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McClintock Speaks At The 2022 Lake Tahoe Summit

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Republican Congressman McClintock (who represents the Mother Lode) delivered remarks at the 2022 Lake Tahoe Summit on August 16th. Lake Tahoe is currently in the Congressman’s District.

McClintock was Wednesday’s KVML “Newsmaker of the Day”. Here are his words:

“When we met a year ago, on the other side of the lake, the Caldor fire was more than 30 miles away. Within days, it arrived on the outskirts of South Lake Tahoe. Had it reached the lake, the devastation would have been catastrophic. Hundreds of homes would have been destroyed, a blackened scar would have blighted the shoreline for years to come.

But that didn’t happen. The fire hit a tract on the Pioneer Trail that had been treated under the authority we won for the Tahoe Basin in the 2016 WIIN Act. That provision, based on the legislation that Mark Amodei and I introduced, grants categorical exclusions from the National Environmental Policy Act for forest thinning projects in the Tahoe Basin. When the fire hit that tract, it laid down and our fire fighters were able to stop it.

This new authority reduced the environmental review process for forest thinning projects here in the basin from an average of four years down to just a few months. It reduced the environmental studies required under NEPA from 800 pages down to just a few dozen.

The Lake Tahoe Categorical Exclusion has now been used for the South Tahoe, Liberty, NV Energy, Urban Forestry, and Caldor projects. Over the last five years, the Tahoe Basin Management Unit has increased the removal of excess timber from one to two million board feet a year to an average of nine million board feet. Treated acreage in the Tahoe Basin has now more than tripled.

If we are to protect the Tahoe Basin from the destruction that has been visited on so many other Sierra communities, we must be clear-eyed and clear-headed. Excess timber will always come out of the forest. Either we will carry it out or nature will burn it out. That is the choice. That is the only choice.

The private forests of the Sierra are conspicuously healthier and far more resistant to catastrophic fire than our public lands. These companies maintain their forests in excellent condition year in and year out while they generate the revenues to do so. Meanwhile, our public foresters are handcuffed by stifling environmental laws and lawsuits that make our forests endlessly time-consuming and ultimately cost-prohibitive to maintain.

Our public and private forests are in dramatically different condition even though they sit side-by-side in the same terrain in the same climate. That should warn us that this is ultimately a forest management issue. And this problem is not going to go away even if we all ride our bikes to work and substitute tofu for hamburgers.

When we granted a categorical exemption from NEPA to our Tahoe Basin foresters, they could actually do their jobs again, and the City of South Lake Tahoe was saved because of it. The climate didn’t change. The laws changed.

So whatever else we do, we have to protect Tahoe’s forests if we are going to protect Tahoe. And 50 years of experience with these laws should warn us that they have not only failed to improve the forest environment; they have drastically harmed it. The modifications that we were able to make in those laws have made a real difference here in the Tahoe Basin.

Among other things, we need to aggressively attack fires when they are first spotted. Graham Kent told me a few summits ago that the greatest impediment that Alert Tahoe faces in placing early fire detection cameras to detect fires is the National Environmental Policy Act and the California Environmental Quality Act.

And when these fires are first spotted, aggressive initial attack is absolutely critical. Last year, the Forest Service allowed the Tamarack Fire to smolder for ten days until it exploded out of control and destroyed 70,000 acres. Just last month, Yosemite National Park officials turned away a tanker and a helitack unit when the Washburn Fire could have been quickly extinguished in its first few hours. Ultimately, it destroyed 5,000 acres.

The Categorical Exclusion has made a difference, but much more needs to be done. And thank God we have the Tahoe Fire and Fuels Team, comprised of the Fire Departments of the Tahoe Basin, who have stood in the breach all these years. The people of Tahoe are incredibly fortunate to have them and we must all continue to stand by them. And I’d like to ask them one more time to stand and receive the recognition they deeply deserve so that all of us can express our gratitude for their steadfast devotion to our community. And I’d like to ask Chief Scott Lindgren to accept on their behalf this copy of remarks that I made to thank and honor them in the House of Representatives made on behalf of all of the people of Lake Tahoe.

Now on a personal note: Due to the reapportionment, I’m no longer going to be representing the people of the communities of Lake Tahoe after this year. And I just want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for the privilege it’s been to represent you these past 14 years and to fight for better forest management and fire prevention and suppression.

The people who make the Tahoe Basin their home are by nature and by right the most zealous guardians of the lake, its environment AND its economy and quality of life. They deserve better than to be told what is best for them by those who are not accountable to them. I feel like we’ve made a difference in changing forest management practices here in the basin, but the unfinished business of these summits should be to restore the decisions that affect the quality of life, the protection and preservation of the lake and its surroundings to the people who actually live here.

And with that, as Lincoln said, “I bid you an affectionate farewell.””

The “Newsmaker of the Day” is heard every weekday morning at 6:45, 7:45 and 8:45 on AM 1450 and FM 102.7 KVML.

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