Forest Picture
Credit: Sturner

A new Center for Biological Diversity report outlines the important ecological benefits of last summer’s Rim Fire in northern California – and exposes how a U.S. Forest Service plans to allow 30,000 acres of logging in the burned area that could cause significant harm to wildlife, water and the re-growing forest.

The report, Nourished by Wildfire: The Ecological Benefits of the Rim Fire and the Threat of Salvage Logging, explains how fires are essential for maintaining biological diversity in the Sierra Nevada ecosystem.

“Burned forests are not dead zones, but rather teem with life,” said the Center’s Justin Augustine. “The reflex reaction to log after forest fires directly contradicts decades of scientific research showing both the immense ecological importance of post-fire landscapes and the significant harm that can occur when such areas are logged.”

The moderate and high-intensity fire areas in conifer forest within the Rim fire created what is known as ‘complex early seral forest’ — one of the rarest, most biodiverse habitat types in the Sierra Nevada. Not only do post-fire landscapes provide critical wildlife habitat; if not logged, they can also result in a forest that is naturally more resilient to climate change.

The new report analyzes the Rim fire in relation to the relevant biological science and recommends that, rather than focusing on industrial-scale salvage logging, post-fire management should focus on activities that benefit forest health, water quality and the many native species that depend on fire for their existence. “The Rim fire provided many environmental benefits,” said Dr Chad Hanson, a research ecologist with the John Muir Project. “Most significantly, the high-intensity fire areas created critical wildlife habitat — a habitat that is even rarer and more threatened than old-growth forest.”