Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Aspens in Tahoe

For Immediate Release: April 1, 2009 Contact: Cheva Heck (530) 543-2608 or Rex Norman (530) 543-2627 South Lake Tahoe, Calif. -- The U.S. Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit (LTBMU) is seeking comment on a proposed decision to restore aspen stands in the Lake Tahoe Basin. The Forest Service initially accepted public comment on the proposal in fall 2008 and made some changes based on this input and internal review. Aspen stands provide important habitat for many plant and animal species, yet they make up only two percent of the landscape on the LTBMU. Conifer encroachment due to the absence of wildfire threatens aspen stands. Conifer encroachment can suppress the water table locally, leading to further invasion by conifers, which prefer drier conditions than aspen. Once treated, aspen stands often act as natural firebreaks. Treatments under this proposal would focus on creating stands in which the upper canopy is dominated by aspen, with less than 25 percent of the canopy compromised of conifers. Treated stands are expected to experience vigorous aspen regeneration. Restoration treatments would include mechanical or hand thinning of conifers that are encroaching on aspen stands, removal of aspen trees to promote root stimulation and stand regeneration, aspen root separation and prescribed fire. The project would target aspen stands that are at moderate or higher risk of loss and are not included in another project or wilderness area. Changes from the proposal released in September include an expansion of the treatment area from 1,115 acres to 2,391 acres, based on new mapping and inclusion of areas near aspen stands that will undergo work to facilitate the aspen treatments. Other changes clarify design features for removal of larger, older trees, conditions for the use of mechanical treatments, and delineation of, and operation in, stream environment zones. Another change adds pile burning as an option for removing debris from treatments where other removal methods are not feasible. The LTBMU is working with Humboldt State University and others to develop a program to monitor the effects of different pile-burning prescriptions – for example, burning two-foot versus three-foot piles. The results would be used as part of an adaptive management strategy, in which the LTBMU might change pile burning prescriptions or stop pile burning in aspen stands, depending on the monitoring results. The Forest Service also plans to work with the University of Nevada at Reno to assess changes to bird communities in response to the restoration work. The complete pre-decisional memo is available on-line at Comments will be accepted through May 2, 2009. For more information on this project, contact Victor Lyon, Project Leader at (503) 543-2749 on

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