New TRPA ordinance won’t change much |

New TRPA ordinance won’t change much

B.H. Bose

Despite the recent adoption of an ordinance prohibiting the cutting of trees larger than 30 inches in diameter, the word “timber” will still be echoing throughout the Tahoe Basin.

The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, in conjunction with the U.S. Forest Service, amended its Tree Removal chapter in its Code of Ordinance, to “add protection for old growth trees.”

The goal is to preserve old growth forests and improve the overall health of an ecosystem that has been depleted by logging. While the ordinance doesn’t apply to trees in residential, commercial, public service, and tourist areas, 95 percent of the basin’s trees fall under the designated areas.

Despite the recent ordinance, the USFS plans to go ahead with many of its projects.

“The affects will be quite minor. The U.S. Forest Service was very active in the draft process and is supportive of the ordinance and will abide by it,” said John Swanson, a fire and vegetation management officer with the USFS. “A lot of our projects occur in commercial interfaces, campgrounds, and other high-use areas, so they are excluded.”

Still, there are projects in conservation and recreation land-use areas. The North Shore Project, scheduled before the ordinance was approved, is one of those.

“There are several hundred trees that have been identified as dead and dying that are scheduled to be cut. The project will continue, but will be modified. We have to remove trees that are a hazard, but we will do so in accordance with the TRPA. We don’t cut many large trees anyway,” Swanson said, adding that the project arose because of public outcry to have some of these dead trees removed.

According to Swanson, the area in need of thinning extends from Tahoe City to Incline Village, up to the ridgeline. It is a 20,000-acre region, with 8,000 acres to receive “mechanical treatment.” Approximately 1,000 acres will be treated with controlled burns, Swanson said.

The project will be broken down into four “hazardous reduction projects” – the Baldy 2, Dollar Point, Agate (Bay), and Kings (Beach). The Baldy 2 will be removal, mostly via helicopters, of trees near Mount Baldy outside Incline Village.

“There will be helicopter removal of trees in that area this summer,” Swanson said, adding that removal should begin in about a month. “There will be thinning of small green trees (for defensible space purposes) and the taking out of larger trees as part of an intense fuel management program northwest of Incline.”

The Incline project is scheduled to be completed by Sept. 30. Soon after, the Dollar Point thinning will begin.

“They had to go back in there (Dollar Point area) and remark trees over 30 inches in DBH; basically take them out of the sale,” said Steve Chilton, vegetation program manager with the TRPA. “It is our understanding that they are fully with the interest and spirit of the Tahoe Basin Forest Health Consensus Group (the group that recommended the ordinance), which they are a member.”

The Agate Bay and Kings Beach projects are still at least a year away, quite possibly two years away, from starting.

The North Shore Project, which has a five-year timeline, is designed to improve fire protection and improve overall forest health.

Under the ordinance, trees greater than 30 inches in DBH may be felled if they pose an unacceptable risk to humans or personal property. Regional planners still must approve the tree cutting.

“It will last two years, which will then give us the Nevada Division of Forestry, the California Division of Forestry, state parks, private landowners, the TRPA, etc., to take a look at the ordinance to see if we are accomplishing what we want,” Swanson said. “Then we will see if it should be amended, removed, or remain the same.”

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