs. un-burned areas that HighTraverse mentioned.

This is Pilot Ridge and Pilot Peak (East-ish). At the upper left you can see the brown/burned areas as they crept along the Ridge toward the Peak at the upper center.




This is just left (North-East-ish) of the last picture, over Highway 120, Buck Meadows, toward Cherry Lake and the High County.



Pictures taken yesterday evening from Smith Station Peak Fire Lookout.

-n
klk

Trad climber
cali
Nov 28, 2013 - 10:39am PT
thanks, more site reports are always welcome. both of you seem to be talking mostly about the 120 side. a complete tour of the fire is beyond any single person's ability, of course. even most of baer folks won't have visited key chunks of the area on foot.

i think most everyone agrees that light-to-moderate burn in this kind of fire regime is likely to have pretty favorable outcomes. the concern-- and uncertainty --is focused on the areas of high intensity fire, especially in a few key areas.

you can get a good sense of the key critical areas by looking at these maps (these maps are finer-grained than the ones posted on inciweb)--

http://ucanr.edu/sites/forestry/files/176459.pdf

the areas that most folks seem to worry about the most are the bad burn areas in the clavey (esp. lower clavey), the high-intensity near jawbone, and then the high-intensity areas in the upper tuolumne.

the conerns are soil sterilization, but more than that, the possibilty that the soil will be too badly melted to withstand the winter storms and will end up in the clavey/tuolumne. the clavey scenario is the worst, because it's probalby the only native fish assemblage left in state and no one wants to see that go.

jawbone is an area of interest because it's a major deerbrush habitat, and that's prime winter browse for the mulies. deerbrush likes fire, so light and moderate fire may well improve deer browse. unless the burn intensity is so high that we lose the soil.

i've not been able to get to the key areas of clavey or jawbone-- they're still closed. and i've now had eyewitness accounts from several competent folks. not surprisingly, those eyewitness accounts all conflict. that's one of the reasons you're hearing so many different things. folks who care about wildflowers along the 120 corridor can walk out and see some nice moderate burn and anticipate next spring's wildflowers. folks worried about clavey/jawbone are all sort of waiting until next spring/summer to find out just how much soils gets lost.

and dmt, i will write about the hansen deal, it's just been too busy at work. i'll get to it later this weekend prolly.



HighTraverse

Trad climber
Bay Area
Nov 28, 2013 - 08:44pm PT
Strider
No offense taken.
I am not sure why/where it is obvious there was clear cutting decades ago because my experience in talking with local loggers is that this area (and especially any area you could have seen from the road) has never been clear cut.
I did say clear cut for pasture or logging. Perhaps it was for pasture.
Either way, there is a large dense stand of fir/pine with many medium sized trees not much more than 50 years old, interspersed by densely packed young conifers. All burned to matchsticks. Given there are only conifers and the oldest certainly started growing sometime in the second 1/2 of the 20th century, I conclude the area had been clear cut at some time and then left to nature.

The West side of the road is devastated and the East side is still there. This has nothing to do with "clear cutting"
We differ on this. The west side I'm thinking of is a stand of tall but far from mature conifers all about the same age with younger conifers mixed in with a high density. Again, no deciduous trees. Across the road the fire ran for a good distance through the forest but the younger conifers are sparse and the older ones are mature. There are many trees with extensive green foliage.

Camp Mather has an extensive border of shaded fuel brake. It is called forest roads 1S32, 1S32A,
This is true. I couldn't drive down the FS roads as they were closed. However, there was minimal fuel clearance in the immediate vicinity of the buildings. I don't have photos of Mather to refer to.

This certainly is an example of the importance of defensible space but compared to what Camp Mather had with their road breaks, it laughable. The fire break around the Lodge is 6ft wide and 6 ft high. The reason the Lodge still exists is because of the ~250 fire fighters
I agree that the main lodge building itself has almost no defensible space. I'm sure it only exists due to a major fire fighting effort.
I didn't make myself clear. I was referring to the cabins across the road and downhill to the East of the Lodge. Since I'm unfamiliar with the lodge, I don't know if these cabins are part of the lodge or owned by others. Around these buildings there is an excellent shaded fuel break. The fire burned to the edges of the clearance, within a couple of dozen yards of the cabins and was stopped. The tall mature conifers towering over the cabins were untouched as they have no vegetation within about 30 feet of the ground.

Except as noted on Mather Camp, I've got photos I'll post up when I'm able.

