Siskiyou Mountain Range

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KICKSTARTER: Buckskin Fire Report

The Siskiyou Crest Blog and Klamath Forest Alliance have initiated a Kickstarter campaign to fund the Buckskin Fire Report.

The Buckskin Fire Report will explore the impact of discretionary fire suppression actions, the mosaic of this wildland fire, and the potential management implications of the Buckskin Fire and its suppression. The report will also identify policy recommendations to reform the suppression of fire throughout the Klamath-Siskiyou Mountains and beyond. 

  Photo: inciweb.ncwg.gov

 The Buckskin Fire Report is a continuation of the Klamath-Siskiyou
Fire Reports, sponsored by the Klamath Forest Alliance. The project has
focused on wildland firefighting policy and strategy, as well as fire
suppression actions and their impacts in the wildlands of the
Klamath-Siskiyou Ecoregion. In the last three years we have published five
fire reports, investigating the fire suppression actions and impacts
approved by fire managers on public lands. We have documented the
discretionary impacts of fire suppression actions to wildlands,
old-growth forests, botanical resources, fisheries resources, watershed
values, fire severity, and other important natural resources and
services provided by our public lands. 

In the reports, we analyze the
natural fire mosaic, document the impact of fire suppression, and provide
management and policy recommendations. The reports have played vital roles in canceling post-fire
logging proposals, creating more transparency within the local firefighting community, and advocating for appropriate
wildfire management. 

The Buckskin Fire Report will explore the
wild, remote, and controversial South Kalmiopsis Roadless Area. The
South Kalmiopsis is the largest and most inaccessible, unprotected
wildland in the state of Oregon. The area harbors an unusual serpentine
habitat, supporting extreme botanical diversity and many rare plant
species. It was also effected by the 2002 Biscuit Fire, a large 500,000-acre wildland fire, infamous for its fire severity, huge financial
cost associated with its suppression, and it is now iconic fire-adapted
landscape.

On June 11, 2015, a lightening fire started in the
depths of the South Kalmiopsis Roadless Area, on Baldface Creek, a wild
tributary of the North Fork of the Smith River. Baldface Creek is a
pristine stream and the largest producer of steelhead and coho salmon in
the North Fork Smith River watershed. 

Baldface Creek is one of the most pristine streams in the Siskiyou Mountains. It is also a large roadless watershed within Oregon’s largest unprotected wildland: the South Kalmiopsis Roadless Area.

The area was burned in the 2002
Biscuit Fire and was not subjected to post-fire “salvage” logging. Many
in the logging industry and federal land management agencies have
promoted a fear of the “Biscuit re-burn,” telling the public that the
lack of post-fire logging in many portions of the Biscuit Fire promotes high severity re-burns and impacts the forests’ ability to
regenerate following wildfire. This rhetoric — despite numerous
scientific studies refuting the claims — has led to extreme paranoia
within the agency and firefighting community regarding new fire starts
in the Biscuit Fire Area. The rhetoric has also encouraged irresponsible
and overly zealous firefighting actions that have potentially dire
environmental consequences.

It is clear that fire managers and
agency officials decided very early on, that full suppression would be
utilized in the Buckskin Fire. The fear of high intensity fire, although
very real in managers’ minds, was not actively playing out on the
landscape, despite unseasonably hot weather and strong winds. Nonetheless, large firelines cleared with bulldozers were built along unroaded
ridgelines, through rare plant communities and over non-motorized hiking
trails in the South Kalmiopsis Roadless Area, to the very boundary of
the Kalmiopsis Wilderness. Large scale tree falling in the roadless area
was approved by fire managers and crews cut their way through
the roadless wildlands to create fireline. This fireline was designed
to be free of snags and woody vegetation, to facilitate large,
purposefully set backfires.

The natural fire, burning in unlogged,
post-fire forests, burned slow and cool, never actually reaching the
agency’s raw, bulldozed firelines. Fire managers responded by burning
the area between the fireline and the head of the fire, which was far
below in the canyon of Baldface Creek. A management tactic, called
Minimum Impact Suppression Tactics (MIST), was mandated in the area, but
not implemented initially, allowing for larger, more intrusive
environmental impacts in the South Kalmiopsis Roadless Area. The outcome
of these actions is currently unknown and many fear that the vast, wild
region has been irreparably harmed by irresponsible fire suppression
actions. 

 

The Buckskin Fire burned entirely within the fire footprint of the 2002 Biscuit Fire. An in-depth review of the Buckskin Fire could provide an opportunity to explore fire severity in post-fire landscapes that were not effected by salvage logging.

                                         Photo:inciweb.ncwg.gov                                        




It appears that much could be learned from exploring the
impact of fire suppression in the Buckskin Fire area. It also appears
that much could be learned from investigating the natural fire mosaic
and fire severity of the Buckskin Fire, as well as the positive
management implications of naturally regenerating post-fire landscapes
in the Klamath-Siskiyou. 

Please help us create the Buckskin Fire
Report. The report will be submitted to the appropriate land management
agencies, politicians, and media outlets. It will be utilized as a
tool in the effort to reform wildland firefighting policy on public
lands throughout the west, and in the Kalmiopsis Region. We believe that
fire suppression is one of the most persistent and urgent threats to the
wildlands of the Klamath-Siskiyou. Until we address this problem, no
landscape is truly protected and our wilderness is not truly wild. Join
us and support the Buckskin Fire Report.

To view and contribute to the Buckskin Fire Report Kickstarter Campaign follow this link:  Buckskin Fire Report Kickstarter Project

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