Timber Trails members speak out on plan | SierraSun.com
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Timber Trails members speak out on plan

SHERRY MAYS

What began as an opportunity for the Truckee Ranger District to openly discuss forest management plans with the public, quickly turned into an opportunity for Tahoe Timber Trails members to voice their concerns with past management practices last week.

Tahoe Timber Trails is a 553-member recreational community nestled in the middle of the Forest Service’s proposed forest management plans that include tree thinning and prescribed burns.

The newest project, which is in its infancy, is called the “All Over Project,” a project that some of the members and the management of Tahoe Timber Trails said cannot proceed without consideration of their’s and other’s comments.

“We thought the meeting went well,” Tahoe Timber Trails member Tom Mayer. “I know the debate isn’t over, but at least the open communication will help smooth the bumps.”

Mayer said this was the first time he had been part of the Forest Service’s planning. He said he had always thought there was “widespread problems” with government agencies, and that there needed to be accountability.

“I hope this is the first step toward cooperation instead of trying to catch up,” he said. “There’s no guarantee that they will listen.”

Joanne Roubique, district ranger, said the Forest Service’s goal for this type of meeting was to listen to the public before a plan was devised.

“This was a good starting point,” she said. “We need to keep working with them (Tahoe Timber Trails). Not everyone will see things the same way, so keeping open communication is important.”

The All Over Project, headed up by Caryn Huntt, is located in the Tahoe National Forest between Highway 89 N and Stampede, Boca and Prosser reservoirs. The areas are scattered within existing timber harvest plans such as Worn Mill, Toucan and Stampede.

Karen Sessler, a Prosser Lakeview Estates resident, suggested the Forest Service slow down new plans to assess the projects already taking place.

“Where’s the time to recover if projects overlap?” she asked. “How can you tell if the impacts of one project if another is started in the area that might have been impacted? I think there should be a specified period where scientists can assess the real impact. It seems like the Forest Service is experimenting, and if so how can you tell the results when everyone is so busy?”

Sessler was supported by Mayer and Curtis Vahl, manager of Tahoe Timber Trails. Vahl and others said an overall slowing of the district’s planning would be beneficial.

“Why does everything have to happen within five to 10 years?” asked Vahl. “Some things can wait.”

Vahl questioned the driving force behind the harvests – whether the “almighty buck” was spurring the Forest Service to harvest more areas within a shorter period of time.

“You’re going to have to prove this to me that this is about managing the forest and not about making a buck,” he said. “Why are so many trees being taken from around Tahoe Timber Trails?”

Vahl said the issue is an “emotional one” for him. He said he moved here for the environment and the forest near the campground, and now is saddened by the impending scorched trees that could result from the continuation of a plan already in place by the ranger district.

“Our scenic value is important,” he said. “The forest belongs to the citizens of the United States. Why can’t we decide.”

The project team assembled by the district explained the multi-faceted decisions made by the district. Recreational, wildlife, botanical, silvicultural and fire management concerns play a part in any project proposal, in addition to hydrologic and economic issues.

Huntt and fire management specialist Kathy Murphy said preventing catastrophic fires in proximity to urban areas is a priority, and by thinning thick stands back to what they looked like historically could help prevent these types of fires.

By studying historic photographs and reading about the forests in the 18th and 19th centuries, foresters have imagined a forest with large diameter healthy trees with a high forest canopy. The smaller trees that have grown in between some of the existing timber have developed ladder fuels that aid a fires advancement to the canopy. When fire hits the canopy it jumps from tree to tree at a disastrous speed.

“We understand the concern,” Vahl said. “But we’ve had problems with logging trucks and the underburning. We need to address these problems before they happen again. Now our road (Hobart Mills Road) is paved and I’m sure the trucks are going to speed even faster.

“We don’t agree with what they’re doing, but we will work with them on alternatives. I’ll try to keep my emotions out of this, but I’m here on a daily basis and I see what is going on.”

Roubique said the district will assemble the project team to discuss issues voiced during the meeting. A clearer proposal will be made public and another meeting scheduled in January.

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