Man who poisoned trees at Tahoe to appear before TRPA board |

Man who poisoned trees at Tahoe to appear before TRPA board

Amanda Fehd
Nevada Appeal News Service

LAKE TAHOE – A man who admitted to poisoning three large Jeffrey pines to improve his view of Lake Tahoe has vowed to come before the governors of Lake Tahoe’s planning agency Wednesday.

But the board risks litigation if it approves a settlement proposal of $50,000 to fine John Fitzhenry, a vice president of human resources for a Bay area computer chip firm.

Fitzhenry wrote a letter of apology to each board member in March, saying his actions were “selfish, impulsive and completely without justification.”

But he is apparently not willing to pay more than $34,000 for the violation, according to communications from his attorney relayed in Tahoe Regional Planning Agency documents.

“If he doesn’t, we are liable to have to go to court,” said board member and former Nevada lawmaker Coe Swobe. “This violation was pretty egregious.”

Usually settlement proposals do not come before the board until both parties have indicated they are willing to accept it. This proposal was devised at a March workshop by the board’s legal committee.

Fitzhenry will attend the board meeting Wednesday at Stateline, according to his letter and TRPA documents.

The matter first came before the board in February, when members expressed disdain for a $17,000 fine, saying it was not a strong enough deterrent.

The Sierra Club and several board members noted some wealthy homeowners and developers include fines in the cost of doing business in Tahoe.

Fitzhenry purchased his home on Dollar Point for $2.4 million in 2004.

In his letter, Fitzhenry accepts responsibility for poisoning the trees.

“In the most humble way possible, I wish to sincerely apologize for the senseless poisoning of trees on my property,” he writes. “I wish there was a way to undo this inexcusable act on my part, and hope that my shame and embarrassment are very clear as you read this letter.

“… I have been visiting Lake Tahoe for 30 years and strongly believe in the environmental values that are worth protecting. The view I see now is not of Lake Tahoe, but of sick trees that may or may not survive due to my conduct.”

Fitzhenry drilled holes in the base of the trees and applied Roundup, an herbicide. The violation was discovered when he applied for a tree removal permit from the TRPA last June and staff discovered a spiral pattern of dead branches.

The trees are expected to die within five years. The settlement requires a restoration plan, which includes monitoring the health of the trees and planting new ones to take their place.

• Contact reporter Amanda Fehd at

If you go

WHAT: TRPA Governing Board meeting

WHEN: 9:30 a.m. Wednesday

WHERE: 128 Market St., in Stateline