Forest Service Restrictions for Back Country Travel at Tahoe

Forest Service: More restrictions coming

By Ronnie Lynn, Sierra Sun

The U.S. Forest Service plans to implement backcountry restrictions next week in an effort to prevent wildfires like the one that erupted Sunday.

Although the restrictions may seem a little too late when considering the now 14,000 acres lost to the Martis Fire, they come much earlier in the season than normal because of dry conditions and ample fuel.
"Normally we don't go into restrictions until a little bit later in the season, but given what's going on, we decided to go ahead and do it now," said Linda Massey, public affairs officer for the Forest Service's Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit.
Next door in the Tahoe National Forest, winter precipitation was just 43 percent of normal, and the moisture content and amount of dead vegetation are comparable to September conditions.
As a result, the typical wildfire season of late summer and early fall has come much earlier.
Joanne Roubique, a district ranger for the Tahoe National Forest's Truckee Ranger District, said the Martis Fire simply confirms the need for caution in the backcountry.
"It's been an eye-opener for the community," she said. "It's very unusual to get this kind of thing this early. Sometimes we see it in August and September, but rarely this early."
The Forest Service's Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, which manages the national forests within the Tahoe Basin, also plans to put more stringent rules in place next week as dry conditions and an increasing volume of backcountry users makes for a potentially risky combination.
"We evaluate what the fuel moisture conditions are, and we also have to estimate the degree to which incoming tourists and visitors are having an impact on some of the fire starts," Massey said. "If it looks like we're seeing a great rise in human-caused fires or fuel conditions are getting way too dry, those are indications that we need to implement restrictions."
Investigators have determined that the 12-acre Kingsbury Fire in South Lake Tahoe was caused by a human, she said.
Among the restrictions anticipated for implementation Tuesday are the following:
-- No open fires.
-- No off-road use of internal combustion engines. The potential for hot mufflers igniting dry grasses and other fuels is too risky.
-- Limited firewood cutting throughout most of the forest. Non-motorized saws could still be used anywhere in the forest, but chainsaws could only be used along Forest Service roads, again to reduce the chance of a spark flying into tinder dry fuels.
-- Campfires and charcoal cooking fires only allowed in developed campgrounds or picnic sites.
-- Portable gasoline or jellied petroleum-type stoves allowed in the backcountry with a valid campfire permit.
These restrictions follow those enacted last month by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, which ban all backyard burning.
For more information on the restrictions, log on to the Tahoe National Forest's Web site at; the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit at or the CDF's Web site at

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