Yosemite pulled from disastrous logging bill, but Stanislaus forest remains in the crosshairs

A California spotted owl in Stanislaus National Forest.

Photo: Ryan Kalinowski, U.S. Forest Service Region 5, flickr.

A recent bill opens California wilderness areas to damaging "salvage logging" following the Rim Fire.

House Republicans are fast-tracking so-called “salvage logging” in thousands of acres of wild California forest, part of a disastrous piece of legislation that threatens the health of the area for generations to come.

The Yosemite Rim Fire Emergency Salvage Act, which was introduced by Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) in September 2013, would have opened up huge swaths of Yosemite and California’s Stanislaus National Forest to private companies so they could cut down trees damaged in the Rim Fire, all without the usual public notice or environmental review.

Now, after a predictable hue and cry, Yosemite has been taken out of the bill, which was recently reported out of the House Natural Resources Committee. But fire-affected parts of the Stanislaus, including a designated Wilderness Area, over 23,000 acres of roadless areas, a designated Wild & Scenic River and thousands of acres of endangered species habitat, remain in harm's way.

What's the problem with salvage logging? 

Scientists say that burned trees left in the wake of blazes like the Rim Fire serve an important role in a wooded area’s natural cycle of recovery, spurring improved biodiversity and supporting life ranging from shrubs to bears. What’s more, removing these trees could actually exacerbate fire damage and increase future risk—not to mention subjecting the damaged area to further intrusion at the hands of heavy logging machinery.

Salvage logging is not the right way to save Stanislaus National Forest. Even with Yosemite, which is comprised of about 95 percent protected wilderness area, removed from the bill, countless natural wonders are still at risk.

“We need to have a serious conversation about the appropriate time and place for salvage logging, but this bill is not a step in that direction,” said Anne Merwin, director of Wilderness Policy at the Wilderness Society. “Rep. McClintock’s plan, which ignores both bedrock federal law and science itself to open giant tracts of conservation land to one of the most environmentally destructive forms of timber harvest, is shortsighted in the extreme.”  

Wilderness areas in danger

Stanislaus National Forest. Photo: Jon Wiley, flickr.

The Rim Fire burned nearly 260,000 acres, including designated wilderness and inventoried roadless areas within Yosemite and Stanislaus. Using the aftermath of such a disaster as an opportunity to line the pockets of timber companies only adds insult to injury. 

This is especially true in Stanislaus National Forest, where the Rim Fire originated. Home to bald eagles, peregrine falcons, black bears and wolverines, it contains chunks of three different designated wilderness areas that have been cherished outdoor spots for generations.

Emigrant Wilderness, a great spot for hiking and horseback riding just to the north of the more famous Yosemite, falls under the purview of the logging bill. It is known for its volcanic ridges, eerie basalt columns and alpine lakes. Elsewhere in Stanislaus, Carson-Iceberg Wilderness, named for the Carson River and a distinctive granite formation called "the Iceberg," is a vital destination for photographers and intrepid hikers due to its many splendid peaks, deep river canyons and green meadows. Mokelumne Wilderness boasts unique geological diversity and, like its sibling wilderness areas in the Stanislaus, has been shielded from harmful development for years.

How you can help

The Wilderness Society works to protect wilderness areas like these alongside businesses, government officials and recreational organizations, all of which understand the importance of such lands.

As has become apparent, many members of Congress do not share our respect for the wild. In fact, the logging bill now working its way through the House was the subject of committee hearings during the recent government shutdown, which closed National Parks and other special public lands to the American people (but apparently not to timber companies). In effect, Congress was thinking about selling off your property, even as they dithered about whether you should be allowed inside.

America’s wild lands should always remain open for the American people--not logging, mining and drilling interests.

Help the Wilderness Society protect wild places like Yosemite and the Stanislaus National Forest.

Emigrant Wilderness' Upper Buck Lake, part of Stanislaus National Forest. Photo: Ryan Kalinowski, U.S. Forest Service Region 5, flickr.