Public Comment on LTBMU Caldor Tree Removal Project (updated 2/15/22)
The USDA Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit (LTBMU) is seeking public comments on a proposal to remove hazardous trees from the Caldor Fire area. This project would utilize heavy machinery to remove trees within 200 feet of trails, roads and facilities within the Caldor Fire scar. Please find project details here as well as the directions to make comments by the March 14th deadline.
LTBMU Caldor Closure is Terminated
The LTBMU Caldor Fire Closure was terminated as of 11/17/21. This means all USFS land, including trails and roads impacted by the Caldor Fire are reopened in the Tahoe Basin. Please understand that open, does not mean safe. Please use caution when entering the fire area. Check our trail conditions below for the status of trails impacted by the fire.
Also, the El Dorado NF still has a fire closure in effect, see below for more details.
El Dorado NF Caldor Fire Closure (effective 10/15 – 3/31/22)
The El Dorado NF has refined and extended their previous forestwide closure and this reopens some areas around Carson Pass and Desolation Wilderness. This order can be found here and is separate from the LTBMU closures.
Interactive Map of Closure Areas.
***Please note that the closure areas shown below are approximate and it is ultimately up to the individual to know if they are in a closed area.***
Status of Fire Impacted Trails
We are thrilled that the LTBMU fire closure has been lifted as this will help speed up the rebuilding process. Please understand that just because a trail is open to the public, does not mean it has been rebuilt or safe. Below is a status of the trails impacted by the fire that TAMBA helps maintain.
- Armstrong Pass Trail: The bottom half mile of trail has numerous downed trees at this time. Many stump holes still exist.
- Armstrong Connector: There are still a lot of trees down, especially at the top. Volunteers have mostly tuned up the lower half of the trail, while the upper half still needs a lot of work. Many retaining structures are destroyed along the upper half and will not be replaced until next year. Please use caution if heading up there!
- Corral: Corral has been tuned up with preliminary fixes for this fall/winter. More long-term fixes will be needed next year. The bridge is still out and won’t be replaced until next year.
- Mr. Toads Wild Ride: Most of the trees have been cleared, but two bridges are still out and won’t be replaced until next year.
- Incense Cedar: Mostly in good condition, but watch for stump holes in the burn area.
- Sidewinder: Has been tuned up with preliminary fixes for this fall/winter, but will need more long-term repairs next season.
Next steps for Trail Restoration and Rebuilding
The rebuilding process will continue through next year with retaining wall construction, drainage maintenance, clearing trees, tread work, installing signs and rebuilding bridges. From the surface a trail may look like it’s in good shape, but a lot of underlying infrastructure was damage and will need to be rebuilt.
Donate now to help TAMBA re-build and grow
Caldor Fire FAQs
When can we start working to repair trails outside the fire scar that were damaged by dozers?
USFS has told TAMBA that we can begin repairs on trails outside of the fire scar once suppression repair is done and all equipment has been removed. We have heard that the Powerline area as well as locations around North Upper Truckee Neighborhoods might be first. There is no date yet for when this work might be completed, and even then these trails may not reopen to the public immediately after repairs are done.
Can some areas of the closure outside the fire scar open earlier if suppression repair work is completed?
We hope so. We have been working with the LTBMU to identify areas that could potentially open before the 12/31 closure end date if suppression repair and trail repair is completed.
Why are the closure areas beyond the fire scar so broad and why are some trails that were not impacted by the fire or dozer lines still closed?
The closure had to include all contingency dozer lines as well as the fire scar itself. The closure order was done with input from the regional forester and was heavily the rules of the USDA Office of General Council, which dictates that big and distinct boundaries be used to set the closure areas. This unfortunately did not allow for a nuanced closure which keeps unimpacted trails open.
Will volunteers be able to help with repair of damaged trails?
Yes! However, volunteer work days can only happen when the USFS has deemed areas safe to do so. This means all access to a project site must be safe to travel, as well as the project site itself.
What kind of work needs to be done to repair trails that were damaged by dozers?
