Nature’s Resilience on full display in Rim Fire. Don’t Cut down my home for biomass energy!
Protection for Forests in Rim Fire Needed Now
Background: The Rim Fire burned 257,000 acres in the Stanislaus National Forest and a portion of Yosemite National Park in 2013. Most of these acres burned at low and moderate intensity (where most of the mature trees survived). Only about 20% of the fire area burned at high intensity—patches in which most or all of the trees were killed by the fire. In these areas, the fire created an ecologically important forest type called snag forest habitat, where you will find especially high numbers and variety of wildlife, wildflowers, shrubs, and abundant naturally regenerating tree seedlings (below).
In contrast, in areas that were clearcut after the fire (below) by the Forest Service, the land is barren and there is little or no life, except for invasive weeds and an occasional tree seedling.
Current Threat: Unfortunately, there are renewed efforts to destroy the remaining snag forest habitat areas in the Rim Fire through logging. Presently, the California government agency known as the Sierra Nevada Conservancy is administering a $28 million grant of taxpayer money received from the Trump administration’s Housing and Urban Development agency (HUD) and plans to clearcut 3,500 acres of intact snag forest habitat on the Stanislaus National Forest, adjacent to Yosemite National Park, and then incinerate the cut trees in a “biomass” power plant. Biomass power is a particularly dirty source, generating 45% more CO2 emissions per kilowatt than coal. Logging these areas in the Rim Fire would convert productive, intact snag forests, which are storing and sequestering carbon, into an explosion of carbon emissions, and would destroy vital wildlife habitat that is home to numerous imperiled species, such as Great Gray Owls, California Spotted Owls, and Black-backed Woodpeckers.
The Sierra Nevada Conservancy is attempting to justify this clearcuts-for-kilowatts plan by claiming that the forests are not re-growing in these snag forest patches, based on outdated 2014/2015 field data; but things have changed dramatically since then, and there is now abundant forest regeneration in these areas. Using taxpayer money, SNC plans to clearcut these areas, spray thousands of pounds of toxic herbicides, and then plant sterile tree plantations, like corn crops. During the planning process, SNC attempted to reassure the concerned public by saying that they would limit this project to areas that had already been logged, but they are now violating this promise, and plan to focus on clearcutting intact snag forest. This would destroy vital wildlife habitat, and would kill the natural forest regeneration.