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3/21/08

AP Headline Covers for Tahoe Environmentalists

AP should be praised for their fight to make public documents that reveal who is responsible for those recent fires near Lake Tahoe, which destroyed hundreds of homes. But AP says "bickering" among "agencies" is responsible, even though hindrance by environmentalist groups are clearly to blame. Not once does AP admit that overzealous environmentalists are to blame.

Tahoe fire prevention hurt by infighting

(AP)- "Steps to prevent catastrophic wildfires in the Lake Tahoe basin, one of the country's most treasured natural wonders, have been hampered for years by bureaucratic infighting among agencies that often work at cross-purposes... blame has fallen on the overlapping agencies that have environmental and regulatory oversight of the Tahoe basin. A commission established after the fire was scheduled to vote Friday on a report recommending ways to heal the rifts.

From RGJ.com:

(RGJ)- "Conservationists worry a sensitive environment could be put at risk in a rush to respond to issues associated with last summer's blaze... At the urging of Tahoe's fire districts, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency last November altered regulations to increase the size of trees that can be cut... One key proposal would require that pine needles -- useful on the ground to control erosion -- be cleared from a ring of 5 to 30 feet around homes each spring to reduce fire danger during the summer. That plan represents a compromise in sometimes competing goals to prevent wildfire and protect Lake Tahoe from sediment pollution...

"One of the real difficulties will be funding," said John Singlaub, TRPA executive director... Significant thinning activity within stream areas should be considered most carefully, said Michael Donahoe of the Tahoe chapter of the Sierra Club. Donahoe and other environmentalists are concerned the political climate in the wake of the Angora Fire could result in hurried changes that could put Tahoe's environment at risk. "There could be a significant danger," Donahoe said. "This is Tahoe, and we've invested over a billion dollars in saving this lake. Let's not jeopardize this investment by making it an either-or."

Every recommendation in this commission is a competition between efforts to prevent fires and environmentalist efforts to reduce human intervention in the forest. The commission cites funding as a major reason for the Angora fire, yet environmentalists say they've "invested over a billion dollars" in their environmentalist efforts, efforts like preventing thinning the forest.

(AP)..."Efforts to clear trees and brush were delayed — often for years — as agencies bickered over methods and jurisdictional disputes. The documents also show that while the wildfire heightened the urgency to thin the forest, years of delay have left the basin ripe for a repeat calamity. In a June letter, homeowners in the basin's Glenbrook neighborhood pleaded to a regional planning agency for a fire road to be cut near their homes, saying: "a catastrophic fire (is) waiting to happen. ... Time is absolutely of the essence." Tahoe-area agencies finally granted approval to build the four-mile road, a project that had been delayed for six years because of disagreements over whether it was necessary.

AP doesn't say it was environmentalist efforts, but "bicking over methods" that prevented thinning and fire roads. Well lets see what environmentalists still say regarding these fire roads that never were built:

(RGJ)..."Donahoe of the Tahoe chapter of the Sierra Club... said he's concerned the fire commission is placing too great an emphasis on thinning remote areas of the forest -- activity that could require construction of damaging roads on steep terrain... "I don't think we need to sacrifice the environment to keep us safe," Donahoe said. But Sig Rogich, the Las Vegas businessman and GOP power broker tapped by Gibbons as the co-chair of the fire commission, said it's time for a common-sense approach to protecting Tahoe as well as its residents."

Environmentalists prevented efforts that save lives, and AP imputes blame on "infighting." More evidence of this comes from AP's report itself.

(AP)..."In an e-mail exchange from October 2004, Christy Daugherty, who coordinated fire prevention projects with the California Tahoe Conservancy, lamented that the conservancy was being criticized for not thinning trees after years of being blamed for allowing too much logging. She said the U.S. Forest Service had proposed logging in a particular area "but were held back by the League to Save Lake Tahoe, Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board and others. "My guess is, if they had tried to treat heavy enough in the beginning, they would have got slammed by the public and agency people that don't understand forestry... As much as it has frustrated me to feel like my advice has been ignored, I understand the need for the (conservancy) to be politically and socially acceptable," Daugherty wrote."

Pang replied: "I understand the need to avoid social pressures from stopping the projects. ... Yes, we've all got to be `PC.'" Pang went on to say that fire consultants felt they were being stonewalled by agencies such as the conservancy and the water board, which often did not favor cutting trees.... In 2004, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, which issues the umbrella regulations, changed its rules to allow more tree thinning along streams. That tactic had been banned to prevent runoff from fouling the lake. Soon after, the Forest Service submitted a plan to experiment with a six-wheeled logging machine designed to selectively cut trees while limiting damage to the environment. The Forest Service's plan was met with immediate resistance from the regional planning agency and the Lahontan water board. They urged the Forest Service to try alternatives such as thinning by hand crews, which is more expensive, labor-intensive and time-consuming... The agency was concerned the machine was too heavy and would compact the soil... The fire chiefs said water quality officials were "inserting themselves into an area they do not belong," according to minutes of their meeting. "The demonstration project has been tied up for two years."

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