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Wildfires Ravaging Lake Tahoe, Logging May be the Answer

Aug 20, 2014 12:19 PM EDT

Lake Tahoe is currently being ravaged by drought, invasive species, the threat of catastrophic wildfire and climate change, officials announced at an annual summit meeting Tuesday.

Federal lawmakers agreed that this iconic lake, which straddles the California-Nevada border, should undergo more logging to protect it from further wildfire damage.

Decades of suppressing wildfires to protect homes has left many forests too thick with trees, which in fact exacerbates wildfires and causes disease.

"The policy of the last 30 years has failed and failed miserably," said Republican Rep. Tom McClintock of California told The Associated Press (AP).

He also added that money from logging could help pay for forest improvements.

US Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein agreed. They both joined federal and state officials in signing a proclamation supporting fuel-reduction efforts near the lake. The extra $415 million would help to fight invasive species, wildfires and reduce erosion that clouds the lake.

All summit participants concurred that it is time to back wildfire prevention efforts and quell current regulations that prevent the removal of dead, dying and overcrowded trees before and after wildfires strike.

The Lake Tahoe area was especially devastated by a wind-driven wildfire five years ago that destroyed more than 250 homes on its south shore.

Not to mention, the AP reports, that the West is also in the middle of a three-year-long drought. Drought puts stress on healthy trees, making them more susceptible to insects, disease and fires, according to Governor Brian Sandoval of Nevada.

Additionally, the lake is challenged by climate change and the introduction of invasive species like quagga mussels and Asian clams. Quaggas, according to the US Geological Survey, are water-filterers and remove substantial amounts of phytoplankton and suspended particulate from the water. While this may sound like a good thing, it actually decreases the food source for zooplankton, therefore altering the lake's food web. Also they, like zebra mussels, can attach to and ruin boat motors.

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