unedited dec 08 tahoe mt. news story
By Kathryn Reed
People are clearly passionate about the forest they play in.
Balancing motorized and non-motorized recreation, dispersing users, enforcing rules, education, managing access points, parking, signage – these are the key issues according to the 75 people discussing what the Lake Tahoe Basin forest should like.
This was the third and final public meeting before the U.S. Forest Service begins writing the revised Forest Plan that will be the blueprint for the area for the next 20 years. Once that document is released in the spring, the public will have another opportunity to comment. The final plan is expected to be signed by this time next year.
Bob King, who is heading the Forest Plan revision team, gave an over Dec. 1 at Sierra Nevada College in Incline about what current uses look like. About 50 percent of the people playing in the local forest come from California, Nevada or Oregon.
“We are almost at capacity,” King said. “The concentration of use is the highest of any national forest because we are a destination.”
With that said, he expects the use to continue.
It was noted that the Forest Service has nothing to do with the Lake itself. It does own 17 miles of the 35 miles of public access to the water.
Environmental activist Laurel Ames wanted to know if there is actually room for more people and what is being done to protect the natural resources when they come.
Jennifer Quashnick of Sierra Forest Legacy wanted data on specific areas, not just generalities about how the forest is used in the basin.
Justin Broglio with Sierra Avalanche Center was perturbed with having to go through the same motions he went through two years ago during the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s place based meetings where he and others outlined what needed to change in the woods to make it better.
The attendees were divided into five groups. Each was full of lively discussion that centered on what is working, what isn’t and what can be done to fix the latter.
Some people mentioned how snowmobilers and cross country skiers access an area from the same point, which creates problems from the get-go. Having different starting points was mentioned repeatedly.
Buffer zones between conflicting recreational uses – whether motorized or mountain bikers v. hikers – was an idea.
Creating a route for dirt bikes and snowmobiles to get into the backcountry and away from non-motorized users faster so they aren’t co-mingled was an idea.
Lack of enforcement was a theme in each group. Forest Service personnel readily admit funding is the problem. Even though millions of dollars come to the local office through the Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act, it’s all for environmental projects. Not one dime of it goes for recreation.
One man suggested creating user groups so policing by peers would take hold. He mentioned how this works for 4-wheelers using the Rubicon Trail.
A woman suggested cutting off the number of people to an area like some ski resorts do. There was mention of charging a use fee.
Education about mixed use, connector trails and general forest information via brochures or signs and putting verbiage in Spanish were all mentioned.
The second meeting regarding the Forest Plan revision was Nov. 12 in South Lake. The focus of that meeting was to discuss balancing forest health with water, soil and air quality. Nearly 30 attended that meeting.
Lake clarity was the overriding theme of the night.
Concerns about climate change were expressed at all meetings.
For more information, go to http://www.fs.fed.us/r5/ltbmu/forest-plan/.