Fine tuning of the plan for the National Forest |

Fine tuning of the plan for the National Forest

by Andy Bourelle

There is a herculean effort under way to coordinate, organize and improve the management of all of the National Forests in the Sierra Nevada.

While not a National Forest, the Lake Tahoe Basin is to be included in that plan. But when it’s implemented, the Sierra Nevada Framework’s impact on Lake Tahoe communities likely will seem invisible.

Kent Connaughton, project manager for the Sierra Nevada Framework, said the transition in management likely will be “seamless” for the Lake Tahoe Basin.

“My observations are that the environmental issues in the Lake Tahoe Basin are well recognized, and there’s been significant progress in addressing these problems,” he said. “You won’t see us coming in with a heavy hand and saying, ‘This is the way you have to do things now.’ That’s just not rational.”

The concept for the Sierra Nevada Framework originated in early 1998. One of the reasons behind building the framework was because many National Forest management plans were out of date.

Lake Tahoe is not, and other areas don’t contain the number of other agencies united in environmental preservation that Tahoe does.

“I don’t know that any policy changes will be visible in the basin. But there will be places where it changes a lot, because the plans are old and obsolete in some respects,” Connaughton said.

That doesn’t mean it’s not important. It will, after all, summarize the future management of California’s defining mountain range.

The Sierra Nevada – Spanish words that mean ”snow-covered mountain range” – stretches along the eastern flank of California from Lassen to Kern counties. It includes the Modoc, Lassen, Plumas, Tahoe, Eldorado, Stanislaus, Sierra, Sequoia, Inyo and Humboldt-Toiyabe national forests as well as the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit.

Among other issues, the Framework will provide for the expansion of old-growth forests, address fire-management plans and look at ways to improve aquatic ecosystems. It is supposed to use the most current scientific information as well as the wishes of the public.

“The Framework should become a way for the Forest Service to do business,” Connaughton said. “It should expand the role of people outside the Forest Service. The way it’s been in the past was OK at the time, but now we need more collaboration now.”

To date, more than 60 public meetings have been held up and down the Sierra – including ones on Tahoe’s north and south shores. The Forest Service has received more than 3,400 comments. An Environmental Impact Statement for the framework is expected to be ready by late spring or early summer, Connaughton said. Officials expect more than 15,000 comments then.

Unlike many federal projects, the Forest Service is taking comments from the public at any time. Even before the EIS is complete, proposed alternatives for the Framework are available.

“This is all done in the open, so the public can participate,” Connaughton said. “Even though it’s a work in progress, we’ll tell you what we’re doing at any time.”

The latest information on the Sierra Nevada Framework can be viewed on the World Wide Web:

Copies of the Sierra Nevada Framework tentative proposals can be obtained from the Forest Service office, 870 Emerald Bay Road.

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