CA’s Forest Management Woes

Graphic: The Guardian

As California begins to grapple with wildfire management it must also contend with what to do about its forests. From a legal battle playing out about whether the U.S. Forest Service should be able to cut down burned trees to how non-native eucalyptus forests should be managed, not everyone can agree on the best means of forest management.

Logging Dead Treets: Currently there’s a legal fight over a plan by the U.S. Forest Service to cut down charred trees on 3,000 acres at the site of the Rim Fire, which swept through the Stanislaus National Forest and parts of Yosemite National Park in 2013. As the SF Chronicle explained, the forest service wants to log and burn the salvaged wood in a biomass plant, which would create electricity. They would then replant thousands of conifers in the burn scar, which can still be seen off Highway 120 on the way to Yosemite.

The Eucalyptus Problem: While it’s grown throughout California for over 100 years, eucalyptus is not a native species. Now, there are fights breaking out among Californians who want the groves to stay and others who want them logged as a means of preventing wildfires.

  • Eucalyptus opponents say that restoring landscapes to a more natural state would help reduce the fuel load and help prevent wildfires from spreading.
  • Proponents, on the other hand, say that the trees help reduce wind, create shade, and trap fog creating a damp understory that helps create a fuel break.

As the Guardian noted in their great visual piece, ultimately the eucalyptus may be the most salient, arboreal, symbol of the state: a stupid business idea that grew out of control, reshaped the landscape forever and became an eco-political quagmire.

As If That Wasn’t Enough: Landowners are resisting having officials clear their land of excess vegetation and overgrown forests.

Why This Matters: Ensuring that a state as massive and ecologically diverse as California has an actionable climate mitigation plan is a big task but will help other states begin to grapple with the risks of climate change as well. It’s also why it’s imperative that at the presidential debate on Thursday the candidates take some time to discuss the issues facing California–like climate mitigation and forest management.

On That Note: President Trump’s uninformed tweets about CA wildfire mitigation is driving the state’s firefighter union to support Joe Biden.

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