60,000 acre forest restoration project underway on Lake Tahoe’s west shore | SierraSun.com

60,000 acre forest restoration project underway on Lake Tahoe’s west shore

Hannah Jones
hjones@sierrasun.com

The Tahoe Conservancy is leading a 60,000-acre restoration project on the west shore of Lake Tahoe.

“We’re now beginning to move towards landscape level restoration,” said Jason Vasques, landscape forestry program supervisor for the Tahoe Conservancy. “Climate change as you know is moving at a faster pace than resource management has been able to keep up.”

The 60,000 acres includes 46,000 acres of United States Forest Service land, 9,000 acres of state land and 5,000 acres of private land.

“It’s an all-hands approach,” said Vasques.

Last year, the conservancy completed a landscape resilience assessment to determine how far from resilience they believed different pieces of land to be.

“We found we’re pretty far from resilience in a number of ways,” he said.

Currently, the forests are overly dense which increases wildfire risk with large areas susceptible to insect disease. They are currently working on a landscape restoration strategy which will decrease tree density on 40,000 acres of the project and create forest openings on 21% of the forested landscape.

“Those openings help knock down the fire and keep it out of the canopy. It also improves diversity and habitat connectivity,” he said.

He said they will start the forest treatments within the defense zone and move out into the general forest.

“We’re focusing on resilience,” said Vasques. “What that allows us to do is manage for uncertainty.”

Over the past couple years they’ve been able to secure $32 million in funding from Cal Fire through a forest health restoration grant program. This allowed them to do fuel reduction on 21,000 acres of land.

In the past year, the Tahoe Conservancy and Tahoe Forest and Fuels team worked together to make an action plan for basin which included rethinking how to invest their resources, Vasques said.

“What we’re doing is working towards investing in a way that builds capacity to do forest restoration over the long term,” he said.

In 2020 they’ll start working on environmental document. In 2021 they’ll plan the permitting process and begin implementation of the project in 2022.

Hannah Jones is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at 530-550-2652 or hjones@sierrasun.com.