Foresters lobby TRPA to log areas, reduce fire danger

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE -- The Lake Tahoe basin is a wildfire time bomb waiting to go off, but coordinated forest management efforts may help defuse the danger

"What we need is a conservation approach, which is dynamic management," said Ralph Osterling, forest consultant from San Mateo, Calif., speaking Wednesday at the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.

"Active management is based on science, based on hard work and of course it takes good, old money," Osterling said. "As a professional forester, I see a time bomb out here ticking."

Osterling was the first in a string of forest professionals who spoke to the Agency's governing board about reducing the amount of fuel in the basin, what work they've accomplished so far and obstacles that have prevented them from making the basin fire-safe.

Not only do foresters say they need money to do the work, they also need to make thinning attractive to contractors because basin regulations and limited work areas make profit margins low.

In addition, they asked for permission to cut down a large tree if it needs to come out and they need permission to thin fuels around streams and steep slopes, which get the highest amount of protection because they have the greatest effect on Tahoe.

Governing board members listened to the foresters and promised to help coordinate funds and energy and come up with some solutions before the fire season of 2004 hits.

"I feel like all the pieces are out there," said Mike Vollmer, agency vegetations program manager. "We just need interagency coordination and synergy, which could happen with a leadership role and I think the TRPA could provide that."

Jerry Wells, agency acting director, pointed out that many forest fuel reduction projects are already top priorities for the agency as part of its Environmental Improvement Program.

"We just have to take them on a case-by-case basis," Wells said. "We need to be a coordinator/leader. Not a controlling role. Out of the entire group, we're the only ones with authority over the entire region in making the region more fire-safe."


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