Environmentalists concerned about Tahoe-area logging

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — A forest after a fire can be like a heart-attack victim: Sometimes the recovering patient looks worse after life-saving surgery.

So it is with the forest burned by the June 2007 Angora fire in South Lake Tahoe.

After a first season of intensive logging around Seneca Pond – ignition point for the fire that destroyed 254 homes – the burn area looks like that patient in post-op: Attached to machines, disfigured by ugly stitches and leaking fluids.

Environmental groups are crying foul over a U.S. Forest Service project to remove burned trees along roads and trails in the 3,100-acre fire area.

The Forest Service says the trees were a threat because they could topple on unwary hikers. Backers of the logging say the former burn zone will be better for all the work.

Critics fear the project bodes ill for a bigger plan to thin 68,000 acres of overgrown forest surrounding Lake Tahoe in order to avoid future severe fires.

Logging rules were streamlined to ease this work, even as officials acknowledged that if it's not done carefully, Tahoe's famous water clarity could be at risk.

This conflict looms larger as another fire season begins.

On a recent visit to the Angora burn area, The Bee saw fragile stream zones strewn with logging debris. Logged slopes and stream crossings leaked sediment into Angora Creek, which flows into Lake Tahoe.

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