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The Legacy of Fire

As the third largest fire on record in California, the Rim Fire in the Stanislaus National Forest, nears containment, the focus will shift towards the work that will be required to restore more than 250,000 acres of charred landscape. The Tuolumne River Trust is working with the federal Burned Area Emergency Response team in order to assess the destruction of the fire, and the future environmental and socio-economic impacts. Throughout history, it has been apparent that some effects from fires will be immediate and others can linger for decades to come. But history has also shown that forests are resilient and will eventually rejuvenate. Much of the vegetation that covered the landscape has been destroyed and the wildlife that were fortunate enough to escape the blaze have fled to other regions that border the boundary of the fire. It may take many years, but eventually the burned regions will rebuild.


Forest fires have occurred naturally throughout history, but fire suppression practices have limited the amount of natural burning that occurs from year to year. Much of the Sierra Nevada have become overgrown with heavy brush and large vegetation, making the region susceptible to large, devastating fires. In the case of the Rim Fire, much of the area burned so hot that it will be left looking like a lunar landscape. The coming rains will eventually wash the landscape clean, but the increase in sediment and debris can make for complications down the road. The sediment and ash that are transported downstream will likely increase river alkalinity, which can be harmful to fish, and become deposited into the valley's water supply. As the roots from burnt vegetation begin to decay, the ground will become unstable and landslides are likely to occur over the next several years (Dunham et al. 2003). Eventually debris and sediment will settle out, regrowth will stabilize the landscape, and animals will return, but the effects felt by this fire could be minimized in the future by adopting better management practices that allow for thinning of the forest and prescribed burns.


Approximately 96% of the fire has burned in the Tuolumne River watershed. Even as the fire continues to burn, scientists are out determining areas of immediate concern in order to speed up the process of restoration and minimize the effects that the rains will have the coming months. The Tuolumne River Trust has made it their goal to bring awareness to the situation, help organize efforts to restore habitat, recruit volunteers, and raise additional funding that will pay for projects and help support communities that have been affected directly or indirectly by the fire. With their efforts, hopefully the effects of the fire will not be as devastating for wildlife and the surrounding communities.

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Subsistence fishing for Sacramento sucker 

While salmon were and continue to be an important food source for Native American tribes throughout the Pacific Northwest, sucker species also have contributed to the fish diet of many tribes. Although suckers are not typically thought of as a food source, historical records indicate that many different tribes harvested sucker species for consumption. One such example is the Ajumawi tribe of the Pit River in northeastern California, who harvested the native Sacramento sucker (Catostomus occidentalis).  


The Sacramento sucker is one of approximately 80 species in the family Catostomidae, and occurs in many of the rivers and water bodies throughout central and northern California. The Sacramento sucker is a benthic species that occupies the stream bottom, and primarily feeds on detritus, algae, and macroinvertebrates (see Speaking of lips). This long-lived fish can live up to 30 years (Moyle 2002); however... Read more > 

IN THE NEWS: Recent stories you might have missed...

Rim fire grows to nearly 400 square miles; containment still 80%

The Los Angeles Times 

The size of the Rim fire burning into Yosemite National Park has increased to 254,685 acres, or 398 square miles, the U.S. Forest Service reported Tuesday. The cost of battling the massive blaze has reached $100.4 million. It remains 80% contained, the Forest Service said. Officials have said the fire was caused by a hunter who lost control of his campfire at Jawbone Ridge, a remote section of the Stanislaus National Forest north of the Tuolumne River... Read more > 

Salmon OK this year but 2014 a concern   

Capital Public Radio   

The next wave of salmon to migrate up central California rivers has begun. State and federal fish and wildlife services say water is key to assisting that journey. Preparations begin this week for another dry year in 2014. Harry Morse with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife says the departments have contracts with dam operators to hold cold water for spawning season. "We hold for a critical release period because we have salmon that are coming into the hatcheries at both Nimbus and the Mokelumne Hatchery and they are really sensitive to cooler-water pulses..." Read more >  

In the U.S., good news on fisheries 
Discovery News

Around the world, the status of fish and fisheries is grim indeed. Approximately 85 percent of global fish stocks are either over-exploited, fully-exploited, depleted or recovering from depletion. But rigorous management efforts have resulted in some American fisheries making a comeback. The new report by the National Research Council assessed 55 fisheries and found 10 that have been rebuilt and five that showed good progress toward rebuilding; only nine continue to experience overfishing. What about the rest? Eleven have not shown strong progress in rebuilding... Read more > 

New plan offered to make NW dams safe for salmon  

San Francisco Chronicle 

The Obama administration's latest plan for making 14 hydroelectric dams in the Northwest safe for salmon offers no major changes in strategy and continues to rely on habitat improvements to overcome the numbers of fish killed by the dams.The 751-page draft of the court-ordered plan known as a biological opinion was released Monday by NOAA Fisheries Service.
The last plan was struck down in 2011 for depending too much on habitat improvements that weren't specific. That plan also failed to consider the possibility of breaching...  Read more > 

Aquarium boosts reproduction of California's state marine fish

The Los Angeles Times

San Pedro's Cabrillo Marine Aquarium has discovered a way to dramatically boost reproduction of California's official state marine fish - the tangerine-colored garibaldi. The aquarium is at the center of an unprecedented captive-garibaldi population explosion: 71 newborns, no bigger than pinkie fingernails, with electric-blue spots on their backs. A year ago, most of those fish would have died in infancy. But new care and feeding techniques have... Read more >