Wildlife center to spread its wings | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Wildlife center to spread its wings

Jack Barnwell
An artist's rendering of the planned bear house for Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care's new center at the corner of Al Tahoe Boulevard and Pioneer Trail. Tahoe Regional Planning Agency gave the final green light to build on the new 26.99 acre lot on Thursday.
Image courtesy of Tom Millham |

Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care, Inc. received final blessings for a center rehabilitation center on Thursday, allowing the organization to spread its wings.

Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s (TRPA) governing board unanimously approved the new rehab center, which will be located at the corner of Al Tahoe Boulevard and Pioneer Trail.

Tom Millham, the secretary/treasurer for Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care, said the TRPA approval allows the organization to secure building permits from the city of South Lake Tahoe.

Millham and his wife Cheryl have operated the nonprofit for 37 years.

The city planning commission approved the rehab center in March, a prerequisite to TPRA board approval.

“The TRPA approval was the last major hurdle,” Millham said Friday.

Tom Lotshaw, TRPA’s public information officer, said the item passed on the board’s consent agenda. Additionally, two alternates voted in place of TRPA board members Hal Cole, South Lake Tahoe’s Mayor, and El Dorado County Supervisor Sue Novasel.

Novasel serves on Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care’s board of directors, and Lotshaw said Cole has worked on the project.

Councilman Austin Sass voted in Cole’s place, while Third District Supervisor Brian Veerkamp replaced Novasel.

The new rehab facility will be located on a 26.99 acre site, much larger than the current three-quarter acre site it occupies on Cherry Hills Circle.

Millham said only 20 percent of it will be utilized, more than enough to expand.

“This means we will be able to have more rooms for cages and take care of more animals,” Millham said. “We’ll be able to take in anything the public brings us.”

The new site will have 12 bird and animal rehab cages, which replace the seven the center currently uses.

Millham said the new ones will have more holding areas, tripling the animals and wild birds it can house at a given time.

“We’re the only ones in Northern California licensed to raise bear cubs,” Millham said.

Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care takes care of orphaned and injured animals and birds and rehabilitates them until they can be released.

It’s grown from a fledgeling operation in 1978 to successful regional nonprofit covering nine counties in California and Nevada.

The only animals it isn’t licensed to care for are mountain lions, adult bears or elk. However, the center provides advice.

TRPA gave permission to fell some trees, though pains have been taken to keep the larger ones intact.

Millham said Wildlife Care has approximately half the funds it needs, or $3.5 million, to begin the project, including clearing out some trees, grading and infrastructure.

“We have very high confidence that we will have the rest by the end of the year,” Millham said.

While Wildlife Care will only use a portion of the 27 acres, Millham said the extra space allows some options.

“It does give us that ability to expand in the future if we need to,” Millham said.

Lotshaw said the governing board’s decision will benefit the area and the wildlife organization.

“Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care is wildly successful wildlife rehab center,” Lotshaw said. “Its work and stories about their work with animals have touched a lot of people across the country. This is going to see them go on to the next stage.”

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