Gap Fire Report: Natural Fire Effects, Fire Suppression Impacts & Post-Fire Logging
|The Gap Fire burned around the meadows near Buckhorn Spring on the Siskiyou Crest.|
The Gap Fire burned between August 27 and September 17, 2016, in the Horse Creek watershed north of the Klamath River. The fire began with intensity, burning under extreme conditions as it approached the small rural community of Horse Creek. Being funneled down the Horse Creek canyon by strong winds and plume-driven runs, the fire tragically burned nine homes on the evening of August 28 — more details about this are included in the report.
By September 1, weather conditions had moderated and the fire burned at low- to moderate-severity as it approached the Siskiyou Crest near Condrey Mountain and Dry Lake Mountain in upper Buckhorn Creek and Middle Creek. The Gap Fire brought many benefits to the forests and ecosystems of the Siskiyou Crest: it reduced fuels, recycled nutrients and enhanced wildlife habitat. It also naturally thinned forests, opened forest stands in vast low-severity underburns, regenerated montane chaparral fields with mixed-severity fire and created small, isolated openings in otherwise forested habitats with moderate- and high-severity runs. Habitat complexity, age class diversity and forest heterogeneity were positively affected, reinforcing the ancient mosaic of fire on the southern slope of the Siskiyou Crest.
|The Gap Fire on the slopes above the Klamath River.|
The Gap Fire burned through the Johnny O’Neil Late Successional Reserve (LSR), a large area set aside to promote late-seral habitat conditions and connectivity between LSR forests and wilderness landscapes on the Siskiyou Crest and in the Marble Mountains. In the Johnny O’Neil LSR, old-growth forest, second-growth forest and dense plantation stands burned in a healthy mixed-severity fire mosaic.
The Gap Fire also burned adjacent to the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), the Condrey Mountain Blue Schist Geologic Area, the Condrey Mountain Roadless Area, a designated Back-Country Area, the Horse Creek Botanical Area and in watersheds providing cold water refugia for threatened coho salmon. The northern portion burned into the high country of the Siskiyou Crest in old-growth red fir, white fir and hemlock forest, adapted to mixed-severity fire. The fire burned through these forests at low- to moderate-severity, creating minimal tree mortality and largely maintaining the ancient forest canopy.
Unfortunately, the Klamath National Forest (KNF) has now proposed a large post-fire logging project in this important landscape. The inaptly named Horse Creek Community Protection and Restoration Project — a name clearly chosen to greenwash the real intentions of the project — calls for clearcutting old-growth snag forest and building “temporary roads” in upper Buckhorn and Middle Creeks. The project also includes post-fire logging in the Johnny O’Neil LSR and tractor yarding on extremely sensitive and erosive schist soils. I encourage folks to vocally oppose this project, support protection of the Siskiyou Crest, and the inclusion of local tribes in the decision making process.
|Old-growth snag forests at the headwaters of Buckhorn Creek on the Siskiyou Crest are proposed for clearcut logging. Small snag patches like this one would be accessed with “temporary roads,” tractor or skyline yarded, clearcut and replanted with plantations stands. Both snags and live trees would be cut.|
With the support of Klamath Forest Alliance (KFA) and Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC), I have published the Gap Fire Report, an in-depth analysis of the Gap Fire, its fire effects, the proposed post-fire logging and the impact of discretionary fire suppression activities.
The Gap Fire Report can be viewed at the following link:
The Gap Fire Report is the seventh fire report KFA has produced in the past five years. We are attempting to document the impacts of fire suppression and the actual mosaic of contemporary fire in the Klamath-Siskiyou Mountains. The result is an extensive case study from across the Klamath-Siskiyou region and its many wildland habitats. The research documents the beneficial effects of contemporary wildfires, the impact of fire suppression activities and potential management recommendations that would reduce the impact of fire suppression activities while maximizing the beneficial effects of wildland fire.