Though the Rim Fire of 2013 was the third largest conflagration in California’s history, it has improved the ecological health of the forest, while the majority of the iconic landscapes of Yosemite National Park remain unscathed. However, a salvage logging plan now under review by the U.S. Forest Service puts in danger the regenerating effects of the fire and long-term health of the Yosemite ecosystem. Scientists, conservation groups, local businesses and activists have instead called upon the Forest Service to create a Rim Fire National Monument to protect the biodiversity and scenic values of the region for generations to come.
With the California drought continuing and the Sierra Nevada snowpack limited to a foreboding 18 percent this winter, the mountain communities remain on edge. Of course, last year’s Rim Fire, ignited by a hunter’s illegal campfire in mid-August, was the biggest to hit the Sierra in more than a century of record keeping. It burned for more than two months, spreading more than 154,430 acres of chaparral and timberland in the Stanislaus National Forest, about 24,000 acres of private land and roughly 77,000 acres in neighboring Yosemite National Park.
On the plus side, Yosemite remains open for the 37 million people who visit every year, with the majority of its spectacular granite cliffs, waterfalls, clear streams, Giant Sequoia groves and biological diversity unscathed. Moreover, thousands of acres affected from the fire have been reopened already, including trails through Hetch Hetchy and the Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias. A recent outing with the Outdoor Writers of Association of California (OWAC) confirmed the magic of Yosemite shines bright in the wild high places, the somnolent green meadows of the valley and the [albeit historically low] spring flows of the waterfalls.