FISH CAMP – The sounds of train whistles have fallen silent at the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad now that the season has ended, and have been replaced with sounds that haven’t been heard here in nearly a century.
Logging operations have commenced at the railroad, which is surrounded by Sierra National Forest land. It is the first time the forests in this area have been harvested since the Madera Sugar Pine Lumber Company ceased operations in in 1931.While the area has a rich logging history, the methods used today are far different than the clear-cutting operations of decades ago.
“Today it’s selective logging, where the US Forest Service timber crews come in and mark trees scientifically,” said Max Stauffer, owner of the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad. “They determine which trees need to be removed, and leave the larger trees and the good seed trees to replenish the forest.”
What many people don’t realize is that the logging operations are also beneficial for the forest. The process thins the forest, allowing in more sunlight for healthier growth, something that used to be accomplished by fire before the region was settled. The logging also helps prevent larger, more dangerous fires.
“Catastrophic fires happen with the buildup of fuels over the years,” said Stauffer. “The practice of suppressing forest fires actually creates a situation where fires burn hotter and faster, because there are more fuels available.”
With the thicker undergrowth removed, visitors are able to appreciate the forests even more, Stauffer says.
“You can see the large trees, and get a better view of the mountains. Aesthetically, it’s much more pleasing,” said Stauffer.
Work will continue for a few weeks, depending on the weather, before the crews move on to other areas.