Emerald Bay in need of fire-prevention efforts | SierraSun.com

Emerald Bay in need of fire-prevention efforts

California Sen. Tim Leslie wants Lake Tahoe agencies to quickly mobilize fire-prevention efforts around Emerald Bay, and he believes discussions last week may have helped pave the way for that.

“They were very receptive. I was pleased with their interest and response,” Leslie, R-Tahoe City, said Friday. “I have a strong sense that they will be taking steps to get the wheels moving in that direction. How long it takes to find the resources and the funds to do it is still in question.

“I’m certainly willing to participate with them by asking the state to help. Two-thirds of that area is federal land; about one-third is state. Everyone needs to be part of the solution.”

Leslie hosted a workshop at Tahoe Thursday through Sunday for the Western Legislative Forestry Task Force, a coalition of legislators from Oregon, Idaho, Alaska, Colorado, Canada and California.

“Last night we took a boat tour into Emerald Bay. It just reminded me once again how terrible the dead-and-dying-tree problem is over there,” he said.

Because of logging in the Comstock era and lack of periodic forest fires in the basin, forests around Lake Tahoe are thick. When trees grow too close together, they compete against each other for moisture, nutrients and sunlight, which can weaken the trees’ health. Lake Tahoe faced an eight-year drought from 1986 to 1994 that is believed to have stressed the basin’s forests, making trees more susceptible to the bark beetle.

Now about 30 percent of the basin’s trees are dead, with as much as 60 to 70 percent in some places.

Because of the dense forests, dead trees and absence of moderate-intensity natural fires for several decades, many believe wildfires have the potential for catastrophe.

State, federal and local agencies – such as the California Tahoe Conservancy, U.S. Forest Service and all the basin’s fire departments – have banded together with residents in a coalition called Tahoe Re-Green that tries to address the fire danger.

If the Emerald Bay area were to be caught up in a blaze, vast numbers of those wouldn’t be at risk. However, Leslie said Emerald Bay is probably the most nationally and internationally recognizable area at Tahoe and should be protected.

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