Thursday, January 24, 2013

[californiadisasters] Lassen NP To Sow Seeds Of Next Big Fire

Different approach: Lassen Park plans little cleanup of Reading Fire acreage

Lassen National Park officials are taking a very different approach to restoring areas burned in the Reading Fire last summer.

While the park's neighbor to the north, the Lassen National Forest, plans to log trees and replant seedlings on thousands of acres, the park will cut down relatively few trees.

That's because the park's mission is primarily preservation and recreation, which doesn't include harvesting trees, even after a fire, said Karen Haner, a park spokeswoman.

"The National Park Service has a mission of preservation and we don't sell any of the resources we've been given to preserve," Haner said.

The Reading Fire was one of three large Shasta County fires ignited by lightning last summer. The Ponderosa Fire burned about 28,000 acres around Shingletown and Manton, and the Bagley Fire consumed about 46,000 acres in an area northeast of Lake Shasta and west of Big Bend.

Lassen National Forest officials are doing environmental assessments of work to repair damage done during the Reading Fire, which burned about 28,000 acres last summer. Most of the land burned was in the national park, but about 11,000 acres charred was in the national forest.

Part of the Lassen forest's restoration includes a proposal to harvest trees on 6,580 acres. They also propose replanting on 7,915 acres to replace trees burned and harvested, according to a forest service report on the Reading Fire.

About 64 percent of the 17,000 acres that burned in the park were in wilderness, where fire is considered a natural part of the environment, so park managers plan to let the area recover from the fire naturally, Haner said.

"We allow the natural processes to dominate the landscape," She said.

A lightning strike started the Reading Fire in a wilderness area in the park on July 23. Park officials monitored the fire, but let it burn. Over the next two weeks the fire grew from a quarter acre to 104 acres, according to a Burned Area Emergency Response Plan written in September.

But on Aug. 6, high winds blew the fire out of control and by the end of the day the blaze was 1,011 acres. At that point, crews changed their tactics, to bring the fire back under control. The blaze was contained on Aug. 22, the BAER report says.

Haner said the post-fire work being done in the park is designed to prevent erosion and damage to streams and archeological sites. Crews also are removing trees that could fall near trails, roads and other recreation areas. And they are monitoring the burned areas to make sure non-native weeds and other pest plants don't start growing there, she said.

About 50 percent of the restoration work was completed before snow and cold weather forced crews to suspend work for the season, Haner said. Work is expected to start up again once weather and conditions allow in the late spring or summer.

Restoration work hasn't yet begun in areas of the Lassen National Forest burned by the Reading Fire.

Most of the acreage burned in the Ponderosa Fire was private land. Sierra Pacific Industries of Anderson, which owned most of the property burned, has completed about 60 percent of the logging planned in the burned area.

SPI lost about 80 million board-feet of lumber in the Ponderosa Fire and about 100 million board-feet in the Bagley Fire.

Most of the Bagley Fire burned in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, which plans to have a proposed restoration scoping report available for public review in March, said Kristy Cottini, district ranger for the Shasta Lake Ranger District.

Roads in the Bagley Fire area were damaged during winter storms. The upper reaches of the Squaw Creek arm of Lake Shasta area also closed to catch debris that has washed downstream, Cottini said.


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