Reprieve for big trees |

Reprieve for big trees

B.H. Bose

Tribune Staff Writer

Old-growth trees measuring at least 30 inches around at breast height have a new lease on life, even if the tree is dying or dead.

The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency Wednesday adopted that standard as suggested by the Tahoe Basin Forest Health Consensus Group.

The 30-inch standard will apply for two years, or until the planning agency changes its collective opinion.

The agency regulation applies to all live, dead or dying trees in conservation and recreation land use classifications and riparian zones (the areas immediately surrounding creeks, rivers, streams, etc.).

It does not apply to trees in residential, commercial, public service or tourist areas.

There are exceptions to the new ordinance. In areas where it does apply, trees that pose an unacceptable risk to humans, structures or personal property may be felled if a land manager certifies the hazard. Also, severely insect-infested trees may be removed. However, regional planners will inspect each tree before it is cut.

In situations where a tree must be felled immediately, because of danger to human safety, a land manager may cut it down but will have to submit photographic documentation within two agency working days.

Members of the staff and the forest health consensus group decided to create an interim ordinance until more scientific research can be conducted to asses the extent and condition of old-growth forests in the Tahoe Basin. The forest health consensus group will receive $50,000 a year for five years to assist in its efforts to update a comprehensive forest management strategy. Until then, or for the next two years, the planners will abide by the newly adopted interim ordinance.

“We decided on 30 inches because science has come to the conclusion that 30 inches is the breaking point (between old growth and other trees), which is basically 150- to 170-year-old trees,” Steve Chilton said.

While it may not apply to residential, commercial, tourist accommodation and campground trees, it is significant because approximately 95 percent of the trees in the basin fall under conservation and recreation land use classifications and riparian zones, Chilton said.

“We have looked old growth and the history, and decided the first step was to protect old growth,” said John Cobourn, a member of the forest health consensus group and forest hydrologist from the University of Nevada, Reno’s Cooperative Extension program.

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