Compromise needed for sake of wild lands |

Compromise needed for sake of wild lands

As with most issues, there are more than two sides. As with most things in the basin, everyone has an opinion. As if there were not enough regulations placed upon us already, the feds are out to make some more rules for all of us to live by.

Two bills floating around Congress could dramatically impact the Lake Tahoe Basin. The Healthy Forests Initiative promoted by President Bush — also known as HR 1904 — is getting one OK after another as it winds its way through the quagmire of committees in the Capitol.

The California Wild Heritage Wilderness Act of 2003 was introduced by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., a week ago. Her original proposal was stalled last year.

The thrust of the Bush item is to return forests to their natural condition. The White House contends, “… about 190 million acres of our nation’s forest are in bonfire conditions.”

The threat of fire to an area twice the size of California comes from fuels being allowed to accumulate, dry or drought conditions, infestation by insects and disease.

There is no question fuel reduction in the form of thinning of forests and prescribed burns make for healthy forests.

Predictably the U.S. Chamber of Commerce supports the bill, while the Sierra Club is against it.

Rep. Peter Fazio, a Democrat from Oregon, wants to put more teeth into the legislation so there would actually be funding for hazardous fuel reduction, money to protect municipal areas and a process for people to make an appeal without negating environmental rules or public input.

The Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit of the Forest Service has done a commendable job of initiating controlled burns so there is not an out of control inferno. Yes, there are areas in town where you can see the trees through the forest. As much as a thick forest in many ways is more aesthetically pleasing, it is irresponsible to keep them this way — especially near urban development.

Clearly there needs to be better management of the forests, but what Bush wants would inevitably remove the public from having a voice. This is never a good thing. It appears what the president touts is a bit of a rouse to allow more logging in the backcountry. There needs to be an honest approach to managing our forests without kickbacks to special interests.

When it comes to Boxer’s bill, she is focusing solely on the Golden State.

“During the last 20 years, 675,000 acres of unprotected wilderness — approximately the size of Yosemite National Park — have lost their wilderness character due to all sorts of activities such as logging and mining,” she professes.

It would be hard to not embrace this sentiment if that were all there was to it. Boxer’s bill would limit access to thousands of acres in and around the South Shore.

Forty-three thousand of those acres are north of Highway 89. It would mean designating Meiss Meadows and Caples Creek as wilderness. This is the highest environmental protection allowed. If Boxer gets her way, mountain bikes and snowmobiles would be banned. Hiking would be OK, as well as equestrian use.

One of the reasons we live here is for the great outdoors. We can overuse and abuse the wilderness. But there has to be compromise made so all interests are represented. Banning motorized vehicles is one thing, but cycling is a whole different matter. Allow animals weighing thousands of pounds and not a bicycle? How ridiculous.

Is it too much to ask for our land to be protected while at the same time permitting people to use it in a reasonable manner?

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