Money would help clear out dead wood |

Money would help clear out dead wood

The U.S. Forest Service last year removed dead wood and thinned trees on more than 1,100 acres at the Lake Tahoe Basin, an area equivalent to the Stateline casino corridor and Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course put together.

This year the agency already has completed thinning and fuel reduction on 2,200 acres, exceeding its goal for 2003, officials said Monday following the Lake Tahoe Summit at Sand Harbor.

The news followed the announcement of a bill introduced by Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., to make good on the federal government’s promise to provide $30 million a year for restoration at the basin. The bill would funnel $30 million in Southern Nevada Lands Act money, collected by the sale of public lands to Lake Tahoe.

The plan can only mean good things for fuels management, which is tied closely to the restoration of the lake and protection of its clear waters, Forest Service officials said.

Overcrowded forests are prone to wildfires. And severe wildfires, like last summer’s Gondola fire, are usually followed by the need to install erosion controls.

A wildfire typically wipes out vegetation that helps the land absorb rain or snow and prevent erosion. The 150,000-acre McNally fire that burned part of the Sequoia National Forest last summer caused erosion problems last winter.

“Winter storms caused sediment that blew down ravines and took out culverts and bridges,” said Jack Blackwell, regional forester for the Pacific Southwest Region of the Forest Service.

Catastrophic forest fires such as the McNally also create millions of dollars in water treatment bills for taxpayers, said Sally Collins, associate chief at the U.S. Forest Service. The residents of Colorado are paying to clean up drinking water sources affected by wildfires last summer, Collins said.

Though the details are unclear of how the federal funds will be distributed, revenue from the land sales will likely will be funneled from the Department of the Interior to the Department of Agriculture and on to federal agencies such as the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, Collins said.

“It’s fantastic news, but there is still a lot to sort out,” Collins said. “One of the goals we have is to get that money on the ground.”

Some of the federal money could fund fuels treatment work on the 3,500 Forest Service lots sprinkled throughout communities at the basin. The budget for management of such urban intermix lots is about half what it needs to be, said Dave Marlow, fuel and vegetation management officer for the basin.

“It’s about $700,000, it needs to be $1.5 million,” Marlow said.

Trees and dead wood cleared by the Forest Service either get chipped or piled and burned. Marlow said in the 11 years he has worked in the basin never has there been a year so ideal for pile burning. Rains this summer and late winter snows made the burning possible.

— Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or by e-mail at

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