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TRPA summit to grapple with basin fire hazard

Rick Adair, Appeal News Service

INCLINE VILLAGE — Mindful that a major fire in the Tahoe Basin is a question of “when,” and not “if,” the Governing Board of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency will address ways to reduce the fire hazard when it meets today.

Also attending will be several fire chiefs and more than 15 federal and state agency representatives.

The workshop is the result of lobbying by Coe Swobe, the board’s at-large Nevada member, whose resolution last year urged action, but had no effect until he reintroduced it in July.

During the intervening year, Tahoe suffered two moderate wildfires. The board makeup changed to include former Tahoe-Douglas Fire Protection District Chief Tim Smith and the California Assembly speaker’s appointee Reed Holderman, who has an extensive background in protecting the state’s public lands.

The “how” of reducing the hazard — the funding and political aspects — will be addressed by Lisa Moore, legislative director and general counsel for Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., also invited by DeLanoy.

Moore said the budget process causes problems that can best be addressed by keeping hazard reduction a high priority.

Other barriers include a burdensome environmental study process and associated litigation, which Moore said may be addressed in some cases with waivers, as provided for in recently introduced legislation.

“We want to see if there’s any way we can help these efforts hit the ground faster,” she said.

Just as important as agency and federal assistance, Osterling said, is individual responsibility in helping correct poor forest health, the result of an unnatural mix of plants due to over-harvesting and hundred years of fire suppression.

“We need people to not be naysayers when fuel-reduction work is needed on public lands,” he said. “Some say, ‘Let nature take its course,’ but what we have here is not a natural situation. If we let nature take its course, we will be accelerating the ‘when’ of the major fire.”

The workshop is scheduled to start around 10 a.m. at TRPA’s offices, 128 Market St., Stateline. For more information, call (775) 588-4547 or go to http://www.trpa.org.