“A ruinous fire scarred one edge of Yosemite National Park, and a contentious remake of the main tourist center is still playing out. But a significant and positive change is close to happening: the first expansion of the fabled, ever-popular park in 70 years.”
“Until they burned, oaks and pines in the Rim fire area absorbed carbon dioxide and emitted oxygen, a useful service for the planet.
“The massive blaze reduced the value of this function by as much as $797 million, according to an initial estimate by economists who specialize in accounting for ‘ecosystem services,’ or what nature provides to humans.”
“The Stanislaus National Forest was a thickly forested wonderland of streams, wildlife and campgrounds until last summer’s Rim fire — started by a hunter’s illegal campfire — scorched more than 250,000 acres of it and the adjacent Yosemite National Park. To many people, it’s a tragic sight now. What was once dense greenery is now scarred, gray and empty looking.”
From U-T San Diego, in a commentary by Robert Hanna & Nathan Weaver :
“Yosemite National Park has long blessed us with its breathtaking beauty and the transcendental splendor of its valleys and backcountry. Yet between the massive Rim Fire and 17-day government shutdown, there’s no denying that 2013 was a hard year for the park we all love.
“As the New Year dawns, we still have a chance to enhance Yosemite’s splendor by adding 1,600 acres of important habitat for park wildlife.
“Congress will revisit unfinished business with Yosemite National Park next year.
“One pending bill would expand Yosemite’s boundaries. Another would rename a local mountain peak. A third would speed salvage logging in the park’s vicinity. Some bills may have promise, but none yet shows unstoppable momentum.”
From the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Blog:
“An award-winning watershed assessment tool, the Automated Geospatial Watershed Assessment (AGWA), was deployed to assess potential Rim Fire threats in Yosemite National Park in California. …
“BAER (Burned Area Emergency Response) is a multi-agency group that includes USDA’s Forest Service and others, and is responsible for identifying potential threats such as downstream flooding and developing plans to rehabilitate and restore burned areas.
From the Los Angeles Times, in a commentary by former U.S. Rep. Dan Lungren and former California Attorney General John Van de Kamp:
“One hundred years ago this month, President Woodrow Wilson signed the Raker Act, which allowed San Francisco to build a dam in Yosemite National Park and convert the spectacular Hetch Hetchy Valley into a municipal reservoir.
“As native Californians who have often visited Yosemite, we can think of no greater crime committed against the national parks. But it’s not too late to undo the damage.
“It’s been three months since California experienced its third largest wildfire in history. The U.S. Forest Service must now decide how to restore the 257-thousand acres burned in the Rim Fire, and how much salvage logging should occur.”
“In late September, the House sent to the Senate a bill introduced by Representative Doc Hastings, Republican of Washington, that would not only authorize salvage logging but require it in some areas, and would deter legal challenges.
“In response, a group of 250 forestry experts and scientists have written a letter attacking the bill and the very concept of salvage logging.”
“The federal government this week rejected Gov. Jerry Brown’s request to help pay for damage caused by the Rim Fire, leaving the state and the small Sierra communities that suffered in the blaze on the hook for potentially tens of millions of dollars.
“In a letter sent to the governor Monday, the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency said California’s third-largest wildfire was not severe enough to qualify as a federal disaster.
Although dousing the flames was foremost in people’s minds during the recent Rim Fire in Stanislaus National Forest and Yosemite National Park, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientific work continues well after the fire is out.
“As autumn turns to winter and rain falls over the charred landscape left behind by the Rim fire, forest rangers and emergency planners have a new worry: water.
“Over 90% of the blaze burned in the Tuolumne River watershed, where more than 2,600 miles of streams cut through steep, now-burned slopes of the Sierra Nevada. Those mountains are primed for flooding and debris flows in a big storm.”
“An ambitious plan to restore and improve the health of the largest grove of giant sequoias in Yosemite National Park is moving forward with the release Thursday of an environmental impact statement for the project.
“The tourist site at the south end of the park includes asphalt parking lots that cover the sprawling roots of the giant trees, as well as tram service and roads through the grove. Park officials hope to restore wetlands, remove the parking lot, reduce noise and add shuttle service for visitors to reach the trees.”
“Gov. Jerry Brown issued an executive order Wednesday suspending environmental regulations and freeing up money to clean up downed trees and debris, and prevent calamitous mudslides in the huge blackened area left by the Rim Fire.
“He also announced that he has asked President Obama to declare California a major disaster area so that it can receive federal funds.”