Rim Fire: What's Next (ecologically)?


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Trad climber
Nov 28, 2013 - 01:39pm 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)--


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.


Trad climber
Bay Area
Nov 28, 2013 - 11:44pm PT
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.

Nov 29, 2013 - 12:26pm PT
Near the end of the article is a link for official comments to the forest service.


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.

Dec 6, 2013 - 07:47pm 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

The Granite State.
Jan 16, 2014 - 03:11pm PT
The folks at AO Rafting have a little update from this week, and a few photos.

Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
U.N. Ambassador, Crackistan
Jan 16, 2014 - 03:20pm 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.

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