Forum to focus on wildfires? |

Forum to focus on wildfires?

Dan Thrift / Tahoe Daily Tribune file / Vice President Al Gore, left, and President Bill Clinton watch as the secchi disc is dropped into Lake Tahoe to measure the lake's clarity in 1997.

A decade after the historic Lake Tahoe Presidential Forum, Washington is returning to the jewel of the Sierra.

The office of Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., announced recently that Sierra Nevada College in Incline Village will be the site of the 10th anniversary Lake Tahoe Forum on Friday, Aug. 17.

The college is proud and honored to host the event, said SNC President Larry Large.

As host of the event, Reid will be attending with his counterpart Sen. John Ensign, a Republican, as will Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., former Nevada Sen. Richard H. Bryan will be the master of ceremonies, and expected to attend the event are U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Stephen L. Johnson, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns and U.S. Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne have been invited, but are not yet confirmed to attend. Former Vice President Al Gore, who attended the original meeting, is rumored to be in attendance, but has not been confirmed as attending by Reid’s or Gore’s offices.

The forum comes 10 years after the 1997 Lake Tahoe Presidential Forum, which resulted in a pledge of $50 million in federal funds for the basin’s troubled environment by then-President Bill Clinton. In a ceremony on an Incline Village beach, Clinton signed an executive order that declared Lake Tahoe an area of national concern, citing the basin’s extraordinary natural, recreational and ecological resources. Clinton’s pledge was the kickstart to funding for the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s Environmental Improvement Program, which eventually resulted in the federal government, California and Nevada committed to each pay a third of the about $900 million environmental plan.

The 10th anniversary forum will be held as concerns heighten over environmental damage from the aftermath of the Angora fire. The fire, which began June 24, destroyed 254 homes and charred 3,100 acres, leaving a scarred land that could continually spill sediment and affect Lake Tahoe’s famed clarity.

There are some who would like the Lake Tahoe Forum to be used as a podium to make the avoidance of catastrophic wildfires a priority for the basin.

Coe Swobe, an at-large member of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, is urging California and Nevada’s senators to address the issue.

“As long as the abundance of forest fuels remain, Lake Tahoe will be just another catastrophic wildfire waiting to happen,” Swobe wrote to the senators about the agenda for the Aug. 17 forum.

The U.S. Forest Service approved nearly $2.2 million last week in emergency land treatment money for the Angora fire burn area.

The public portion of the Lake Tahoe Forum will be held between 3 and 4 p.m. Friday, Aug. 17, at Sierra Nevada College. It will be held on the green behind Patterson Hall at the college, according to Cindy McClelland, SNC’s community relations director.

Though Reid’s office would not comment on specific issues to be discussed, spokesman Jon Summers said, “Sen. Reid is always looking for ways to preserve the clarity of Lake Tahoe and protect its surrounding region.”

Besides the public event at 3 p.m. in Incline Village, there will also be several invitation-only events in Glenbrook. A luncheon is scheduled, as well as a defensible space demonstration before forum attendees move to Incline Village.

In the evening, the event will return to Glenbrook for a private barbecue, McClelland said.

While in the Lake Tahoe area, Ensign also plans to attend the League to Save Lake Tahoe’s annual meeting and 50th anniversary celebration on Aug. 18 at the Tahoe Center for Environmental Sciences on the campus of Sierra Nevada College. He will be speaking at the event, according to his office. Feinstein is also rumored to be in attendance, but her office would not confirm her plans.

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