Yosemite Fire Debate Over Harvesting Burned Trees

The enormous blackened region of wilderness devastated by the Rim Fire — an area roughly equivalent to a mile-wide patch of land stretching from San Francisco to Los Angeles — is now the subject of a fiery debate over a proposal to salvage the burned timber, reports The San Francisco Chronicle.

The massive fire left dead timber spread over 257,000 acres in the Sierra, including portions of Yosemite National Park. That’s about 1 billion board feet, the measurement for lumber. A board foot is the volume of a plank 1 foot long, 1 foot wide and 1 inch thick.

The U.S. Forest Service has submitted a plan to harvest dead trees on 29,648 acres of the Stanislaus National Forest. Another 50 million board feet of “hazard trees” that are threatening to fall on public roads and jeopardize public safety would be harvested under a separate plan.

The salvaged timber – valuable wood that can still be used for housing construction – must be harvested before it is ruined by fungus and wood-boring beetles, a process that could happen within a year, according to proponents. The timber and revenues from the sale of the wood could be used to help the fire recovery efforts in Tuolumne and Mariposa counties and for replanting, officials said.

The proposal sparked an angry response from environmentalists who say salvage logging disrupts the development of a complex post-fire ecosystem that is crucial to reforestation.

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