TRPA loosens up tree-cutting rules

The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency voted Wednesday to loosen the rules allowing property owners to cut trees without a permit.

The long-standing rule required permits for any tree larger than 6 inches in diameter. But fire officials and homeowners called for changes in the wake of the Angora fire, which destroyed more than 200 homes in South Lake Tahoe. Area residents have complained for years about the bureaucratic red tape that makes it almost impossible to even rake up tinder dry pine needles around their homes.

Fire officials and the TRPA's Advisory Planning Commission recommended allowing property owners to remove trees up to 14 inches in diameter without a permit to create defensible space around their homes. Wednesday's vote was 13-1 in favor of the change. The new rule will take effect in 60 days.

However, lakefront properties must still get a permit to cut anything larger than 6 inches.

Mike Volmer of TRPA said tree removal is just one part of the proposed changes the governing board will consider in the coming months. Staff and Tahoe Basin fire chiefs in September developed a list of nine areas where they see rule changes necessary to help prevent catastrophic fires in the basin.

"The Angora fire demonstrated that more-basic practices such as brush removal, proper wood pile storage and clearance around and under decking play a more-critical role in protecting homes," he said.

Other issues involve access for emergency vehicles, maintenance of 5-foot noncombustible "moats" around structures and up to 300 feet of defensible space on slopes to slow the spread of any fire.

Negotiations are continuing on other issues including removal of pine needles around homes.

• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at or 687-8750.


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