Officials, activist debate logging Gap Fire region |

Officials, activist debate logging Gap Fire region

It looked like no one was going to show up Thursday evening at a public discussion of Gap Fire restoration proposals at Tahoe National Forest headquarters in Nevada City.

Then, Chad Hanson walked into a room where a dozen Forest Service employees were assembled.

Hanson, who recently moved to Nevada County, is on the national board of the Sierra Club and opposes commercial logging on national forest land.

TNF officials propose to salvage-log some 950 acres of the fire, which burned an estimated 1,371 acres Aug. 12-18 south of I-80, near Yuba Gap.

Helicopters would be used to log 725 acres. Another 225 acres may be logged by tractor or helicopter.

The proposed salvage-logging is to reduce material that could fuel a forest fire, not produce timber, said Bob Cary, TNF resource planner.

“We can remove the material while it can still provide a useful product and address society’s need for timber using dead trees instead of live trees,” Cary said.

“Or we can wait and see what happens,” he said. “Then we can (use) taxpayer dollars to remove this material, and we’re talking about (spending) several million dollars.”

But Hanson questioned the need to remove large, dead trees called snags. He also suggested that Forest Service officials are too quick to declare a tree dead, based on how much of the trunk and crown is scorched.

“Do you have any scientific studies that prove … that huge, old snags contribute to future … fire intensity?” Hanson asked. “Large dead trees soak up an enormous quantity of water (and are) harder to burn.”

Even during drought conditions, it can take years for large snags to dry out, Hanson said.

Hanson had a lengthy debate with a handful of TNF employees from different disciplines, including a firefighter with 22 years’ experience.

The TNF will require whoever does the salvage-logging to also remove slash and trees under 3 inches in diameter, Cary said.

The one other person who showed up for the public meeting was Dennis Thibeault of the Redding-based timber company Sierra Pacific Industries.

“All of us rely on wood products in one form or another,” Thibeault said. “We clearly have romantic ideas about how forests should be managed … but we’re still consuming wood.”

The TNF aims to complete environmental documentation on the project next week. Salvage-logging could begin late next summer, Cary said.

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