South Shore Fuels Reduction Project
The proposed South Shore Project at South Lake Tahoe was introduced by the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit in July 2007. The Forest Service proposes to treat 12,225 acres of forest for the purposes of fuels reduction. While fuel load problems in the Tahoe Basin are a cause for concern the South Shore Project overreaches in its attempt to effective and responsible reduce this fuels problem. The South Shore Project proposes logging of trees up to 30” diameter and reduction of canopy cover to 40 percent or below in the name of this fuels reduction even though the best available science indicates that such intensive logging is unnecessary to achieve legitimate fuels reduction goals and will adversely affect habitat for sensitive and imperiled species such as the California spotted owl and American marten.
The Forest Service failed to consider an alternative which would be consistent with the original 2001 Sierra Nevada Framework. Such an alternative could have assured fuels reduction actions that did not so egregiously threaten the ecologically sensitive habitats in the planning area. Such a plan would, unlike the proposed action, generally limit logging (outside the defense zone) to trees 20” diameter and smaller and maintain canopy cover at 50 percent. Adhere to these guidelines is particularly important in higher quality, ecologically important old forest habitat, including but not limited to owl nesting habitat, marten denning and resting habitat, owl home range core areas, and the forest carnivore network.
On the whole, the South Shore Project proposal is an ill-advised attempt to commercially log the largest, most fire-resilient trees in the name of landscape-based fuels reduction efforts. Effectively reducing the threat that exists from small fuels such as woody debris and brush can and should be done in and around communities in the defense zones. Giving up vibrant, healthy forest ecosystems and threatening water quality and clarity in the Tahoe Basin by going through with this proposed action is not scientifically defendable, or particularly effective at meeting the goals of the proposed action and reducing the real threat to the communities of the Tahoe Basin.