Funds sought to complete East Shore forest project
The U.S. Forest Service needs another $4.5 million to complete its vision of a healthy forest in the 6,600-acre East Shore project, a Forest Service official said Thursday.
A coalition of Tahoe Basin groups, led by the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, will request the funds, but prospects are not promising, said John Swanson, fire and vegetation management officer for the Forest Service’s Lake Tahoe unit.
“We have been told there is not an appetite in Congress for additional funds,” Swanson said.
The Forest Service never expected to pay for all the East Shore improvements from revenues raised by the sale of salvage and overstocked timber, Swanson said. But falling timber prices reduced the amount of money the agency had to complete the non-essential portions of the project, he added.
The Forest Service expected to receive about $1.4 million from the sale of 36 million board-feet of timber in the East Shore project to Sierra Pacific Industries. But revenues fell short when the market plunged, with prices for Jeffrey and sugar pine plunging 35 percent, from $86 to $56 per 1,000 board-feet.
“We never anticipated we could pay for all of the work from the revenues; just more than we will be able to,” Swanson said.
The agency needs the extra money to pay for the removal of trees that were so rotten the contractor could not remove them, the thinning of smaller, non-saleable trees, stream improvement, erosion control, wildlife enhancement and the obliteration of 11.7 miles of roads.
Swanson emphasized that the money was not needed to complete the essential elements of the East Shore project, the removal of dead trees, disposing of brush and the thinning of larger, merchantable trees.
“We will complete all the work in the timber sale plan,” he said. “We are looking for funds to follow through on the opportunities identified in the environmental impact statement. It’s not like we’re failing in our stewardship of the forest.”
In previous legislative agendas adopted by the TRPA, the Forest Service had indicated it would need up to $15 million for forest-health projects in addition to any revenues raised by the timber sales themselves.
The agenda is supported by a coalition of public and private groups in the basin, including public agencies, the gaming industry, Heavenly Ski Resort, business interests and the League to Save Lake Tahoe.
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