Salvage Logging & The Importance of Post Fire Habitat
Undisturbed, post fire habitat creates complex, early seral plant communities that have become increasingly rare, both due to fire suppression and due to post fire salvage logging. The impact of post fire salvage logging is especially pronounced in the Klamath-Siskiyou Mountains and has impacted nearly all unprotected roadless areas in the Klamath River Watershed. In many cases post fire salvage logging creates conditions that disqualify that section from future wilderness designation and significantly impact landscape connectivity.
Salvage logging is usually practiced as clear-cut logging, conducted on sensitive fire effected soils, and in many cases in sensitive areas otherwise excluded or limited from timber harvest, such as inventoried roadless areas, late successional reserves, northern spotted owl sites, and key watersheds. Often salvage logging operations are conducted on sensitive soils or very steep terrain, having significant impacts to adjacent streams and fisheries resources. Salvage logging is also especially damaging to forest regeneration and forest succession following a stand replacing fire event. The standing snags provide habitat for cavity nesting birds and mammals. When the snags eventually fall to the forest floor they encourage natural forest regeneration by building soil, creating habitat niches for forest reproduction, retaining moisture and creating complex habitat conditions for wildlife species.
Salvage logging has also been shown to increase fuel
and fire risks by creating “activity slash.” The limbs and tops of logged trees are often left on the forest floor, creating ample small diameter, fire available fuel for the next wildfire. This creates a pulse input of surface fuels that may increase susceptibility to severe re-burns for many decades.
Additionally, salvage logging is often followed by monocultural tree planting to develop plantation stands, disrupting natural fire regeneration and further increasing fuel risks by creating dense, even-aged stands of Douglas fir or pine. Following the infamous 1987 fire season on the Klamath National Forest, agency biologists conducted research into the impact of fire on plantation stands and found that “plantations were uniformly destroyed with few exceptions…the vast majority suffered complete mortality.” Similar findings were evident during studies conducted following the Dillon Fire on the Klamath River in 1994. These studies showed that plantations suffered high mortality and led to increased fire behavior in adjacent natural stands.
Salvage logging operations throughout the Klamath-Siskiyou have been shown to increase fuel risks on the Salmon River, the North Kalmiopsis Roadless Area, the Hayfork area, and on the Klamath River. The same is true throughout the entire west, leading respected forest ecologist David Perry to state that once plantation stands are mixed with unmanaged, native forest “the potential exists for a self reinforcing cycle of catastrophic fires.” Valid science simply does not substantiate the claims that salvage logging...