U.S. Forest Service begins Tahoe timber thinning test | SierraSun.com

U.S. Forest Service begins Tahoe timber thinning test

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. (AP) ” The U.S. Forest Service has launched a test project using specially designed logging equipment to thin thick stands of trees near a Lake Tahoe stream in a move it’s hoped will precede larger efforts to reduce fire danger at the alpine lake.

The initial venture will remove trees from 23 acres of South Lake Tahoe’s Heavenly Creek.

Logging activity near streams has been strictly regulated to prevent sediment from flowing into Lake Tahoe and clouding its waters. Any activity permitted has been restricted to the use of hand crews, with no heavy machinery allowed.

Overgrown stream areas pose an especially high danger for fire. Officials point to June’s Angora fire, Lake Tahoe’s worst in recent history, as demonstrating the potential danger. It destroyed 254 homes the first day and 75 other structures after exploding from a wooded stream area.

“We have significant interest in having this be successful,” Rex Norman, spokesman for the Forest Service at Lake Tahoe unit, told the Reno Gazette-Journal.

The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency relaxed its rules to allow mechanical fuels treatment in stream areas in 2004, citing extreme fire danger.

The current project is the first allowing such treatment in a stream area during the summer. “Minimal” fuel treatment near streams using heavy equipment has occurred over-the-snow during winter, Norman said.

The project will involve big-wheeled vehicles that should be able to enter the stream area and log it without compacting the soil or causing other environmental damage, Norman said.

“We’re pretty confident this will show we can bring mechanized equipment in and use it in stream zones to treat the ones that have a fuels problem,” Norman said.

The project could be the first of many that are needed, said Coe Swobe, Nevada’s at-large appointee to Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s governing board. Swobe has long argued for thinning Tahoe’s streams of dead and dying timber that can fuel wildfire.

“These stream areas are just packed with forest fuels and they act like a fuse,” Swobe said.


Information from: Reno Gazette-Journal, http://www.rgj.com

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