The last motion filed to prevent salvage logging on the high-severity burned area in the Rim Fire as outlined in the U.S. Forest Service Record of Decision has been denied by both the District Court and, on appeal, the 9th Circuit. The last motion was one of three that were filed and all three were denied. The U.S. Forest Service to date has not had any delays by the complaints filed and restoration activities are underway. The collaborative effort from community groups, environmental organizations, business, local officials and the Forest Service have ensured a smooth and effective process.
Restoration forestry projects have been up and running since the fire was declared completely extinguished and the continued even during the review of the complaints. Removal of roadside hazard trees on Forest Service public roads started in May and the project was just recently completed. Trees are deemed a roadside hazard that posed a danger to the public by falling on to roads where people and cars travel. Roadside hazards are critical projects to ensure public safety and access to the National Forest and park.
Salvage logging efforts have also begun. Salvage logging is one of many forestry management tools land managers can use to help restore the landscape after a wildfire. Areas in need of salvage logging are areas that were burned so intensely that trees and forests would have difficulty growing back. Salvage logging can improve the ecology of an area impacted by high-intensity burns and allow new forests to grow while making the landscape more resistant to future catastrophic wildfire. Replanting of a wide range of trees species natural to the area is also conducted to help the forest grow back strong.
Since November 1st, approximately 20,000 acres, or about 210 million board feet of Forest Service timber, has been sold to be salvage logged. The revenue from selling the burnt timber is believed to bring in approximately $2 million to the treasury to date. There are still some acres of the salvage-designated area within the high-severity burn that is left to sell. The 100 million board feet left to be sold could return about $1 million to the treasury. Revenue from selling salvage logs can pay for other restoration efforts to improve the overall health of the entire landscape making the land more ecologically sound.
Salvaging this timber will maintain approximately 250 sawmill jobs in Tuolumne County along with 400-500 ancillary trucking and logging jobs. This positive economic impact should last through 2015. Soon after that, rot will deteriorate the tree to the point where the timber can no longer pay for the service of removing it. The two sales have gone unsold had a heavy biomass component that made then uneconomical. The Forest Service and local leaders are working to repackage these sales to come up with a plan that works for the community as well as a benefit to the environment while upholding the environmental regulations and laws that guide all logging efforts.
Since the Rim Fire tore through the area and devoured over 250, 000 square miles of National, State and private forested land, the community has come together to put together a solution with positive environmental, economical and social sense. The whole effort to restore forests has been very successful due to cooperation of a diverse group of individuals, organizations and government agencies.