Burnt Cedar trees poisoned, Incline Village staff look for answers

Sheila Lejion next to a tree that has been poisoned.
Miranda Jacobson/Tahoe Daily Tribune

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev.— Six trees have been poisoned at Burnt Cedar Beach in Incline Village, totaling the amount of poisoned trees to twelve at the private beach located along Lakeshore Blvd.

Incline Village General Improvement District Superintendent of Parks Steven Phillips explained that last year in July 2022, staff noticed the smell of diesel, and found out that six trees had been poisoned. 

“Those trees didn’t survive,” said Phillips. “This year, we were starting to do some rings around the trees, and we noticed the smell of diesel again. So what we ended up with was six large trees have been poisoned again.” 

Director of Parks and Recreation Shelia Lejion and Phillips have been working with the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, along with the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office, to find the people who have been poisoning the trees in order to determine consequences and ensure it does not happen again. 

There is a visible ring around the trees where diesel was poured.
Miranda Jacobson/Tahoe Daily Tribune

TRPA Public Information Officer Jeff Cowen explained that TRPA compliance staff and their forester observed evidence of chemicals, possibly diesel fuel, was observed on the ground around the base of the trees. 

“It is suspected that this is an intentional act and we understand IVGID is working with WCSO to start a criminal investigation,” said Cowen. “We suggested they contact the Washoe County Agricultural Department to test the soil and to possibly suggest steps to save the trees.” 

If a guilty party is identified, TRPA may start a violation case, but for now, there are not further steps they can take. 

There is an active investigation in play to determine who poisoned the trees. Those who might have any information can contact the WSCO Secret Witness line at 775-322-4900. 

A poisoned tree at Burnt Cedar.
Miranda Jacobson/Tahoe Daily Tribune

“It’s great that they’re helping and we’ll let them do the detective work,” said Phillips. 

Phillips and Lejion are hoping to be able to save some of the trees that were poisoned, although multiple that were poisoned in 2022 have already been cut down. 

“We looked at the trees and we didn’t mark them for removal yet,” said Philips. “We’re going to try to remove some soil. But we know last time it was highly successful in destroying some of the trees.” 

Staff were able to bring in an arborist and forester to consult on the trees to see if any of them are able to be saved. 

All of the trees that have been poisoned were in the generally same area, near the parking lot closest to the park and restrooms. Trees poisoned include Jeffery Pines, Firs, and larger Pine trees. Rings can be seen around the trees where they were contaminated. 

This tree (middle), which is likely over a hundred years old, has been poisoned, with officials unsure if it can be saved.
Miranda Jacobson/Tahoe Daily Tribune

“We took a soil sample and we want to make sure we analyze the soil sample,” said Philips. “Make sure that it’s strictly diesel and not maybe a cocktail of some sorts.” 

In order to make sure the contamination does not run off into the lake or other parts of the beach, the soil is being removed and properly contained so it can be dumped safely. 

“So we’re going to remove as much as we can,” said Philips. “We’re going to see how the trees do, keep a close eye on them. We don’t know what the chances of survival are. I know it was very effective, the last time they did this. So it’s really hard once it’s been done. You can’t intake the diesel.” 

For those who might have information about this incident but would like to stay anonymous, please contact the WCSO Secret Witness line at 775-322-4900. 

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