Yosemite Forestry Program

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The National Park Service has superior knowledge of tree hazards and has a duty to inspect developed facilities and make them safe [from tree hazards] or provide warnings (Middaugh vs. U.S.). Pacific West Region Directive PWR-062 has been temporarily/partially suspended while conflicts between rating systems used by parks in California and Washington are resolved, but it also requires that tree hazard conditions be detected and abated or mitigated regularly. The Forestry Worker Supervisors, Park Forester, and contractors systematically inspect intensively managed areas for tree hazards, prescribe tree hazard mitigation or abatement for trees with outwardly visible defects, and implement mitigation or abatement as soon as reasonably practicable, often concurrently. Supervisors evaluate pruning, topping and removal options that might preserve important habitat or cultural landscape components prior to takedown. Comprehensive tree hazard management also requires warning visitors and residents that trees within Yosemite may fail. Seasonal warnings had been provided in the Yosemite Guide, and alternative media/methods are needed to warn visitors, workers, and residents of tree risks.

Park forestry staff conduct surveillance and rating or review and approve or negotiate work prescribed by aborists contracted by concessioners or utility companies. Park forestry staff determine whether woody debris can be recycled in place, and if not, whether disposal should be through government channels (including administrative use) or by contract. Contractors may perform some pruning, takedown, removal, and rehabilitation with close administration by designated Contracting Officer's Representatives. Park forestry staff review scheduled work locations and consult other park program managers to avoid adverse impacts to sensitive park resources. Areas that are closed seasonally are generally worked prior to public opening. Nuisance or other approved non-hazard tree work will be scheduled as prioritized tree hazard workload allows. Park forestry staff consult with cultural resource specialists prior to significant work on trees in cultural landscapes, key vista areas, or in archeological sites or traditional gathering areas to avoid adverse effects. Spill prevention and response plans have been prepared to avoid pollution by petroleum products. Job Hazard Analysis reports and Material Safety Data Sheets have been compiled. Wetlands and other sensitive ecological resources are avoided when possible or resource specialists are consulted. For tree work within the bed and banks of US Waters or a designated Wild and Scenic River will obtain additional consultation, and possibly additional compliance documentation may be required. Groups of more than three trees in the Merced Wild and Scenic River Corridor trigger consultations per CE 2001-148 (as amended). Off-highway equipment shall be cleaned and inspected prior to entry, and may require cleaning between work sites. Best Management Practices including Forest Practice Rules guide tree work. Work in the Yosemite Wilderness or Potential Wilderness Additions beyond routine tree hazard mitigation trigger minimum requirement analysis. Since the Park Forester has been attending the monthly open house and meeting with the Sierra Club and Central Sierra Environmental Resource Center representatives, no controversy over tree hazard management or timber sales has arisen. Timber sales in recent years removed an average of 2,275 tons of logs from roadsides which were sawn into boards, and 200 tons of logs were transported to park firewood yards. Logs were also provided for bridge repairs and for historic preservation projects.