As for my "following the party line", I'm not sure what party you're referring to. If you mean CalFire or State Parks, I've been working closely with their foresters and division Chief for over a year, managing the creation of several miles of shaded fuel break in the Santa Cruz mtns.
They've been on plenty of big fires in this area. I have not. So yes, I'm basing my judgements on what I've learned from them.
And don't worry, I do not assume that a shaded fuel break is a panacea.
The point of a shaded fuel break is to provide "defensible space". A space to slow the fire down and provide an area where the fire crews can safely take a stand. Some fires will get past them. However, I saw many positive effects of shaded fuel breaks in the aftermath of the Rim Fire.

Oh...and I live in the mountains as well, have for 35 years. I know very well what a conifer forest looks like when it's coming up in clear cut ground. My neighbor's old Christmas tree farm has gone wild. Perhaps I'll put up a picture of that mess as well. And I know exactly how old those trees are. (give or take 10 years). I've also seen many places in these mountains where old farms and orchards have turned into dense monoculture conifer stands. There are several within a mile of my place.

Thanks for posting your pics.
sempervirens

climber
Nov 29, 2013 - 09:26am PT
Near the end of the article is a link for official comments to the forest service.

http://thepinetree.net/index.php?module=announce&ANN_user_op=view&ANN_id=38158

Rim Fire Hazard Trees Project Announced

Sonora, CA (November 18, 2013)…Stanislaus Forest Supervisor Susan Skalski today announced that a proposed action for the Rim Fire Hazard Tree (Rim HT) project is available for comment. The project proposes to improve public health and safety by removing standing hazard trees and other trees previously felled during fire suppression across 7,630 acres of National Forest lands within and adjacent to 148 miles of high use roads and other developed facilities....

Forest Supervisor Skalski stated: “I am requesting your specific written comments during this initial 30-day designated opportunity for public participation, from November 15 through December 15, 2013. It is important to the Forest Service and the NEPA process that you submit your comments at this early point to allow us the opportunity to incorporate your thoughts, concerns and issues into the analysis.”

The Rim Fire started on August 17, 2013 in a remote area of the Stanislaus National Forest near the confluence of the Clavey and Tuolumne Rivers about 20 miles east of Sonora, California. Over the next several weeks it burned about 257,000 acres, including 155,000 acres of National Forest System (NFS) lands, becoming the third largest wildfire in California history. The Rim HT project is the first action proposed as part of the Forest’s long-term strategy for recovery within the Rim Fire.

A scoping package and other project information are online at: http://www.fs.fed.us/nepa/nepa_project_exp.php?project=43032. The scoping package provides information related to the proposed action, the scoping process and how to submit comments. The Forest Service will use scoping comments to help identify issues or alternatives while preparing an Environmental Assessment, expected to be available for a 30-day opportunity to comment in February 2014. A final decision is expected in May 2014.
sempervirens

climber
Dec 6, 2013 - 04:47pm PT
Forest Service to host open house on Rim Fire recovery


On Tuesday, Dec. 10, the Stanislaus National Forest will hold an open house to inform the public about proposed Rim Fire recovery plans.
“The purpose of the open house is to provide an opportunity for the public and stakeholders to familiarize themselves with the proposed Rim Fire Hazard Trees project details and the National Environmental Policy Act process,” said Jim Junette, team leader for the Rim Fire Hazard Trees project. “In addition, (we will) answer questions prior to the end of the public comment period, which ends Dec. 16, 2013.”
During the late summer and early autumn of 2013, the Rim Fire burned more than 250,000 acres of land in Mariposa and Tuolumne counties. More than 60 percent of those acres were within the National Forest System.
In November 2013, Stanis-laus Forest Supervisor Susan Skalski announced a proposed plan to remove fire-damaged trees from the National Forest. The plan, known as the Rim Fire Hazard Trees project, would clear scorched trees from National Forest lands adjacent to 148 miles of roadways that are used regularly.
Information on the proposed project can be accessed online at fs.fed.us. Besides providing facts about the proposed recovery project, the website also offers visitors information on how they can submit comments to the Forest Service. In the meantime, the Forest Service is preparing an Environmental Assessment, which is expected to be available for public comment in February 2013.
The open house will be held in the Stanislaus National Forest Supervisor’s Office, at 19777 Greenley Road, Sonora. The event begins at 2 p.m. and ends at 7 p.m.http://thepinetree.net/index.php?module=announce&ANN_user_op=view&ANN_id=38467
Brandon-

climber
The Granite State.
Jan 16, 2014 - 12:11pm PT
The folks at AO Rafting have a little update from this week, and a few photos.

http://blog.aorafting.com/rim-fire-update-january-2014-tuolumne-river/
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
U.N. Ambassador, Crackistan
Jan 16, 2014 - 12:20pm PT
Thanks for the link. I would point out there is nothing to recover or restore. I object to that sort of characterization but oh well, I do appreciate their report nonetheless.

DMT
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