Tahoe ReGreen: Umbrella group to launch second year of forest projects | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Tahoe ReGreen: Umbrella group to launch second year of forest projects

Patrick McCartney

There’s one thing about a coalition like Tahoe ReGreen.

The players may change, but the mission remains the same.

Beginning its second year, Tahoe ReGreen is ready to launch a new season of forest-health projects in the Tahoe Basin.

Now, all that is needed is for the members of Tahoe ReGreen to secure enough funding to accomplish its ambitious goals for 1997: to lessen the risk of catastrophic wildfire in the Tahoe Basin by reducing ground fuel and creating a defensible corridor between residential neighborhoods and the forest.

“Our theme is: ‘Reduce the risk of fire through sensible, defensible space,'” said Dick Thomas, who chairs the Lake Valley Fire Protection District’s board of directors.

The loose coalition meets monthly to plan the group’s long-range effort to improve the health of Tahoe’s forests. But just putting the 19-member group together was a milestone, said Brian Schafer, a Lake Valley assistant fire chief who directs Tahoe ReGreen’s operations.

“We have the organization in place,” Schafer said. “We have the cooperation of all federal and state agencies, local agencies and environmental agencies. We successfully brought all these cooperators together with a common goal.”

But retirements and other staff turnover at member agencies have complicated the coalition’s task of funding its public relations campaign and its goal of reducing the risk of fire on the basin’s 51,000 privately owned lots and 183,500 acres of publicly owned land.

“We discovered last year that the work was going slower than we hoped it would, and the resources are limited,” Schafer said. “If we had double the money, we could double the number of people working.”

Last year, the coalition managed to raise nearly $20,000 from its members for a publicity campaign, while the Natural Resources Conservation District tapped another $19,000 from unspent funds to pay for a coordinator.

Now that the funds for a coordinator have dried up, the group is looking elsewhere for additional money, according to Linda Massey of the U.S. Forest Service’s Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit. Requests for funds have been submitted to the federal Department of Energy, and California’s Department of Resources and Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

“I believe we will have the necessary funding,” Massey said.

One plus, said Kirk Tabor, an aide to state Sen. Tim Leslie, is the approaching presidential summit at Lake Tahoe.

Essential to the success of the projects on public land is the participation of the California Conservation Corps and the federal Americorps, which provide forestry crews who work on parcels owned by the Forest Service and California Tahoe Conservancy.

During Tahoe ReGreen’s first year, the California Conservation Corps supplied 24,000 hours of labor to Tahoe ReGreen, treating a total of 40 acres and felling 3,500 trees, according to the Corps’ Bill Martinez. This year, the state-funded group is seeking funds for an additional crew.

Using Americorps and California Conservation Corps crews, the Conservancy completed forest-health projects on 150 of the parcels it owns in the basin.

“Tahoe ReGreen has focused a lot of attention on the fuels problem,” said Bruce Eisner of the Conservancy.

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