Father battles to end prescribed burning

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A Glenbrook resident leading a campaign to get the U.S. Forest Service to stop doing prescribed burns at Lake Tahoe.

Jack Harrington says the smoke in the air from the burns affects the breathing of two of his three children. He has been pushing the Forest Service to stop its prescribed-burning practices in the basin and has spoken with officials from the federal agency and says his next course of action may be a lawsuit. He's been contacted by others who would support him in a class action.

Prescribed burning - whether burning piles of slash or administering a slow-moving under-story burn in open forest - is a means for the Forest Service to thin overly dense tree stands and remove dead fuels from the forest floor. The Forest Service, which manages nearly 80 percent of Tahoe's land, does most of the burns.

Harrington said that other alternatives - cutting down the trees by hand or with machines and recycling slash piles instead of burning them - should be used. He believes the Forest Service burns because it is less expensive.

"My intention is to get them to stop doing the burns," he said. "There are other ways to handle these problems, and they burn simply out of economics.

Mark Johnson, fire management officer for the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, says the prescribed burning isn't done only for economics. There are benefits that come with it other treatments wouldn't provide.

"There is no alternative to reintroducing fire into a fire-dependent ecosystem. That's the concept some opponents of prescribed burning are unwilling to accept," Johnson said. "The good science is telling us fire was a frequent visitor to this ecosystem. On a very limited scale, we're trying to do that."


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