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Debate erupts over plans to harvest burned timber in California

  |   Dec. 27, 2013 at 4:05 PM
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SAN FRANCISCO, Dec. 27 (UPI) -- A proposal to salvage burned timber from a massive fire on 257,000 acres in California, including portions of Yosemite National Park, has ignited a debate.

The U.S. Forest Service has submitted a plan to harvest dead trees on 29,648 acres of the Stanislaus National Forest, a move criticized by environmentalists who say salvage logging would disrupt the development of a complex post-fire ecosystem crucial to reforestation.

"There is nothing one could think of that would be more destructive after a fire than salvage logging and planting," Chad Hanson, a forest and fire ecologist for the John Muir Protect, a nonprofit offshoot of Earth Island Institute, told the San Francisco Chronicle.

Post-fire habitat "is the single most biodiverse forest habitat type in the conifer forests of the Sierra Nevada," he said.

The burned timber is the result of the Rim Fire, the largest ever in the Sierra Nevada and the third-largest in California history, started in August by a hunter's illegal wildfire.

Proponents of the plan say the salvaged timber -- valuable wood that can still be used for housing construction -- should be harvested before it is made unusable by fungus and wood-boring beetles.

"Californians are going to use wood," John Buckley, director of the Central Sierra Environmental Resources Center, an environmental group that works with the Forest Service on ecosystem preservation issues, told the Chronicle. "Do you want Californians to use wood that is already dead and will rot if you don't use it, or do you want to go out into the forest and cut living trees for wood?"

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