Wildlife advocates upset about planned burn | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Wildlife advocates upset about planned burn

Gregory Crofton
Jim Grant/Tahoe Daily Tribune Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care officials fear a planned prescribed fire on Lake Tahoe's West Shore would kill baby rodents like this 2-week-old chipmunk brought to the center after its mother was killed by a dog.

A California State Parks plan to conduct a prescribed burn on the West Shore of Lake Tahoe this week or next has infuriated wildlife advocates.

State Parks said the burn, scheduled to take place on 10 acres in D.L. Bliss State Park, is part of an effort to reduce wildfire danger in an area adjacent to a campground and several houses.

Cheryl Millham of Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care said that springtime – when birds and other animal are nesting – is not the time to put fire in the forest.

“It’s baby season,” said Millham, executive director of the South Shore center. “They can’t run or fly and get away. Hundreds of animals will die. It’s OK to put in defensive fuel breaks, but don’t do it when there are babies.”

Ken Anderson, senior ecologist for California State Parks, said burn projects have to be done whenever possible and that the recent snowstorms opened a window of opportunity to get some work done.

“We used to broadcast burn 200 to 400 acres a year in the basin, now we burn 10 to 20 if we are lucky,” Anderson said. “It’s very important that we treat this area as soon as we can. Things are very moist right now.”

Anderson said he has received calls from about five people this week who are concerned about the prescribed burn killing things like baby chipmunks, porcupines and birds. He told them wildlife surveys of the area were done as recently as last week and that the area is not prime wildlife habitat because thinning and pile burning was done in the area last year.

Millham said that many of the nests that would be burned are underground or in trees and nearly impossible to spot.

“This is a state park. It’s not right to go and trade off a life of an animal if you can do the burn at another time,” Millham said. “These guys can’t fend for themselves. They can’t call state parks and say, ‘Don’t burn down my home.’ They have no voice except me.”

Anderson said state parks plans to proceed with the burn once it gets engines and firefighters lined up to do the job. But he said he is willing to walk the land after the burn with anyone to look for dead animals.

“We don’t want to kill wildlife,” Anderson said. “We have a mandate to protect it. But our other mandate is reduce fire danger in the basin and restore fire in the ecosystem. It’s hard to do everything.”

– Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or by e-mail at gcrofton@tahoedailytribune.com

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