TRPA: Forest Service can manage fuels on Tahoe public lands
Nevada Appeal News Service
The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency Governing Board authorized its staff Wednesday to take actions necessary to remove any perceptions of the agency interfering with U.S. Forest Service fuel management on public lands in the Tahoe Basin.
“We want to make sure the Forest Service and TRPA are on the same page,” TRPA Executive Director John Singlaub said.
The TRPA and the USFS work under an 18-year-old memorandum of understanding that gives the TRPA’s authority to agencies like the Forest Service for activities like fuel reduction that would usually require a permit.
Under the agreement, the Forest Service can remove areas of trees up to 100 acres, reforest land, protect, maintain, or reestablish sensitive plants and create, maintain or replace landscaping without a TRPA permit.
While the entire document needs to be reviewed, according to TRPA and USFS officials, the board voted Wednesday to break out specific items of the 1989 agreement that pertained to fuel management into a new document.
The entire 1989 document between TRPA and the USFS will be reviewed at a later date and updated for developments in forest management, Singlaub said.
But because the USFS has expressed concern that the permitting process has slowed down fuel reduction management, Singlaub said that a proactive course of action would be to clarify the TRPA’s position.
“I think we have projects that have been delayed with the permitting process,” said Terri Marceron, Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit Forest Supervisor.
Marceron and other audience and board members referenced the clearing of Slaughterhouse Canyon as a project that was delayed by TRPA policies.
Earlier this summer the TRPA made an emergency declaration to allow for the clearing of the notoriously fuel-rich canyon near Glenbrook.
Some members of the environmental community were concerned because they said the language of the new document should be presented to the board before the board voted.
“It sounds like you’re going to make a decision about this new arrangement but the language is not present,” said Tahoe Area Sierra Club Conservation Co-Chair Michael Donahoe.
However, several board members and Singlaub disagreed, and said that the new document would only solidify TRPA’s position of allowing the Forest Service to bypass the permitting process for forest fuels management on public land.
“There seems to be concern that we are going in and creating a memorandum of understanding with the Forest Service that is going to give them carte blanche,” said Norma Santiago. “We are formalizing an existing policy.”
The board unanimously approved the motion.
“I think it sends a strong message so that people recognize that we and the forest service are doing our best to move forward under the current rules,” Singlaub said.