In August, a hunter's illegal campfire exploded into the massive Rim Fire in California,
burning forestlands throughout the Stanislaus National Forest, Yosemite National Park and private
lands. Earlier this month, the House Committee on Natural Resources held a hearing on HR 3188,
also known as the "Yosemite Rim Fire Emergency Salvage Act." The Act, which was
introduced by Representative Tom McClintock (R-CA), would expedite "salvage" logging in
the national forest and Yosemite National Park by allowing the activity to bypass environmental
laws, including the National Environmental Policy Act, Clean Water Act, National Forest
Management Act and the Federal Land Policy Act. The law would also bypass the opportunity for
public engagement, and override any opportunity for administrative or judicial review.
The Act makes little sense on a number of levels. The National Park Service has already removed
hazardous trees along road corridors and has not requested salvage logging as a restoration
measure. Additionally, the ability for local mills to process the wood is limited. One estimate
is that the impacted areas in the Stanislaus National Forest along could have well over 500
million board feet of salvage wood available, which is well above what local timber mills could
handle over the next two years, which the timber would still be economically feasible to salvage.
Further, of the 78,749 acres that burned in Yosemite National Park, 92.5% are designated as
Wilderness, where the wood is needed for habitat and ecological recovery, which are essential for
the preservation of Wilderness character. And finally, waiving environmental laws for logging
could result in consequences that would be costly to mitigate. Logging activities would impact
soils in an area that provides drinking water for millions of people, and have negative impacts
to recreation, public access and public safety.
American Whitewater joined with our partners through Outdoor Alliance to weigh in on the issue,
noting that bypassing bedrock public land management and public engagement laws will likely do
more harm than good. We encourage you to contact your representatives and express your opinions
on the issue.
Photo by Mike McMillan–USFS.