Editorial: Our most important environmental challenge
August 18, 2005
Lake Tahoe will again be put on display as a national treasure during this weekend’s Lake Tahoe Summit at Commons Beach in Tahoe City. While glad-handing and backslapping will be the order of the day on Sunday, we hope to see a commitment by our local and national politicians to address fire danger in the Sierra.
Since the first environmental summit in 1997 – with its high-profile list of attendees that included President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore – commitments of money and manpower have been made to the continued preservation and restoration of Lake Tahoe (700 projects with a price tag of $908 million!). And while we have seen many of those commitments come closer to fruition, especially as it pertains to water quality, the focus has shifted to the imminent danger of wildfire.
In the last year alone this part of the Sierra has seen numerous wildfires, fueled by dry weather and dense forests. In two cases – the Waterfall fire in west Carson City and the Fred fire near Kyburz – flames have raged out of control. The Waterfall fire claimed dozens of homes and buildings; the Fred fire charred thousands of acres and resulted in a long closure of Highway 50, South Tahoe’s main artery to Sacramento.
That there is a fire danger is obvious, but the Sierra needs dollars and action more than it needs words.
The U.S. Forest Service has thus far taken the lead on fire fuels suppression, and citizen groups – like the forming fire safe council in Meyers (and other fire safe councils in the basin) – are taking action. According to the Forest Service’s Rex Norman, the agency spends $2.5 million a year in fire prevention work. But the effort is not keeping up with the continuing problem.
The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency has shown its willingness to fund and funnel energy into fire prevention. The Forest Service and other public agencies are on board. And God knows the residents and homeowners in the basin want to prevent catastrophic fire.
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We all want to do it, and we all know it needs to get done. Now let’s see a commitment to battling the threat of fire preventatively. It’s our most important environmental challenge.
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