Monday, November 21, 2016

Perfect Storm Mummifies Forest Timber/Fuel Program

2012 Post Mill Fire Viewshed/Resource Impacts 
M5 - Mendocino NF

Op Ed
By Don Amador
November 21, 2016

Perfect Storm Mummifies Forest Timber/Fuel Program

I believe Californians are facing an environmental disaster of biblical proportions based on recent media accounts and surveys that detail over 100 million dead and dying trees currently exist on federal timber lands.

As a native Californian, I witnessed the creation of a complex set of factors that have mummified the fuel/fire/timber management programs of most land agencies. 

2012 Mill Fire - System Trail Closed 
Mendocino NF

Over the last 30 years, a massive regulatory wet-blanket has been cast over the federal timber and fuel programs.  That “perfect storm” of factors presented in an academic manner include: litigation, court decisions, budget cutbacks, restrictive policies, environmental regulations, legislation, closure of sawmills, and political agendas.

2013 Rim Fire - Route/Area Closure
Stanislaus NF

The trail-based recreation community has a lot to lose in this high stakes game of gridlocked forest management and the resultant Mega-fires that consume lives, property, wildlife, natural resources, and recreation-related facilities and opportunities.

2014 King Fire - Viewshed/Resource Impacts from FS Road
Eldorado NF

Outdoor recreationists have good case studies in recent years of how Mega-fires (e.g. Mill Fire, Rim Fire, King Fire, etc.) impact designated trails and related soil loss mitigation structures, campgrounds, staging areas, visual enjoyment, and often close the fire’s footprint to all public entry for one year or more. 

2012 Mill Fire - One Year Closure to All Public Entry
Mendocino NF

Post-fire recreation rehabilitation can cost millions of dollars.  Designated roads, trails, trail delineators, kiosks, signs, and trail-based soil loss structures often have to be replaced or reconstructed.

2012 Mill Fire - Post Fire Volunteer Project Installing Route Delineators
Mendocino NF

Agency staff and volunteers must be committed to clearing downed trees off of routes for the next 10-20 years post-fire.

2012 Mill Fire - Post Fire Trail Clearing
Mendocino NF

I am glad to see the Forest Service is looking to redirect funds to protect or armor roads, trails, and recreation facilities.

Fuel/Forest Health Project
Sierra NF

Given the limited amount of staff resources and funding available, I support the agency’s focus on recreation-based pre-disaster fuel reduction projects.

Prescribed Fire Project

I have also rededicated myself to helping facilitate those fuel reduction efforts on federal timber lands by working with the agency and various stakeholder groups.  The status quo is simply not acceptable any longer.

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Don Amador writes on environmental and recreation issues from his office in Oakley, CA.  He may be reached via email at:

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