By John P. DeGrazio
It’s been a very difficult period of time in Yosemite during what is currently the fourth largest wildfire in California recorded history, The Rim Fire. This fire started in the Stanislaus National Forest and quickly spread to the national park and many neighboring communities in both Tuolumne and Mariposa counties. We have been taking some photos of the sky and landscapes from within and just outside Yosemite National Park. For the majority of the last few weeks, much of Yosemite and the Valley were protected against the fire and smoke that continues to wreak havoc north of the park’s boundary, but a wind shift over the past weekend changed everything. We’re not sure if it is coincidence, but the conditions in Yosemite Valley worsened almost immediately after a backburning effort began near Crane Flat inside the park. The conditions inside Yosemite Valley have improved dramatically since then, but many fled the park on Saturday seeking safer places to enjoy the rest of their Labor Day weekend.
The devastation of the Rim Fire cannot be measured only in dollars from expenditures to fight it, structures that were destroyed, real estate damaged, and revenues lost by many businesses inside of Yosemite and its gateway communities. Let’s not also forget the extreme impact this has had on the area’s wildlife as they suffered most with loss of life, severe stress, and destroyed habitat.
In the coming months many will weigh in on solutions to prevent future conflagrations in this area with a focus on resource management. A patient approach is needed, and the expected knee jerk reactions that ignore environmental protections from some who have the loudest voices in Washington should be avoided. Thinning of the forests will be a viable solution that can be agreed upon by all who wish to protect this watershed, but it also poses many difficult questions including how to manage the most difficult areas of the region. We must all remember that the catalyst for the rapidly spreading blaze was the inaccessible terrain of the Tuolumne River Canyon called Rim of the World and Jawbone Ridge. Further, many thinning projects that may have avoided some of the dangerous spread had already been approved but were thwarted by Congress’s lack of budget appropriations for 2013. Wildfire cycles are difficult to predict, and we are dealing with an area that will continue to be problematic. The scope of the forest service and national park changes with updated fire management plans, and we should avoid letting emotions interfere with these agencies’ intended goals to enact policies that offer solutions attempting to maintain a balance of what is good for for the environment as well as all stakeholders in these delicate ecosystems.
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All photos taken on an iPhone 5
Photographing with a camera phone was once frowned upon as a lazy way out of making an image. With advancing technology, these phones are becoming more integral in everyday “outdoor” life. I am currently using the iPhone 5 with an 8 megapixel camera, and will share the world of Yosemite through my phone.
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