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Forest Service Marks Trees at Upper Echo Lake

This past week the U.S. Forest Service marked dozens of trees at Upper Echo Lake. The agency explained that some permit holders requested that trees be marked for removal and agency personnel also marked other trees that pose hazards to the public. The agency has indicated it will not be removing the trees but permit holders should do so.

Upper Echo Lake Playing Key Role in Conservation of Yellow Legged Frog

Claire Cudahy of the Tahoe Daily Tribune reported that trout introductions played a key role in the decline of the Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog. Recently progress has been made toward conservation of the species.

"From 2013-2015 Knapp and his team conducted a series of translocations and frog reintroductions in the areas around the Upper and Lower Echo lakes; they recently received another three-year grant to continue the work this summer."
Rather than deny the importance of the area to this endangered frog, the Forest Service should embrace it.

Context for Forest Service Action

Image
This image provides wonderful context to assess the Forest Service's ill-conceived Upper Echo Lake Hazardous Fuels Reduction Project.

Notice how sparse the vegetation is at this elevation.  Certainly when one thinks about wildfire risk, this is not the image the mind conjures.

Relief at Upper Echo Lake Overshadowed by Prescribed Burns Elsewhere in the Region

On the heels of a settlement agreement that signals the end of the Forest Service's plans to cut, pile, and burn vegetation around Upper Echo Lake south of Lake Tahoe, there are grim reminders of continuing agency mismanagement of forestry resources in the vicinity.

First, prescribed burns in the El Dorado and Lake Tahoe National Forests contributed to poor air quality in the region, as reported here.  This led regulators to encourage Washoe County residents to stay indoors.

Second, according to reporter Jason Hidalgo, the Little Valley Fire, which has destroyed dozens of homes and other buildings in Washoe Valley, may have been caused by prescribed burns in the area.

Federal and state forestry agencies are staunch advocates for prescribed burns.  We wonder if there is empirical research to support their position.  At least one expert thinks otherwise as reported some time ago on the NEPA Lab blog.  Robert E. Keane in his book Wildland Fuel Fundamentals and Application (Springer 2…

Final Settlement Agreement Executed in Challenge to Upper Echo Lake Hazardous Fuels Reduction Project

The United States District Court for the Eastern District of California issued a stipulated order after the Forest Service and Dr. Dennis Murphy filed a settlement agreement with the Court.  This marks the culmination of a number of years of effort to halt a misguided project.  We are indebted to those who supported the effort to protect the Echo Lakes.

FOIA Reform: Will It Improve Agency Transparency and Responsiveness

This summer, Congress and the President enacted the FOIA Improvement Act.  The language of the Act is available here.  One article describing the Act by Josh Gerstein of Politico is here.  The Act includes a provision to amend the existing law creating a presumption of disclosure.

While the Act has symbolic value, the federal agencies so routinely violated FOIA prior to passage of the FOIA Improvement Act that it remains to be seen whether transparency and responsiveness will improve.

Murphy and Forest Service Settle FOIA Lawsuit

Dennis Murphy and the United States Forest Service settled (pdf) their outstanding FOIA lawsuit with the agency agreeing to provide a response to Murphy's FOIA appeal and to pay Murphy $4500 in costs and fees.  The Forest Service since responded to the FOIA appeal releasing over 75 pages of records in their entirety that were previously redacted in whole or in part by the agency.  At the same time, the agency has redacted 261 pages in whole or in part, continuing to withhold information that could be released on guidelines set out by President Obama and Attorney General Holder.  The full FOIA response is here (pdf).