Forest plan calls for more tree removal | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Forest plan calls for more tree removal

Gregory Crofton, Tahoe Daily Tribune

Recommendations released Thursday on how national forests in the Sierra Nevada should be managed call for more than 75 percent of tree removal work to occur on land where forests meet communities.

The Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, one of the 11 national forests in the Sierra, is loaded with such wildland-urban interface.

But, Rex Norman, spokesman for the Forest Service at the basin, said he doesn’t believe changes recommended in the Sierra Nevada Forest Plan Amendment, if approved, will have much impact in the basin.

“The regular requirements we work with here are often more stringent than in other areas,” Norman said. “With a cursory look, it doesn’t appear that anything is jumping out at me right now that would make any significant changes in what we’re doing.”

The recommendations, part of an amendment to the Sierra Nevada Framework, a management plan completed in 2001, are more applicable to the national forests in the Sierra that allow commercial logging, which the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit doesn’t allow.

“We have different standards and guidelines because of the overlapping regulatory world we live in,” Norman said.

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Norman said one of the recommendations focuses on recreation management. He said he plans to spend more time researching that recommendation because the basin is such a popular place for recreation.

The proposed amendments also recommend that some older growth trees, none greater than 30 inches wide, be removed from Sierra Nevada forests.

In total, the amendments to the framework would allow 450 million board feet of timber to be removed each year for 10 years. The framework had planned to allow 191 million board feet for five years and then 108 million board feet during the following five years.

Craig Thomas, director of the Sierra Nevada Forest Protection Campaign, called the proposed amendments a dramatic step backward for a framework that cost $23 million and took 10 years to assemble.

“The Forest Service review proposal has effectively gutted the old growth protection strategy for 4.1 million acres in the framework plan,” Thomas said. “The Forest Service is attempting to redefine history to benefit logging interests by increasing the allowable small clear-cut openings to 8,700 acres a year on those northern forests.”

In contrast, the Forest Service pointed out the framework drew more than 200 appeals and was not a workable plan.

“We found that many of the overlapping and confusing rules in the framework made it difficult to implement,” said Mike Ash, who led the framework review. “Our field personnel cannot fully meet the good intent of that decision. I think our recommendations will help meet that intent by more effectively reducing the risk of catastrophic fire and making other improvements as well.”

— Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or by e-mail at gcrofton@tahoedailytribune.com

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