What should be done following a wildfire depends on a person’s perspective of how we see the role of forestland in our daily lives. For many people forests are a source of their livelihood as well as a place for recreating and relaxing.
A power point presentation (Pros and cons of salvage and restoration operations) supported by the Oregon Society of American foresters provides a good summary of the industry perspective about salvage operations. The 2010 paper by lead author John Sessions of Oregon state University states the salvage decision is primarily about economics , but other considerations should not be discounted. A good place to start is to consider the following questions. Why do anything? What are the goals? How should priorities be set? Where do resources come from?
The salvage decisions are linked to goals. They are time sensitive. It is not all or nothing. One of the major conclusions is to salvage promptly. This would reduce impacts on natural regeneration and reduce the devaluation of timber values by insects and diseases.
Salvage harvesting can mitigate economic losses, recover useful wood products, reduce fire and safety hazards and create desired environmental conditions for successful reforestation. Timer value recovery depends on the harvest system chosen, distance from road, volume (species, size and age) of the standing timber, replanting costs and time since death.
For example the net value (in 2003) of 24 inch diameter Douglas fir is $264 in the year of the burn when it is 0 .25 miles from the road. The same tree is worth $215 if it is 1.75 miles from the road. Four years later the same tree is reduced to $ 54 due to pathogens, drying and checking .
Another paper by Don Gayton and Lara Almuedo of FORREX, describes forest values other than economic when it summarizes “Post disturbance management of biodiversity in BC forests “
“Biodiversity is a key component of forested ecosystems, it should be preserved not only for its own sake but because bio-diverse ecosystems are resilient and better able to respond to changing conditions. One of the most effective ways to encourage resilience on ecosystems is to encourage heterogeneity i.e. through harvest blocks size, amount of green tree retention, species mix, prescribed burn size and intensity, amount of coarse woody debris retained, connectivity, age-class distribution etc.
There will always be trade offs between ecological and economic benefits. Medium and large scale salvage operation can also impair natural vegetation recovery and facilitate invasion of alien species. “
In the case of the fires near Williams lake, harvest planning is important to make use of the burned timber that is close to town and most economical to deal with. Equally important is the continuation of developing fuel breaks in the Flat Rock block on the west side of Williams lake creek. It is better to use the timber responsibly rather than burn it uselessly in a fire. Long term fire protection plans can be realized along with range and wildlife values.