Basin agencies join for wildfire protection
September brought the reality of wildfires to the forefront in the Lake Tahoe Basin. The King Fire came within eight air miles of the U.S. Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit boundary, and as containment was imminent, the Cascade Fire broke out in the Desolation Wilderness. Rain and snow quickly brought an end to both fires.
Since 2007, Lake Tahoe Basin agencies have worked closely together to prioritize and implement projects to reduce local wildfire risks, under the guidance of the Tahoe Fire & Fuels Team, using the Lake Tahoe Basin Multi-Jurisdictional Fuel Reduction and Wildfire Prevention Strategy. Participating agencies include the U.S. Forest Service, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, the land managers and fire services of California and Nevada and local fire protection districts.
In August, the15 agencies released an updated strategy that assesses the work done to date and sets forth a plan for the future.
At this year’s Lake Tahoe Summit, elected officials from both parties recognized the significance of this collaborative approach, signing a proclamation supporting the strategy and its benefits to forest health and the protection of life, property, and Lake Tahoe’s precious environmental resources.
The origins of the fuels reduction strategy date to 2006, when Congress passed the White Pine Amendment to the Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act (SNPLMA). The bill required Lake Tahoe Basin partners to develop priorities for fuels reduction in order to compete for SNPLMA funding to implement these projects.
Led by the U.S. Forest Service, the agencies rallied and began to build upon existing research, planning and treatment to prioritize future work. Then, in June of 2007, the Angora Fire burned 3,100 acres and 254 homes, pointing up the urgent need to treat wildland areas near communities as outlined in the strategy. Since it was finalized in December 2007, the document has fulfilled its goal of guiding wildfire risk reduction efforts.
The original strategy identified 68,000 acres as treatment priorities. Since 2008, non-federal partners have treated 12,000 acres in the highest priority areas identified by the community wildfire protection plans, nearly doubling the average annual number of acres previously treated. The U.S. Forest Service has treated approximately 26,000 acres.
In 2013, the Forest Service convened the partners to update the strategy to address new issues and challenges that have arisen since 2007. The update responds to climate change, ensures coordination with national wildland fire policy, and addresses the loss of markets for biomass and other wood products that result from forest thinning.
Treating fuels in the critical area where communities meet the wildland is projected to cost between $144 million and $156 million, with an additional $25 million to $35 million needed for work to ensure the continued effectiveness of previously treated areas.
The updated strategy recognizes the essential role that property owners play in reducing wildfire risk when they complete their defensible space or retrofit homes. To learn more visit http://www.livingwithfire.info/tahoe/.
The updated strategy facilitates the decisions that must be made by land management, fire and regulatory agencies to reduce the probability of another catastrophic wildfire in the Lake Tahoe Basin.
To read the Multi-Jurisdictional Fuel Reduction and Wildfire Prevention Strategy, visit http://www.usda.gov/goto/ltbmu/FuelStategy.