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A U.S. Forest Service decision released Wednesday will allow loggers to remove dead trees from 52 square miles of forests blackened last year in a central California wildfire, a move contested by environmentalists. The massive Rim Fire, which started Aug. 17, 2013, burned more than 400 square miles of the Stanislaus National Forest, Yosemite National Park's backcountry and private timber land. It threatened thousands of structures, destroyed 11 homes and cost more than $125 million to fight.
Environmentalists had argued against logging the land, saying the blackened trees and new growth beneath them create vital habitat for dwindling birds such as spotted owls and black-backed woodpeckers. "This is an ecological travesty," said Chad Hanson, a forest ecologist and founder of the John Muir Project, an environmentalist group. Supporters of the timber industry said logging would pay for replanting and restoring the forest. Taking out dead trees will also allow the public to use the land, they say, and eliminate a new hazard caused by the falling trees.
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