On Tuesday June 12th, members of the Lake Tahoe West Restoration Partnership ventured into the field together to learn about potential techniques for restoring forests and watersheds in the Lake Tahoe basin. Iconic and renowned for its scenic beauty, the Lake Tahoe region represents a unique opportunity for landscape-scale restoration.
The basin’s forests were largely clear-cut in the late 1800s. The dense forests that grew back in the absence of fire are vulnerable to impacts from catastrophic wildfire, drought, and bark beetles.
During the visit, forest managers demonstrated innovative cable-yarding and cut-to-length forestry treatments well-suited to treat areas with steep terrain and sensitive resources. Such techniques are promising for the Tahoe basin, where projects must meet stringent environmental standards to protect the lake’s famed clarity.
Forest Service managers described a meadow restoration project that will use thinning and prescribed fire to reduce encroachment by Lodgepole pine, a major driver of meadow loss. The Sierra Nevada evolved with fire, and today prescribed fire is an important management tool. But its use in Tahoe is limited by smoke impacts and human presence.
Finally, members viewed a reach of the Upper Truckee River newly restored through a partnership between the Forest Service and the California Tahoe Conservancy. Road building, channelization, historic grazing and gravel mining, and non-native species have degraded streams and meadows throughout the basin.
The Lake Tahoe West Partnership is currently developing a Landscape Restoration Strategy to guide restoration activities on 60,000 acres of the west shore. The goal is to increase the resilience of this landscape and to protect against prolonged drought, climate change, and extreme fire.
The Partnership includes scientists, land managers, multiple federal and state agencies, and organizations representing business, recreation, and conservation. Together, the Tahoe community is coming together to protect this unique landscape for generations to come.