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Tahoe Conservancy trying to keep up with fire fuel reductions

Laney Griffo
lgriffo@tahoedailytribune.com
A California Tahoe Conservancy property in a Tahoe Keys neighborhood. (Bill Rozak / Tahoe Daily Tribune)

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — Local agencies, including South Lake Tahoe Fire Rescue, are working with, and pushing the California Tahoe Conservancy to keep their properties in the city fire ready.

As fires continue to burn up and down the west coast, and just outside the basin, many locals are concerned that the Conservancy properties near their homes are not clean and maintained.

The Conservancy manages 4,700 state properties at Lake Tahoe, totaling around 6,500 acres, including several properties within neighborhoods in South Lake Tahoe. According to the Conservancy’s website, “Most of the Conservancy’s 4,700 properties in the Lake Tahoe Basin are small, undeveloped parcels — a half acre in size or smaller — located among homes in neighborhood subdivisions.”



“As you can imagine, the Conservancy takes the issues of forest health and wildfire risk quite seriously,” said Conservancy Communications Director Chris Carney.

The Conservancy said they inspect all its parcels at least every two years. Every 10 years, they treat the parcel or they will treat it if the Conservancy identifies excessive hazardous fuels during inspection or if community members report concerns.



When a community member reports a concern about a hazardous tree, staff will contact the reporting party within 24-48 hours and inspect the property as soon as possible. If people report hazardous fuel build up, the Conservancy said staff responds to people who report the buildup of fuels within about 48 hours and makes plans to inspect the property.

 

“If the risk from a hazard tree or hazardous fuels is significant, work takes place as soon as possible,” Carney said. “But if, for example, staff determines the property needs treatment, but that the hazardous fuel buildup is less than that on other properties already scheduled, the newly reported property will go into the Conservancy’s treatment queue behind previously planned work.”

However, the Conservancy has lacked resources to treat more properties on a timely basis. SLTFR is in regular contact with Conservancy personnel to ensure they have the support they need to help keep the community safe.

“It’s a strong relationship that we have with them because we have this constant need of addressing the wildfire risk in the community and the Conservancy works hard to maintain lots that they have in the city,” said SLTFR Chief Clive Savacool. “They only have so many resources so they prioritize them … so if we have a lot or an area that we deem a much higher fire risk than they can bump that up on their priority list.”

The Conservancy is addressing the lack of resources. This year, they expanded from two to four seasonal forestry aides, which will enable them to prepare more forest health projects for implementation. They also expanded our seasonal forestry and land management crews in partnership with the Tahoe Resource Conservation District.

But with the Tamarack Fire still at 0% containment on just the other side of the mountain, it doesn’t seem like enough for some Tahoe residents. Savacool said they’ve been hearing a lot of complaints from the people who live in surrounding homes around Conservancy lots in Tahoe Keys.

“I think if you took any agency, fire police, any law enforcement, any agency in the Lake Tahoe area, all of them are going to say they’re shorthanded and then all of them are going to say they’re short on resources,” Savacool said. “That’s just the fact is we only have so many citizens. Really, our tax base is only so big and we have the giant Lake Tahoe area to manage and we’ve got a major fire going on to the south of us right now in Tamarack. All of us are tapped out.”

California is stepping up to provide the Conservancy and other land managers with more resources.

“The good news is that Gov. Newsom and the Legislature took early budget action to provide $1 million for the Conservancy to reduce hazardous fuels on our open-space lots, implement high-priority forest management projects on our lands in the wildland-urban interface, and use prescribed fire to restore landscape resilience,” Carney said. “This funding will allow the Conservancy to double the acres of forest treated on Conservancy land, helping to protect communities and Basin resources. Further, the Governor’s proposed 2021-2022 state budget includes an additional $11 million to reduce wildfire risk on Conservancy lands.”

The Conservancy has a form available at https://tahoe.ca.gov/report-an-issue/ for those who would like to report a concern on Conservancy land.


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