Limbs, trunks and views: Second tree-cutting case surfaces
The tantalizing allure of gaining a better view of Lake Tahoe has landed another Tahoe resident in trouble, according to allegations by the state’s top prosecutor.
Incline Village resident Patricia Vincent faces charges she had view-obstructing pines chopped down on federal property near her Incline Village home. The charges could land her in prison for up to 20 years and force her to pay as much as $500,000 in fines.
The state says the pines were 80 to 100 years old.
The charges filed against Vincent come just two months after the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency announced they would pursue litigation against a Kings Beach property owner who trimmed, girdled and topped seven Jeffrey pine trees on state property last summer to improve the view from his property.
In the lawsuit, the agency will pursue a settlement of at least $35,000 ” charging a $5,000 maximum penalty per damaged tree.
While the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency recently amended their code to better facilitate tree-removal for defensible space and fuel reduction purposes, hacking down trees for the sake of a view is an offense not taken lightly.
“Where people butcher heritage trees for the sole purpose of improving their view ” it’s taken seriously,” said Dennis Oliver, spokesperson for the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.
A statement released by the U.S. Attorney General alleges Vincent removed trees located on a U.S. Forest Service lot on Dyer Way in Incline Village. The parcel is designated as an environmentally sensitive urban lot designed to protect the Lake Tahoe Basin.
Vincent faces one count of willingly injuring or committing any depredation against any property of the United States and one count of theft of government property.
“It is important that public lands, which are held in trust for the benefit of all citizens are appropriately protected by our land management agencies,” U.S. Attorney Gregory A. Brower said in a written statement. “Individuals who unlawfully encroach on these lands and cause damage will be prosecuted.”
Vincent was summoned to appear before the United States Magistrate Judge Valerie P. Cooke, on Monday, Feb. 25. The case is being investigated by the U.S. Forest Service, Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit.
While Vincent was also being investigated by the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, the planning agency turned over their information to the U.S. Attorney General, who is the lead agency.
The bi-state planning agency has yet to meet with Avion Inc., the owner of a home at 489 Beaver St., to discuss a settlement for illegally chopping down or damaging seven trees. Oliver said the agency is working to negotiate a settlement before the cases moves to court.
The legal standing of Avion Inc. appears questionable, according to the planning agency. Agency documents show the company had failed to register with the California Secretary of State as an incorporated business, as required by state law.
Oliver said Thursday the agency is still gathering information about the corporation.
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