The Tahoe Basin

Lake Tahoe would probably be a National Park, by now, if the Comstock Lode had never been found. There was clearcutting right down to the lakshore, for mining timbers, in the silver mines. Incline Village was named for the switchback road that transported logs to a flume that went all the way down to the Washoe Lake area, thousands of feet below.

Today, there is very little “logging” next to all that blue Tahoe lake water. Newspapers especially like to describe the basin as “pristine”, apparently not knowing the actual meaning of the word.

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Much of the Lake Tahoe Basin is “de facto” Wilderness, with very little management happening, even when wildfires occur. Residents seem to be in denial about wildfire issues, not remembering the last drought that decimated their forests. However, it is easy enough to see the results of the last bark beetle infestation, in the form of accumulated fuels far beyond what is “natural”. Many areas of forest mortality were left “to recover”, on their own. Well, sometimes “recovery” takes decades or even centuries, as long as humans don’t intervene. That might also include multiple wildfires, opening the ground to accelerated erosion and having clarity-declining sediments flowing into Lake Tahoe.

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Ironically, the lake’s level isn’t all that far down, thanks to the lobbying of lakeshore land owners, putting pressure on water regulators. That can only go so far, as Reno area interests need more water to keep growing and thriving. We’ll just have to see how the battle goes, as the Truckee River drops further and further.

2 Comments

    • Because such words and phrases mean different things to different people. I only used the quotes six times. For example, some people call the cutting of small dead trees, for use in biomass energy, as “logging”, when no actual logs are put on trucks. To some, “recovery” means doing nothing, for as long as it takes. Same for “natural”.

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