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08/30/2012

Thousands Want Strong Lake Tahoe Basin Protections

Emerald-bay-lake-tahoeConservation, scientific, recreation and business organizations delivered more than 12,000 public comments, letters and petitions to the U.S. Forest Service in support of strong protections for the forests and watersheds of the Lake Tahoe Basin. The comments come as the Forest Service finishes a public comment period for a new plan to manage the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, over 78% of the land around the lake. 

"The forests, mountains, meadows, lakes and rivers in the Tahoe area are some of the most beautiful and spectacular places in the world. The Lake Tahoe basin forest plan is one of the best opportunities to protect some of the last wilderness and ancient forests in the Tahoe area, and indeed the whole Sierra Nevada," said Lauren Thorpe with the Sierra Club.

"These comments show that people throughout the country care about Tahoe's forests, wilderness and wild and scenic rivers and want to see them permanently protected."

About 5 million people visit Lake Tahoe every year, bringing in more than $1 billion to the local economy. The natural beauty of the landscape -- including forests, rivers, and extensive trail systems -- is a key economic driver for this recreation-based tourism destination.

"As a company with over 200 employees living in northern Nevada and California, we have a vested interest in making sure that our public lands in the Lake Tahoe basin get the protection they deserve. Our employees enjoy many different outdoor pursuits and forms of recreation in the Lake Tahoe area and understand the importance of sound management decisions," said Ron Hunter with Patagonia.

In addition to the numerous public comments from concerned citizens, the groups delivered extensive in-depth science based policy comments by a diverse coalition of organizations that represents over five million members in the U.S.

Conservationists, scientists, recreationalists and businesses are calling on the Forest Service to have stronger protections for forests, wilderness, wild rivers and wildlife corridors. The forest plan will cover most of the Lake's watershed, and thus Forest Service decisions could help or hurt the effort to keep Tahoe blue. Approximately 95 percent of Tahoe’s ancient forests have been lost, making it important to protect the remaining areas.

"Millions of people come to Lake Tahoe to experience the crystal blue lakes, rich wildflower displays, ancient forests, abundant wildlife, and wilderness getaways," said Emily Brown, Research and Policy Analyst with Earthjustice. "In addition, these forest lands contain the watershed of Lake Tahoe and the Truckee River, which provides drinking water for thousands of people in California and Nevada. We urge the Forest Service to protect and restore the forests of the Lake Tahoe Basin for clean air and water, healthy recreation and a more sustainable community and economy."

The Lake Tahoe plan will be the first forest plan revised in the Sierra Nevada and the first to seriously consider the impacts of climate change on the forest. The agency is accepting public comments on the draft Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit forest plan until August 30. For more information about the plan, visit http://www.fs.usda.gov/goto/ltbmu/ForestPlanRevision

-- Image courtesy parks.ca.gov

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