18 Apr 2010, 8:54pm
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Tahoe fire restoration focuses on long term

By Jeff Delong, (Reno Gazette-Journal) The San Jose Mercury News, April 17, 2010 [here]

South Lake Tahoe, California - When the Cain family rebuilt their Tahoe Mountain home, leveled during the Angora Fire of June 2007, most windows were installed facing east. In that direction, many trees survived, their trunks scarred by fire, but with canopies now green with healthy needles.

To the west, looking toward Angora Ridge, the forest is dead. Bare tree trunks rise from the snow like huge, blackened toothpicks.

“Up there it’s terrible,” said Julie Cain, 42. “We only have one window looking out there.”

Nearly three years after the wind-whipped inferno charred nearly 5 square miles and destroyed 254 homes, signs of Lake Tahoe’s largest, most destructive wildfire are everywhere.

Much work has been accomplished on the fire-scarred landscape, but the federal government is embarking on a long-term effort to restore the forest.

The idea isn’t to return it to what it was before the blaze: an overgrown tinderbox, dominated by white fir and Jeffrey pine, that sprung up in the wake of Comstock-era clear-cutting, livestock grazing and other human-related changes dating back nearly 150 years.

Instead — in a process that will take years and cost up to $15 million — the U.S. Forest Service wants to bring back a healthier forest with a mix of Jeffrey and Sugar pine, incense cedar and red fir. It would be a forest more resistant to drought and insect attack and less susceptible to fire.

Portions of Angora Creek — where the fire raced through thick vegetation to rocket into neighborhoods — will be reconstructed.

And Seneca Pond — the site of a 1960s hippie commune and where a carelessly abandoned campfire started the disastrous blaze — will be altered from a swimming hole to a natural wetlands area that will help filter out sediment now flowing into Lake Tahoe, providing important habitat for wildlife at the same time.

“Our strategy is looking at the ecosystem as a whole,” said Duncan Leao, a forester and planner for the Forest Service’s Tahoe unit. “We’re looking at the future sustainability of the forest. Overall, the project will have a long-term benefit.” … [more]

Thanks for the news tip to Julie Kay Smithson of Property Rights Research [here, here]

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