Public gets new voice in land preservation issues |

Public gets new voice in land preservation issues

The U.S. Forest Service announced Friday that the long-awaited Lake Tahoe Basin Federal Advisory Committee has been formed to help in the fight to preserve Lake Tahoe.

“I think this is a great Christmas bonus for all of us,” said Juan Palma, forest supervisor for the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman appointed the members on Dec. 15, and Palma described it as “a major milestone in the implementation of President Clinton’s Executive Order of July 26, 1997, which called for the creation of a public citizens advisory body to address protection of the environmental and economic health of the Lake Tahoe Region.”

The committee – commonly referred to as the FACA committee because it is made possible by the Federal Advisory Committee Act – is to represent Lake Tahoe agencies and inidividuals with the federal government.

“The FACA is supposed to be the mechanism for allowing all the non-federal partners to meet with the federal players,” said Pam Wilcox, administrator of the Nevada Division of State Lands and one of the newly appointed members of the committee. “It’s the official mechanism for the public.”

The committee will meet with local representatives of the Federal Interagency Partnership – made up of the U.S. departments of Agriculture, Interior, Army, Transportation and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – to determine the best ways to help Lake Tahoe.

“The committee will be the partnership’s eyes and ears in the community,” Glickman said in a news release.”It will investigate the issues, help us better understand the needs of the public and seek long-term solutions to the many environmental challenges we face in the Lake Tahoe area.”

Executive Director of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency Jim Baetge, who was appointed to the committee, said it should help with the implementation of the Environmental Improvement Program. The cost for the EIP is estimated to be about $900 million, and one-third of that is supposed to come from the federal government.

The committee should be able to help prioritize projects and determine how to best obtain federal dollars for use at Lake Tahoe, Baetge said.

Dennis Machida, executive officer of the California Tahoe Conservancy, also was appointed. He has simlar feelings.

“I think one of the most positive aspects of this is that the federal partnership will get public input for some of the things its planning,” he said. “Plus, it will help us galvanize support for various projects under way, including the EIP.”

Others agree.

“Our hope is it will help the federal government get a better understanding of what it needs to do here – and get it done,” said Executive Director of the League to Save Lake Tahoe Rochelle Nason, another appointee to the committee.

Lori Gaskin, dean of instruction at Lake Tahoe Community College, was appointed as the education representative to the board.

“I look forward to working with the Forest Service and all the members of the advisory committee, and I look forward to to continuing to give back to the community,” she said.

The Forest Service received about 50 nominations for the committee, and local representatives of the Federal Interagency Partnership went through the list and made recommendations to Glickman. There are 19 members, representing a variety of interests, including two public at-large seats.

The committee appointments were expected to happen months ago; however, Palma said the process probably was slowed down because the situation was somewhat unique.

“This is a White House FACA committee. There’s not many of those,” he said. “Most FACAs are part of a specific agency, such as the Department of Interior or the EPA. This is a little different venue, a little different process.”

However, Palma said the timing was perfect.

“I think that the timing couldn’t be better,” he said. “We’re right in the middle of engineering our year 2000 federal budget. This group is coming in at the right time.”

The first meeting of the committee is tentatively scheduled for the last week of January. It will be open to the public.

Members of the Lake Tahoe Basin Federal Advisory Committee include:

Steve Teshara, gaming

Rochelle Nason, regional environmental

Jamie Ziegler, national environmental

Stan Hansen, ski resorts

Ronald McIntyre, North Shore economic/recreation

Duane Wallace, South Shore economic/recreation

Robert McKenney, resort associations

Lori Gaskin, education

John Bohn, property rights

Kathryn Kelly, science and research

Kerry Miller, local government

Brian Wallace, Washoe Tribe

Dennis Machida, state of California

Pam Wilcox, state of Nevada

Jim Baetge, Tahoe Regional Planning Agency

Donald Starbard, labor

Jennifer Merchant, transportation

Leo Popoff, member-at-large

Merlyn Paine, member-at-large

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