Welcome to our 2013 Forest Habitat Enhancement (FHE) Crew!
Significant human activity began impacting forest habitats in the Tahoe Basin in the mid-1800s. During the Comstock mining era, centered in Virginia City, much of the Basin’s forestland was clearcut to provide wood for settlements and mining operations. Among the trees cut were a majority of the old growth stands in the Basin, many as old as 300-400 years. The removal of so many trees in a short period of time resulted in the re-growth of forests into dense, even-aged stands. Subsequently, fire suppression, intended to protect development in the Basin and throughout the Sierra Nevada, further increased forest density and compromised natural forest processes. Today’s forests are less structurally-diverse, less resilient to stress, more prone to catastrophic fire, and support a more narrow range of plant and wildlife species than forests of the past.
The Forest Habitat Enhancement program directly relates to the Urban Land Management Program and is driven by the following guidelines, adopted by the Conservancy Board in November 1990:
1. Manage forest resources in a manner consistent with the need to enhance the health of forest resources, preserve water quality, enhance wildlife habitat, and provide for public safety and protection of property.
2. Implement forest resource enhancement activities in a timely and comprehensive manner through the use of both public and private resources.
3. Implement forest resource management activities in a cost-effective manner.
These objectives are met through a variety of management methods, including removal of dead and dying trees, thinning of overstocked forest stands, protection of tree species of limited local occurrence, re-introduction of fire into the ecosystem through prescribed burning, reforestation, site restoration, and enhancement of riparian habitats, including reversal of conifer encroachment into meadows and stands of quaking aspen.
Choice of treatment methods must balance efficiency and cost-effectiveness with minimizing environmental impacts. Methods are selected based upon several factors, including land capability rating, proximity to stream environment zones (SEZs) and wildlife habitat sites of special concern, estimated volume of tree removal, accessibility, resource and funding availability, and management objectives.
Work is completed by a combination of State resources, including in-house Conservancy and California Conservation Corps (CCC) crews and various private resources.
The scope and diversity of the Conservancy’s ownership necessitates the use of site-specific objectives. Within the urban interface, maintenance and improvement of public safety through the removal of hazardous trees and thinning of dense fuel loads is the main objective, followed by the creation of diverse forest habitats. As these undeveloped patches provide important maintenance and connectivity of habitat within developed areas, key elements of wildlife habitat such as snags and large logs are retained when not in conflict with public safety.
On land more removed from the urban interface, diversity is more heavily weighted, and management activities allow for a greater variety of forest habitats, including patches of dense forest and shrub-domination. Through cooperation with other public land owners, the Conservancy contributes to the restoration of diverse, resilient forest habitat across the Basin landscape.