Doolittle: Allow forest thinning in sensitive environmental areas
Agencies governing the Lake Tahoe Basin should loosen regulations to allow for mechanized thinning of forest land susceptible to wildfire, Congressman John Doolittle, R-Rocklin, said in a telephone press conference Thursday.
“I think the climate has changed, and I would hope that we may see the change reflected in the regulation action of the TRPA (Tahoe Regional Planning Agency) and Lahontan,” Doolittle said. “Part of the problem is the Forest Service has been walking the tight-rope of consensus, not getting to the stream environment zones they would like to do.”
The path of the Angora fire followed the southern portion of Angora Creek during the initial stages of its northern advance. The creek is considered a sensitive stream zone. These zones are spread throughout the basin and have become a breeding ground for dense brush, trees and thick undergrowth considered dangerous fuel for fire.
Regulations have stifled efforts to use mechanized equipment to thin brush in these stream zones. Disturbing the streamzones would cause further erosion and harm lake clarity efforts, officials contend.
“My sense is we had a near miss with the Angora fire,” Doolittle said. “We lost of a lot of homes, though no lives were lost. I suspect it will result in environmental degradation of the lake, and if there is a way to reduce that then we should.”
Another fire-related issue has concerned federal money for fuel reduction in the basin, which was addressed earlier this month by Nevada Sens. Harry Reid and John Ensign, and again on Wednesday by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.
They have expressed frustration about $10 million in federal funds remaining unspent in the Lake Tahoe Basin. The money has been earmarked from the Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act for forest fuels reduction in the basin.
Doolittle said he was unfamiliar with the funding issue.
“If the money is not coming in, I’m on the same page,” Doolittle said.
The Forest Service contends that more than enough money is coming into the basin for fuel reduction, and the process of allocating taxpayers’ money and implementing fuels reduction projects is proceeding as fast as possible.
– Tribune staff writer Adam Jensen contributed to this report.