Local Bureaucracy Upset With Tahoe Airport Tree Cutting

Editor’s Note: Might this be a case of a local conservation bureaucracy which is out of control??

Sunday, June 11, 2006
Land regulators halt tree cutting at South Lake Tahoe airport
Tahoe Regional Planning Agency says the city has felled more and bigger trees than its permit allowed
The Associated Press

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE – Tahoe land regulators have ordered a stop to tree cutting at South Lake Tahoe airport, where officials said dozens of trees may have been illegally felled. The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency said the city received a permit from the California Department of Forestry to remove as many as 100 trees less than 10 inches in diameter near the runway. But inspectors said as many as 200 trees, many larger than allowed, have been cut down.

“We are investigating the city’s actions and are astounded at how they’ve handled the situation,” said John Singlaub, the bistate agency’s executive director.

City Attorney Kathy DeCamillo said she was just learning the facts of the situation Tuesday, but said the staff was following a directive from the California Department of Transportation and had the tree removal permit.

In an April 19 letter to airport manager Smokey Rickerd, the state transportation department’s aviation division said night operations at the airport would be suspended last Tuesday if certain safety conditions weren’t met. Those measures included clearing trees near approaches and around wind socks, the Tahoe Daily Tribune reported.

Many of the trees were felled during Memorial Day weekend. Crews continued to cut trees after the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency asked the city last Tuesday to stop, leading to the cease-and-desist order, agency officials said.

The controversy comes at a time the agency is focusing on increasing attention on illegal tree-cutting around the Tahoe Basin. In April, the agency fined a north Lake Tahoe man $50,000 for poisoning three trees to improve his view of the lake.

The situation at Lake Tahoe Airport is of concern because the trees were on a slope close to the Upper Truckee River, Lake Tahoe’s largest tributary and a primary contributor of sediment clouding Lake Tahoe’s famed waters.

“The city must be held to the same standards as any property owner in Lake Tahoe, and it’s unacceptable to clear-cut trees along the riverbed, particularly given the sensitivity of the watershed behind the airport,” Singlaub said.

“In the past, we’ve worked closely with the city and the FAA on tree removal permits and we’re unclear as to why they chose not to collaborate with us on this important issue.”

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