A wide-ranging plan to manage of more than 150,000 acres of forest surrounding Lake Tahoe could be precedent-setting for the entire Sierra Nevada range, according to a coalition of conservation groups.
The U.S. Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management released the draft environmental document for an update to its forest plan on Friday. The existing plan has not been updated since 1988. Once passed, the proposed plan will guide management of Lake Tahoe forests for 15 years.
"We've developed four alternatives that we believe reflect what we've heard to date about how we can best manage National Forest System lands in the Lake Tahoe Basin," Nancy Gibson, forest supervisor for the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, said in a Friday statement. "Now we're encouraging the public to take a look at these alternatives and tell us what measures they prefer and why."
Each alternative differs in how it addresses watershed health, forest health, hazardous fuels, wildlife habitat, recreation and access to national forest land. The alternatives will be available for review and comment until Aug. 30.
In a separate statement from a coalition of eight environmental groups, Sarah Matsumoto, senior representative with the Sierra Club, said the plan is an opportunity to take a 21st Century approach to forest management.
"Many eyes will be watching the Lake Tahoe Basin forest plan process, as it will be the first out of the gate for forest planning throughout the Sierra region," Matsumoto said. "It is also positioned to set precedent for a series of upcoming forest plans in the Sierra, stretching from Sequoia National Forest in the south all the way to the Oregon border."
Restoring forest ecology, protecting watersheds, safeguarding old growth forests and conserving wildlife habitat are all priorities for the groups in their examination of the plan.
Meaningfully addressing the impacts of climate change, like including protected corridors for animals to move to higher elevations, also needs to be addressed in the plan, according to the statement.
A "key component" conservationists hope to see in the plan is a recommendation to protect the Upper Truckee River and its tributaries in the Meiss Meadows area as a Wild and Scenic River, according to the statement.
Some Alpine County residents near the river have expressed concern that the designation could limit activities on their properties.
The final environmental document for the forest plan is expected to be complete in late 2012.
More information on the forest plan is available by calling Matt Dickinson at 530-543-2683 or Denise Downie at 530-543-2769. Documents relating to the plan are also posted at http://tinyurl.com/tahoeforestplan.