Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit celebrates 50th anniversary

Sara Jackson
Forest Ranger Jim Sizer circa 1910.
Provided / USFS

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – Along with being responsible for the conservation, preservation, and restoration of the Lake Tahoe watershed ecosystem within National Forest Lands, the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, originally established in 1973, is celebrating their 50th Anniversary in 2023.

Though small compared to other National Forest Lands, LTBMU is the Tahoe basin’s largest land manager, responsible for 78% of the land within the Lake Tahoe basin, which totals approximately 156,335 acres.

Lake Valley Ranger Raleigh Bryan circa 1930-1940
Provided / USFS

LTBMU manages national forests and grasslands. They also provide technical and financial assistance to state, private, and tribal forestry agencies. They are the largest forestry research organization in the world.

“The Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit is managed in many ways like other National Forests, but because of the needs of the lake, and the relationship it has with the forests that surround it, LTBMU has special areas of focus,” said Don Lane, Wilderness Program Manager for LTBMU. “These special focus areas include erosion control management, watershed and habitat restoration, forest health, fuels reduction and prescribed fire, wildfire prevention, and recreation management, including management of the Desolation Wilderness, and other backcountry areas.”

Lake Valley Ranger Station in Meyers.
Provided / USFS

In 1973, the LTBMU was created from basin portions of the three existing National Forests, forming a single management unit. This unification provided the focus needed for the basin, and for more efficient management of its watershed, ecological and recreational resources. The work of the Forest Service helps and is supported by other federal, state, and local agencies working together to face challenges, conserve and restore both natural and cultural resources, while enhancing the recreational standards of the Lake Tahoe basin.

“The LTBMU’s fundamental objective is to provide the needed resources, and the on-the-ground resource management around the National Forest lands within the Lake Tahoe basin,” said Lane. “Ongoing projects include forest thinning programs to encourage healthy forests, restoration programs to restore streams, meadows, and wildlife habitat, and prescribed fire programs conducted whenever conditions allow, to reduce the potential and severity of destructive wildfires around Lake Tahoe. Backcountry patrols by LTBMU law enforcement, field staff and volunteers also monitor resource damage, and eliminate campfires left by recreationists. We will continue to do whatever it takes to protect the basin’s fragile resources.”

First Ranger Station at Lake Tahoe circa 1912
Provided / USFS

Urban settings adjacent to forests, along with over ten million tourists annually, contribute to environmental issues affecting the lake’s water, air quality, risk of wildfires, and extensive historic logging activities have contributed to an unnatural forest landscape.

Volunteers are the heartbeat of the USDA Forest Service, which offers Volunteer Service Agreement Programs around Lake Tahoe most of the year. Depending on the area that volunteers are interested in, the LTBMU offers a variety of positions available for each person to participate in an activity that meets their interests such as trail work, bird surveys, information receptionist, education in conservation, and wilderness restoration projects.

With the proactive influence the the LTBMU has on Lake Tahoe’s environment, they are celebrating their 50th year by continuing to spread awareness, and encourage outreach to preserve and continue to grow.

From left to right: Forest Ranger Fritz Sethe circa 1910. Forest Supervisor Harold Green with his wife circa 1914. Forest Assistant W Kent circa 1905.
Provided / USFS

“Beyond the focused events that include anniversary celebrations, outreach is a need to include the history of the establishment of the 1899 Lake Tahoe Forest Reserve, and the seasonal patrol presence beginning in 1905 by Ranger Raymond Tyler, to monitor and manage the newly established National Forest Lands within the Lake Tahoe Basin, and the evolution and commitment of this resource focused federal agency to the preservation and enjoyment of the Lake Tahoe basin,” said Lane. “Overall, in 1973, action was to create a focused public resource agency, the LTBMU, that would be able to focus on the lands within this special area.”

The main future goal for the LTBMU is to maintain Lake Tahoe’s natural health and beauty for future generations by keeping it well-managed, protected and loved. To achieve this, the LTBMU needs to stay focused on all basin resource needs, along with all possible ways to support public use and enjoyment. Growing urbanization, along with agency challenges, will need to be addressed, and the Lake Tahoe basin will remain a critical management area within the USDA Forest Service, that will hopefully exist 50 years from now in 2073.

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