Lake Tahoe agency fines company $30,000 for illegal tree cutting |

Lake Tahoe agency fines company $30,000 for illegal tree cutting

Martin Griffith, Associated Press Writer

A California-based company has been fined $30,000 for the illegal cutting of seven pines on state property on Lake Tahoe’s north shore in order to enhance views of the lake.

At the same time, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s governing board imposed a $9,000 fine against two nearby Incline Village homeowners for illegally cutting three trees on state land to improve their lake views.

The fines were included under negotiated settlements approved by the bistate agency’s board on Wednesday, two days after an Incline Village woman pleaded not guilty to federal charges of hiring a crew to cut down three old-growth trees on U.S. Forest Service land to enhance her lake views.

They are the latest in a string of about 50 such cases over the last decade involving violations of TRPA regulations forbidding the removal of trees or limbs to improve Tahoe views, agency spokesman Dennis Oliver said.

“When you butcher trees in order to enhance your view of Lake Tahoe and we find out about it, you’ll be fined,” he said. “There needs to be some enforcement and some deterrent to discourage this. It’s a fairly egregious thing to do.”

Avion Inc. based in Sacramento, Calif., was slapped with the $30,000 fine after being accused of girdling, removing limbs or topping seven Jeffrey pines on California Tahoe Conservancy land adjacent to a Kings Beach home it owns.

The fine helps settle a lawsuit filed by the TRPA against Avion, Oliver said. Under terms of the settlement, neither side can publicly discuss details and nothing shall be construed as an admission of any kind.

TRPA staffers had originally recommended a maximum fine of $35,000 – or $5,000 per tree – because they thought the offense was egregious. Avion officials had denied any responsibility.

Marlene Sheff and Thomas Atteberry were fined $9,000 after being accused of creating a “window” in a tree canopy by removing limbs from three trees on Nevada State Lands property near their home.

The homeowners have taken full responsibility for it and will be required to enact a forest health enhancement plan for their property, TRPA officials said.

On Monday, Patricia Vincent, 58, pleaded not guilty after she was indicted by a federal grand jury in Reno on charges of theft of government property and willingly damaging goverment property.

Vincent is accused of hiring a company to cut down three ponderosa pines on a plot the Forest Service had designated as enviromentally sensitive. The land was part of a water quality plan to help protect the clarity of Lake Tahoe, officials said.

In April 2006, Silicon Valley executive John Fitzhenry agreed to pay a $50,000 fine for poisoning three Jeffrey pines to enhance the view from his $2.4 million property in Dollar Point on Tahoe’s north shore.

“Most people wouldn’t cut down a tree to improve their view, but if we didn’t have the ability to do some kind of enforcement I think more people would certainly do it,” Oliver said.

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