Tuesday, August 11, 2009

PR -- USFS prepares to restore Tahoe's aspen stands

Date: August 11, 2009

South Lake Tahoe, Calif.-- The Forest Supervisor for the U.S. Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit (LTBMU) has approved a project to restore aspen stands at moderate to highest risk of loss throughout many areas of the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit.

The Aspen Community Restoration Project will address approximately 2,391 acres of National Forest System Lands, and include both aspen stands and surrounding areas.

The project will proceed in phases as funding becomes available. Aspen stands are found throughout the Lake Tahoe Basin with the largest number of stands in the watersheds along the west shore. Other areas include the northeast slopes and several areas near the south and southeast shores.

Natural aspen stand regeneration has declined due to factors like historic grazing and most importantly, decades of fire suppression. Over time conifers encroached on aspen stands and came to dominate the canopy and severely suppress aspen regeneration.

Today, 65% (by area) of aspen stands on the LTBMU are at moderate to highest risk of loss.

The loss of aspen stands greatly diminishes plant and animal species dependent upon healthy regenerating aspen communities. In order to reverse the loss of aspen and promote regeneration, the project includes removal of encroaching conifers both mechanically and by hand crews. Treatment also includes some aspen removal and other methods to promote root stimulation and stand regeneration.

Prescribed fire will also be used for fuels reduction and restoration goals where appropriate. In some cases, treatments may extend beyond the perimeter of an aspen stand to prevent remaining, adjacent conifers from shading the aspen stand and suppressing aspen regeneration. The woody material from the treatments will be processed on-site (e.g., chipped, masticated, lop-and-scattered, or piled for burning) or removed from treatment areas.

No permanent roads will be constructed for this project, and all temporary roads will be restored after treatments are completed. Some areas may experience temporary closures for public safety. The overall project will be conducted over several years as conditions and funding allow. Implementation may begin as soon as conditions permit.

A full description of the project can be found in the decision memo posted on the LTBMU website: http://www.fs.fed.us/r5/ltbmu/projects/ under Aspen Community Restoration. The decision memo is also available for viewing at the Forest Supervisor's Office, 35 College Drive, South Lake Tahoe, Calif. The office hours are 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, and the phone number is (530) 543-2694.

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