Fall and spring are prescribed-burn seasons at Lake Tahoe. This year there are several burns taking place with occasional smoke drifting into more urban areas.
Though the smoke may be an annoyance, prescribed burns are vital to forest health.
Excessive groundfuel and the increase of the number of trees per acre means catastrophic wildfire is a realistic threat to our environment and communities. The California Department of Fire and Forestry, the U.S. Forest Service, California state parks and local fire districts are all working to restore the health of our forests. They do so by thinning trees, piling groundfuel and burning it, using prescribing burns and other treatments.
The prescribed burns, all calculated precisely for safety and effectiveness, are a way to reintroduce fire to the Lake Tahoe Basin. By treating the land in this way, the basin is more likely survive naturally occurring wildfires.
Living in a forested mountain region comes with its inherent risks. And in order to combat and reduce the threat of a devastating wildfire, prescribed burns, and the smoke that comes with them, are necessary.
At the Lake Tahoe Summit in August, U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and John Ensign (R-Nev.) said it would take $200 million to restore forest health in the basin. The money, which would be used only for forest management around Lake Tahoe and potentially garnered through President Bush's 2003 Healthy Forest Restoration Act, has yet to be seen.
Community wildfire plans were created by fire districts around the lake. They were instrumental in gaining $500,000 for the North Tahoe Fire Protection District, secured by U.S. Congressman John Doolittle (R-Roseville).
It is imperative Nevada's and California's elected officials continue to pressure the Bush administration to make good their commitment to improve forest health. Meanwhile, take the small amount of smoke of prescribed burning as a good sign - it is better than the whole basin going up in flames.
This editorial first appeared in the Tahoe World.