Red Emerson is the largest timber owner in California with huge holdings in the Sierra. He also has many politicians in his pocket. And it is traditional for his company Sierra Pacific to hold a seat on the California Board of Forestry which makes the logging rules! … R. Coates
Author Chloe Sorvino
From humble beginnings traipsing through California’s vast forests with his dad to salvaging wood from forest fires, Red Emmerson has built a logging empire by being cheaper and more aggressive than his rivals.
One of the largest fires to burn in California’s Sierra Nevada mountain range, the Rim Fire tore through 257,000 acres on the edge of Yosemite National Park in 2013. Not long after firefighters doused the flames, a fleet of bulldozers and trucks arrived, sent by billionaire Archie Aldis “Red” Emmerson. Workers began ripping up the trees even as the brush nearby was still smoldering.
Nicknamed “Red” as a teen for his hair color, Emmerson is happy to reminisce about the many fires from which his Sierra Pacific Industries has profited. Wearing jeans held up by a belt buckle emblazoned with the insignia he brands on his ranch’s cattle, the feisty tycoon, who runs the business with his two sons, George, 61, and Mark, 58, makes more money from logging after forest fires than any person in America. When the government sells contracts to cut down trees after fires in national forests—a controversial practice known as post-fire salvage logging—Emmerson buys in at a steep discount, often paying one half to one fourth the price for traditional wood. Sierra Pacific then turns the usable lumber (about 90%) into boards and other wood products to sell to homebuilders and lumber retailers like Home Depot, Menards and Lowe’s.
The only “cause” for California’s fires that they forgot to mention was excessive logging that opens up more areas for grasses and fire-prone brush to grow. —R. COATES
Author SETH BORENSTEIN
If you want to build a fire, you need three things: Ignition, fuel and oxygen. But wildfire in California is a much more complex people-stoked witch’s brew.
The state burns regularly because of fierce autumn winds, invasive grasses that act as kindling, fire-happy native shrubs and trees, frequent drought punctuated by spurts of downpours, a century of fire suppression, people moving closer to the wild, homes that burn easily, people starting fires accidentally or on purpose — and most of all climate change.
“California has a really flammable ecosystem,” said University of Colorado fire scientist Jennifer Balch. “People are living in flammable places, providing ignition, starting the wildfires against a backdrop of a warming climate that is making wildfires worse.”
Trying to manage California’s wildfires is like trying to hold back a tidal wave, said Columbia University fire scientist A. Park Williams: “Big fires are kind of inevitable in California.”
And it’s getting worse, fast. Area burned by wildfire in California increased more than fivefold since 1972, from a five-year average of 236 square miles (611 square kilometers) a year to 1,394 square miles (3,610 square kilometers) a year according to a 2019 study by Williams, Balch and others.
Tomorrow! – Friends of Gualala River (FoGR) presents naturalist and Annapolis artist, Liam Ericson, in an online talk and slide show, “Preservation Ranch: A first look at the unseen interior of the Gualala River” on Sunday, June 7th at 4 pm via Zoom.
Liam has explored the wilds of Preservation Ranch (now known as “Buckeye Forest“), where 19,645 acres of forest, grassland, and riparian corridor combine to host countless species of plants and wildlife and provide critical habitat for the recovery of northern spotted owls and steelhead trout. These lands, shaped by a series of creeks, including the largest, Buckeye Creek, form a major part of the eastern Gualala River watershed, a remote area that few have seen.