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Saturday, July 7, 2012

LTBMU: Fuels reduction project begins, may take 8 years

Huge South Shore fuels reduction project begins

South Shore Fuel Reduction and Healthy Forest Restoration Project Area Map
The U.S. Forest Service has begun work on the South Shore Fuel Reduction and Healthy Forest Restoration Project, according to a Thursday statement from the agency. The project includes thinning of trees and brush on more than 10,000 acres of federal land from Cascade Lake to the Nevada stateline.

Crews are working on Highway 89 near Camp Richardson and plan on moving to areas including Osgood Swamp near Nez Perce Drive and southeast of Sierra Tract near Barbara Avenue in August or September, according to the statement.

Work includes hand thinning and mechanical thinning. Overall thinning and follow-up fuels treatment, including prescribed fire, may take about eight years to complete, according to the statement.

People can expect to see extensive activity in areas selected for treatment, including heavy equipment operation, trucks hauling material, and slash pile creation.

“Forest Health will benefit from this type of large scale treatment and it will reduce the risk of large and severe wildfire in the coming years due to increased defensible space on National Forest System lands and reduced fuel loading” said Forest Supervisor Nancy Gibson in the statement. “Recent thinning and fuels treatment near the Roundhill Pines area provides a good example of what a healthy forest should look like.”

Temporary forest closures for public safety will be necessary during the project. Closures will be posted on the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit website.

For detailed information on the South Shore project information including a map of treatment areas:
Healthy Forest Restoration Act (HFRA) Process

The Healthy Forest Restoration Act of 2003 (HFRA) authorizes projects on federal lands to
reduce fuel loads and increase or maintain healthy forest conditions. It provides a foundation to
work collaboratively with at-risk communities to reduce wildfire hazards caused by fuel loads
within the wildland urban interface (WUI) that exceed desired conditions as defined by the
Forest Plan (HFRA Sec.102 (b)). 
 The Act requires federal agencies to consider recommendations made by at-risk communities that have developed community wildfire protection plans (HFRA Sec. 101 (3)). An updated list of urban wildland interface communities within the vicinity of federal lands that are at high risk from wildfire was published in the Federal Register on August 17, 2001. 
 The community of South Lake Tahoe is listed in the Federal Register as a community at-risk. The South Lake Tahoe Fire Department, Lake Valley Fire Protection District, Tahoe Douglas Fire Protection District, and Fallen Leaf Fire Department have developed community wildfire protection plans (CWPP).
Coordination with these agencies in the development and use of their CWPP is an important part
of the HFRA analysis for this project. The community fire safe council worked with corresponding fire departments and fire protection district personnel to design these CWPP for effective vegetation and fuels treatments and defensible space across all land ownerships, including National Forest System lands. The U.S. Forest Service, Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit (LTBMU) collaborated with the fire districts and fire safe council to design fuel reduction activities that are consistent with the CWPP and provide the defensible space identified in the CWPP where it occurs on National Forest System lands.
 Land ownership patterns in the Lake Tahoe Basin present a challenge to project implementation.
The CWPP identifies fuels treatment needs across multiple ownership jurisdictions (federal, state, local, and private). Approximately 65 percent of the CWPP treatments include National Forest System lands. A successful fuels reduction program requires effective coordination among land management and regulatory agencies.
One purpose of HFRA is to promote collaboration that resolves issues and reduces both time and
expense for preparation of environmental documentation in order to proceed with projects to
reduce hazardous fuels and restore forest health in a shorter timeframe and with lower costs to
the taxpayer (HFRA 2003). 
 Pursuant to HFRA, instead of an appeal period (36 Code of Federal
Regulations (CFR) 215), there was an “objection process” before this final decision and after the
environmental document was available (36 CFR 218). In order to be eligible to file an objection
to the preferred alternative, specific written comments related to the project must have been
submitted during scoping or other public involvement opportunities on the EIS (36 CFR 218.6).
 The Legal Notice of the objection period for the South Shore Project Environmental Impact
Statement (EIS) was published on September 28, 2011. There were two eligible objections filed
during the objection period and resolutions and response to those objections are summarized in
the public involvement section of this document.


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****REMINDER**** Every fire has the ability to be catastrophic. The wildland fire management environment has profoundly changed. Growing numbers of communities, across the nation, are experiencing longer fire seasons; more frequent, bigger, and more severe, fires are a real threat. Be careful with all campfires and equipment.
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