TRPA green-lights small Forest Service thinning projects
Sun News Service
KINGS BEACH ” The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency Board of Governors on Wednesday authorized its staff to take actions necessary to remove any perceptions of the agency interfering with Forest Service fuel management on public lands in the Tahoe Basin.
“We want to make sure the Forest Service and TRPA are on the same page,” TRPA Director John Singlaub said.
The bistate planning agency and the U.S. Forest Service work under an almost 18-year-old memorandum of understanding that gives agencies like the Forest Service the authority for activities like fuel reduction that would usually require a permit.
Under the agreement, the Forest Service can remove areas of trees up to 100 acres without the construction of permanent roads, reforest land, protect, maintain, or reestablish sensitive plants, and create, maintain or replace landscaping without an agency permit.
While the entire document needs to be reviewed, according to TRPA and USFS officials, the board voted Wednesday to break out specific items of the 1989 agreement that pertained to fuel management into a new document.
The entire 1989 document between the bistate agency and the Forest Service will be reviewed at a later date and updated for developments in forest management, Singlaub said. But because the Forest Service has expressed concern that the permitting process has slowed down fuel reduction management, Singlaub said that a proactive course of action would be to clarify the Tahoe agency’s position.
“I think we have projects that have been delayed with permitting process,” said Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit Forest Supervisor Terri Marceron.
Parts of the agreement in question included references to the forest service’s ability to conduct tree removal projects up to 100 acres not involving the construction of permanent roads.
Some members of the environmental community were concerned because they said the language of the new document should be presented to the board before the board voted.
“It sounds like you’re going to make a decision about this new arrangement but the language is not present,” said Tahoe Area Sierra Club Conservation Co-Chair Michael Donahoe.
However, several board members and Singlaub disagreed, and said that the new document would only solidify the agency’s position of letting the Forest Service bypass the permitting process for forest fuels management on public land.
“There seems to be concern that we are going in and creating a memorandum of understanding with the Forest Service that is going to give them carte blanche,” said Norma Santiago. “We are formalizing an existing policy.”
The board unanimously approved the motion.
“I think it sends a strong message so that people recognize that we and the forest service are doing our best to move forward under the current rules,” Singlaub said.
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