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Campaign Launched To Restore Forest Burned In Rim Fire Near Yosemite

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Rim Fire

The Rim Fire sent dense smoke into Yosemite Valley on August 31, 2013. (CBS)

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SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — The Tuolumne River Trust, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that works to protect the watershed area near Yosemite National Park, launched the “Rim Fire Recovery Campaign” Tuesday morning.

The campaign is an effort to gather resources, funding, volunteers, local businesses, elected officials and others to help restore the ravished Tuolumne River Watershed where a majority of the wildfire burned.

The Rim Fire began Aug. 17 at Jawbone Ridge in the Stanislaus National Forest and spread into Yosemite National Park. Nearly 255,000 acres burned, including 40 miles along the Tuolumne River, which flows from Yosemite through the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir and into the greater Bay Area.

The river connects with the system that provides water to millions of Bay Area residents.

The fire is now 80 percent contained after destroying more than 100 buildings including 11 homes and the Berkeley Tuolumne Family Camp.

Tuolumne River Trust executive director Eric Wesselman said Tuesday morning at the organization’s offices in San Francisco that the average $5 million in recovery funds expected to arrive from the federal government will not be sufficient to restore the area.

The group is working with senators Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., to urge the lawmakers to find more support from the state and federal government.

He called funding from the multi-agency federal Burned Area Emergency Response program “woefully inadequate.”

Wesselman said the nonprofit is also concerned with the environmental damage, as well as the impact on local businesses and recreational groups that depend on tourism during this time of year.

He estimated it will take years and tens of millions of dollars for the area to be revived.

“This is not a short-term plan,” he said.

The group is advocating for revamped forest management practices, such as “fuels reduction” which entails thinning of forests and keeping the area less dense.

The bare soil exposed because of what Wesselman called the “catastrophic fire” will prove dangerous when the rains come this fall.

Part of the campaign will work to gather volunteers to help with immediate repairs, which includes repairing trails and campsites, working on erosion-prone areas, removing debris and dead trees, planting trees and other seeds, among other projects, campaign director Patrick Koepele said.

A community forum was held Tuesday night in Sonora with the U.S. Forest Service.

He noted that area restoration includes supporting the logging, tourism and environmental industries, such as whitewater rafting companies, timber mills and hotels.

Wesselman said the organization is looking for donations from members of the trust, private businesses and other foundations.

More information about the campaign and a video showing the area around the river before and after the fire is available at tuolumne.org.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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