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Fire restoration plan may ignite debate

The Star Fire burned for 30 days on 16,600 acres near the Middle Fork American River and Duncan Canyon drainages.

Though the big blaze has been cold since Sept. 25, controversy could start heating soon over how the Tahoe National Forest handles restoration of the burned-over acreage.



The TNF said Wednesday it’s kicking off environmental documentation for the Star Fire restoration. The proposal is to remove fire-killed trees, primarily using helicopter logging, from 3,100 acres.




The TNF estimates another 4,000 acres may need salvage logging if burned trees continue to die. Reforestation is proposed for 3,370 acres.

“Only completely dead trees are going to be harvested,” said TNF spokeswoman Ann Westling. “If a tree is pretty green, it’s going to be left, just because that’s a point of controversy.”

If dead trees aren’t removed, Westling predicted they’d fall over and pile up “like pick-up sticks … that’s what we would be dealing with if no trees are harvested – tremendous, absolutely tremendous fire hazard.”

Salvage logging is supported by the Foresthill Forum, a group of Foresthill community leaders appointed by the Placer County Board of Supervisors. Meanwhile, environmentalists promise to closely scrutinize the project, especially in Duncan Canyon, a roadless area with old-growth trees.

“We’ve got a tremendous amount of burnt timber up there that’s going to … rot,” said Foresthill Forum member Larry Mobley. “They can be harvested and they can be (sold) to make money that could help the Forest Service reforest the area.”

The Foresthill Forum voted in December to support a salvage plan that would allow the private sector to remove timber. “Our primary concern is fire safety. Number two, let’s get the forest back again” through reforestation, Mobley said.

Environmentalist Don Jacobson of the Nevada City-based Forest Issues Group said if the Forest Service wants to reduce fire danger, it should remove the smallest dead trees first.

“If they’re big trees, they don’t add to the fuel problem if they (remove) the small-diameter trees,” Jacobson said. Large snags – dead standing trees – are important as habitat for forest creatures, he said. Also, when large snags fall and rot, they add nutrients to the soil, he said.

“If you take those out of the forest, there’s nothing to replenish the soil,” he said.

The TNF has issued a draft concept of what it thinks needs to be done. It’s the first step toward preparing an environmental impact statement.

WHAT: Star Fire public meeting

WHEN: 6 p.m. – 9 p.m., March 14

WHERE: Foresthill Community Room behind the library


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