WASHINGTON — Two Nevada Republicans are urging the U.S. Forest Service to speed up the thinning of some 3,500 acres near Lake Tahoe by scaling back an environmental assessment.
The lawmakers said Congress approved legislation earlier this year that can speed up environmental reviews for certain fuel reduction projects.
A project at Spooner Summit east of the lake and west of Carson City meets the criteria for quicker action, said Sen. John Ensign and Rep. Dean Heller.
The thinning is proposed along both sides of U.S. Highway 50 and Nevada State Route 28.
A description of the proposed project said that tree removal will take three to five years because of the steepness of the forest slopes. Subsequent fire treatments might take up to 10 years.
The lawmakers said in a letter to a U.S. Forest Service official that the project would keep communities safe and reduce the environmental devastation caused by wildfires. Two years ago, a fire near South Lake Tahoe, Calif., destroyed more than 250 homes, and the lawmakers said they are worried about what the coming fire season will bring.
“We recommend that you do not delay in completing this important hazardous fuels reduction project,” the lawmakers wrote.
Cheva Heck, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Forest Service, said she couldn’t comment on the letter, but that thinning is currently scheduled to begin as early as the fall.