Airport board approves forest plan | SierraSun.com

Airport board approves forest plan

Luke Beasley
Sierra Sun

TRUCKEE “-The Truckee Tahoe Airport District Board of Directors approved an accelerated forest management plan for the 1,500-acre Waddle Ranch property at its Feb. 26 meeting.

The revised plan aims to condense an estimated six years of work into 18 months, a change that the Board enthusiastically supported with a unanimous vote.

“I think their excitement was two-fold,” the airport’s General Manager Dave Gotschall said, referring to the Board of Directors. “First, with the current state of the economy, they saw an opportunity to create a lot more jobs for local businesses in a short period of time. And secondly, the last thing we want to have is a major fire go through that area. It wouldn’t be a very fun place to recreate without the trees.”

The Airport District, the Truckee Donner Land Trust, Placer County and the State of California Fish and Game, with additional help from private contributions, jointly acquired the property for $23.5 million in October 2007.

The group aimed to prevent what Gotschall called “incompatible development” ” some 100 new houses along the airport’s final approach flight path were being proposed by a developer ” and also provide another recreational space for the public.

As part of the agreement, the airport assumed responsibility for managing the forest. It is now footing the $815,000 bill for the 18-month contract.

At the February meeting, the airport’s Director of Operations Phred Stoner and East-West Forestry’s Kevin Casey delivered presentations and fielded questions from the Board regarding the new proposal.

Hardy Bullock, who works at the airport as an executive assistant and previously owned his own forest management business, said the new plan is the proper response to an area that needs attention as soon as possible.

“The forest hasn’t been treated in a number of years, and we want to mitigate fire danger and get the forest back into a healthy situation,” Bullock said. “There are a lot of dead fuels on the ground … so we’re going to do some thinning and reduction of all the fuels out there.”

Work will begin when the weather allows sometime in the spring, and could wrap up as early as the end of this summer “if everything aligns properly,” Bullock said.

In a normal economy, that probably wouldn’t be possible, Gotschall and Bullock both said. But with a high availability and relative low cost of contractors, they could potentially have several crews working at once to speed the process up.

While this work is being done, the Truckee Donner Land Trust will continue the development of its trail system. Gotschall said that the earlier forestry work is completed, the sooner people can get out and enjoy the open space.