Massive cleanup of dead wood in Tahoe Basin completed | NevadaAppeal.com
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Massive cleanup of dead wood in Tahoe Basin completed

Gregory Crofton, Appeal News Service

The U.S. Forest Service last year removed dead wood and thinned trees on more than 1,100 acres at the Lake Tahoe Basin, an area equivalent of the Stateline casino corridor and Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course combined.

This year, the agency has completed thinning and fuel reduction on 2,200 acres, exceeding its goal, officials said Monday after the Lake Tahoe summit at Sand Harbor.

The news followed the announcement of a bill introduced by Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., to make good on the federal government’s promise to provide $30 million a year for restoration at the basin. The bill would funnel $30 million in Southern Nevada Lands Act money, collected by the sale of public lands near Las Vegas to Lake Tahoe.

The plan will benefit fuels management, which is tied closely to the restoration of the lake and protection of its clarity, Forest Service officials said.

A wildfire typically wipes out vegetation that helps the land absorb rain or snow and prevent erosion. The 150,000-acre McNally fire that burned part of the Sequoia National Forest last summer caused erosion problems last winter.

“Winter storms caused sediment that blew down ravines and took out culverts and bridges,” said Jack Blackwell, regional forester for the USFS Pacific Southwest Region.

Catastrophic forest fires such as the McNally also create millions of dollars in water treatment bills for taxpayers, said Sally Collins, associate chief at the U.S. Forest Service.

Though the details are unclear of how the federal funds will be distributed, revenue from the land sales will likely will be funneled from the Department of the Interior to the Department of Agriculture and onto federal agencies such as the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, Collins said.

Some of the federal money could fund fuels treatment work on the 3,500 USFS lots throughout communities in the basin. The budget for management of such lots intermixed in urban settings is about half what it needs to be, said Dave Marlow, fuel-and-vegetation management officer for the basin.