STATELINE — Last summer during the Caldor Fire people in the Lake Tahoe basin saw just how severe fire can be on the steep slopes that ring the lake. In response to the effects of that fire, along with the results of new research on forest management, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s (TRPA) Governing Board this week approved policy changes to increase forestry work to reduce the risk for catastrophic fire.
TRPA has expanded the areas where ground-based mechanical equipment can be used on steep slopes within the Tahoe basin, adding in slopes of up to 50%. The previous policy limited mechanical equipment to slopes of 30% or less.
The updated policy adds about 61,000 acres of land, with slopes between 30-50%, that can be managed with mechanical equipment. Prior to the change, slopes greater than 30% were managed with hand crews, pile burning and aerial logging to prevent erosion damage.
“This is a game changer for fuels reduction in the basin,” Chief Scott Lindgren of Tahoe Douglas Fire Protection District said. “Hilly terrain is a significant portion of the Tahoe Basin and with the right kind of equipment, we can do quality fuel reduction work and protect the environment at the same time.”
The new research TRPA officials relied on found that newer mechanical equipment used in combination with hand crews on slopes of 30-50% would not cause significant impacts to the watershed.
“The research also showed the new policy would increase forest and ecosystem resilience to disturbances such as fire, insects and disease, and climate change,” officials said.
“The Caldor Fire and the surge of megafires in the region are clear directives for us to improve our forest health policies to better protect communities and environment from wildfire,” TRPA Executive Director Joanne S. Marchetta said.
“TRPA is committed to advancing science-based practices that protect the lake and bolster our resilience to ever-growing wildfire threats, especially given the need for fuels reduction work in untreated areas narrowly missed by the Caldor Fire.”