Governors back blue ribbon fire task force |

Governors back blue ribbon fire task force

Adam Jensen

On Friday, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced his intention to take a closer look at wildfire prevention in the Lake Tahoe Basin, with the formation of a California-Nevada Joint Blue Ribbon Task Force.

The task force will undertake a “comprehensive review of land management practices associated with conditions that contributed to the devastating Angora fire,” according to a press release from the Governor’s office.

“Now that the Angora fire is contained, we must take every step to prevent this disaster from happening again, and we owe it to the victims to create the best land management practices that will lead to a healthy forest in the Lake Tahoe Basin,” Schwarzenegger said in the statement. “I am pleased to join with Nevada Governor Jim Gibbons to find solutions to the serious issues raised in wake of the Angora fire.”

Gibbons was not immediately available for comment on Monday, although Brent Boynton, a spokesman for his office, said the task force is in its infancy and members are being chosen this week.

Membership will focus on those with fire management expertise and is likely to include local fire officials, according to Boynton.

While neither of the governors’ offices would spell out the agencies baring the brunt of the review, California Senator Dave Cox cast a wide net in a June 29 letter, urging the governors to create the task force.

“There is a very strong feeling among residents of the Lake Tahoe Basin that over the years all levels of government have failed to properly manage the forest lands and reduce the threats of catastrophic wildfires. Many feel that the requirements and regulations that have been put in place by the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA) and the U.S. Forest Service have made the process of creating defensible space both cumbersome and costly,” Cox wrote in the letter. “Further, I frequently hear from constituents who gladly abide by the 100 foot defensible space requirement, but are frustrated by the fact that adjoining lands owned by the California Tahoe Conservancy (CTC), California State Parks and the federal government do not meet the same requirements.”

A similar task force was convened after the 2003 wildfires in Southern California that burned more than 700,000 acres, destroyed 3,631 homes and killed 24 people. The task force report, released approximately five months after containment of the fire, outlined 48 recommendations to federal, state and local jurisdictions.

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