King Fire Restoration EIS — Eldorado National Forest

Georgetown, Pacific, and Placerville Ranger Districts, El Dorado County

August 12, 2015

The Forest Service has issued its final Environmental Impact Statement and Record of Decision for activities planned within the 2013 King Fire perimeter. The Record of Decision (ROD), the final action plans, maps, etc. are all available online here. The agency was granted a special request by the President's Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) to eliminate both the minimum 90-day requirement between the Notice of Availability of the draft EIS and the publication of the Record of Decision (ROD), and the 30-day waiting period between the publication of the final EIS and the ROD. 

Please take note that the agency websites post only the commment letters that are submitted online from the project webpage. Most substantive public comments and reviews of projects are submitted via email or mail, and the Forest Service does not upload these to the project website.

June 22, 2015

Read our comments on the DEIS, here.

May 22, 2015

Today the Eldorado National Forest released the draft environmental impact statement for salvage logging, reforestation, and other activities planned in the King Fire area on national forest lands. Comments will be accepted until June 22, 2015.

January 23, 2015

On December 19th, 2014, the U.S. Forest Service announced the federal agency's proposed action for salvage logging and other activities in the King Fire area in the Eldorado National Forest. The King Fire began burning on September 13, 2014 and burned over 97,000 acres, with 100 percent containment achieved by firefighters on October 9, 2014. According to the Forest Service, the cost of fighting the fire was $91 million as of September 30, 2014. The cause of the fire was arson.

King Fire Left: King Fire photo by Aaron Morris

The fire burned through areas of dense and highly flammable commercial pine plantations, in a region that is among the most heavily logged and human-impacted forests in California. The area burned includes approximately 63,000 acres of public national forest lands, and some 39,000 acres of privately owned Sierra Pacific Industries forest lands, and burned twelve residences.

The latest Forest Service proposal to "salvage" the burned trees throughout the area to prepare it for planting and other so-called restoration activities are likely to recreate the same or worse fire configuration, thereby setting up the scenario for the next huge blaze. The proposal includes the following actions on 13,940 acres:

1) Logging on 13,100 acres
2) Mastication (mechanical shredding of vegetation) and/or piling with heavy equipment on 120 acres
3) Tree planting and vegetation control (herbicides and manual hoeing) on 710 acres
4) Total tree planting on 13,940 acres

Sadly, the Forest Service continues to ignore the majority science that finds that salvage logging has no value whatsoever either in helping to restore forests or preventing future fires. In fact, since salvage logging is always followed by dense tree plantings, the resulting structure and composition is significantly more flammable than any other forest type--more flammable than shrubs or natural regeneration.

Plantation burned in King FireRight: Plantations burned throughout the King Fire. Previous herbicide use will likely limit the available seed sources for natural regeneration of non-conifer species in such sites.

The increasingly privatized and immensely profitable fire industrial complex is now costing the U.S. Treasury upwards of 2 billion dollars annually. For this and a myriad of other reasons, it dosn't make sense for the Forest Service to continue to ignore the best available science while pushing ahead with a plan that will result in further damage to this long suffering ecosystem (see image below).

King Fire region clearcuts

Left: Google Earth image from 2005 showing extent of industrial clearcuts that contributed to intensity of King Fire

View King Fire documents and other information at the FS' King Fire website here.

Download and read Sierra Forest Legacy and coalition partner comments, submitted January 23, 2015.

Learn more about this controversy by visiting the Rim Fire page. Many of the same issues of concern in the King Fire are occuring in management plans for the Rim Fire on the Stanislaus NF as well. Learn how clearcut forest harvests and subsequent tree planting are contributing to forests that burn more frequently and with greater intensity, while also reducing essential wildlife habitat. This is a failed method of forest management that must come to an end, if we are to preserve forests and wildlife over the next decades under a rapidly changing climate.

Read more about salvage logging here.

Quick references:

Britting, S., et al. 2012. Structural Diversity. Ch. IV-B in: National Forests in the Sierra Nevada: A Conservation Strategy. Sierra Forest Legacy. August 27, 2012.

DellaSalla, D. et al. 2013. Conservation science perspective on complex early seral forests: what are they and how to manage them in the Sierra Nevada ecoregion. Comments submitted to the Forest Service for early adopter forest plan revisions.

Donato, D.C., J.B. Fontaine, J.L. Campbell, W.D., Robinson, J.B. Kauffman, and B.E. Law.  2006.  Post-wildfire logging hinders regeneration and increases fire risk. Science 311:352.

Donato, D.C., J.B. Fontaine, J.B. Kauffman, W.D. Robinson, and B.E. Law.  2013.  Fuel mass and forest structure following stand-replacement fire and post-fire logging in a mixed-evergreen forest.  International Journal of Wildland Fire 22:652-666.

Dunn, C.J. and J.D. Bailey.  2015.  Modeling the direct effects of salvage logging on long-term temporal fuel dynamics in dry-mixed conifer forests.  Forest Ecology and Management 341:93-109.

Franklin, J. F. and K. N. Johnson. 2012. A restoration framework for federal forests in the Pacific Northwest. Journal of Forestry. 110(8):429–439.

Kobziar, L.N., J.R. McBride, and S.L. Stephens.  2009.  The efficacy of fire and fuels reduction treatments in a Sierra Nevada pine plantation.  International Journal of Wildland Fire 18:791-801.

Lindenmayer, D.B., P. Burton, and J. Franklin. 2008. Salvage Logging and Its Ecological Consequences. Island Press.

McGinnis, T.W., J.E. Keeley, S.L. Stephens, and G.B. Roller.  2010.  Fuel buildup and potential fire behavior after stand-replacing fires, logging fire-killed trees and herbicide shrub removal in Sierra Nevada forests.  Forest Ecology and Management 260:22-35.

McIver, J.D. and R. Ottmar.  2007.  Fuel mass and stand structure after post-fire logging of a severely burned ponderosa pine forest in northeastern Oregon.  Forest Ecology and Management 238:268-279.

North, M. et al. 2009. An Ecosystem Management Strategy for Sierran Mixed-Conifer Forests. Gen. Tech. Rep. PSW-GTR-220. Albany, CA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station. 49 p.

North, M. ed. 2012. Managing Sierra Nevada Forests. Gen. Tech. Rep. PSW-GTR-237. Albany, CA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station. 184 p.

Ritchie, M.W., E.E. Knapp, C.N. Skinner.  2013.  Snag longevity and surface fuel accumulations following post-fire logging in a ponderosa pine dominated forest.  Ecology and Forest Management 287:113-122.

Swanson, M.E. et al. 2011. The forgotten stage of forest succession: early-successional ecosystems on forest sites. Frontiers Ecol Environ 9(2): 117–125.

Swanson, M.E. et al. 2014. Biological associates of early-seral pre-forest in the Pacific Northwest. Forest Ecol Mgmt. In press.

Tempel, D.J. et al. 2014. Effects of forest management on California Spotted Owls: implications for reducing wildfire risk in fire-prone forests. Ecological Applications 24:2089–2106.

Thompson, J.R., T.A. Spies, and L.M. Ganio.  2007.  Reburn severity in managed and unmanaged vegetation in a large wildfire.  PNAS 104:10743-10748.

U.S. Forest Service Documents

Region 5 Ecological Restoration Leadership Intent

Region 5 Ecological Restoration Implementation Plan

NFMA Planning Rule

King Fire project website