In areas where dozer lines were established, all trail control points have been erased. These areas can be very challenging to reestablish trails due to the lack of vegetation, logs, trees, boulders and other control points that would normally define the trail. Moving forward we will need to work together to preserve soils, re-establish sustainable trail alignments and allow for revegetation to occur, particularly in areas that have extensive dozer lines. Trail establishment will include restoring the dozer line to define the trail by strategically placing logs, rocks and other native material to define the trail and promote drainage.
What happens when the public goes into a closed area?
Fire fighters are actively patrolling areas and when they encounter the public, they must escort those individuals out of the active fire area which hampers their ability to complete fire mop up activities and patrols for new flare ups and clearing hazard trees. You may also be subject to fines up to $5,000.
What hazards exist that keep the fire area closed when it appears to be “out”?
Fires can burn at over 2000 degrees Fahrenheit and even though areas appear to be “out” the fire may burn underground through stumps and root systems for months. Areas that burn become unpredictable with unseen hazards and changed conditions for months and in some cases years after wildfire and even more so in areas of high burn intensity. There are many trees that are now unstable that pose an imminent hazard until those trees may be safely felled. This will take time and some trails may be closed for a longer duration than the immediate fire response.
How are the soils impacted by the fire and does this impact trail repairs?
Soils are affected by fire and can become vitrified (turns into a more glass like substance that repells water), especially in moderate to high severity burn areas. Soils can become hydrophobic and repel rainfall and moisture for 1 to 2 years. Soil can “fluff up” or have a hard crust at the surface and in some areas trail and trail benches have become indistinguishable from the surrounding landscape. Due to the void of vegetation and strong root systems and combined with hydrophobic soils; erosion and runoff can be expected to increase. The land and resources are highly vulnerable after wildfire. Allowing time for the forest to stabilize and recover is needed for public safety and for the forest ecology to become more resilient.
When will the trails in the Caldor Fire burn scar be reopened?
It will not be this year. The fire is still active and most personnel are currently engaged in the active fire, clearing hazard trees to make spots safe for the Burn Area Emergency Response (BAER) teams* to work, or doing suppression repair outside the burn scar.
We plan to work with the USFS this winter to develop a plan for reopening the trails as quickly as is safely feasible, while also protecting the environment. We hope that some of the most popular trails (like Toads, Corral, Connector) can reopen at some point next year, but it’s too early to say.
*BAER teams do emergency stabilization and protection to natural and cultural resources as well as infrastructure like trails and roads. These are not long term improvements, but focused on immediate protection for the upcoming winter season.
Has TAMBA been able to assess fire damage with the fire scar yet?
No, the only personnel that may enter burned areas at this time are Red Carded personnel serving on fire staff, as part of the Burned Area Emergency Response. We hope to have our staff able to assess the trails as soon as it is safe to do so.
How many miles of trail were damaged?
Approximately 25 miles of official USFS trails were damaged directly by the fire in the Tahoe Basin. There are even more unofficial neighborhood connecting trails that burned. Additionally, another 5-10 miles of trail were damaged by dozer lines.
What trails were burned or dozed?
The trails that were impacted by the Caldor Fire from either fire itself or dozer fire-line construction includes Toads, Corral, Sidewinder, Connector, Armstrong, Cedar, Hawley Grade, Powerline, Cold Creek, Christmas Valley, and Railroad, Warr Trail, Cowboy Hat, Tahoe Mountain, Angora Ridge, Mule Deer, Star Lake, Monument Pass, Gunmount Trails, Fallen Leaf Lake area trails.
Can we build new trails on dozer lines?
If official trails were there previously, then yes we will rebuild them and possibly make some improvements to trail alignments. If no trails were in an area where a dozer line was created, then a full NEPA Analysis would need to be undertaken to build a new trail.
What kind of trail work does TAMBA do to make trails more resilient to wildfire?
Most of the work we do to improve trails focuses on making them less prone to erosion, and this can include armoring the trail tread, making rock retaining walls, or realigning the trail in a more sustainable location. All of these types of improvements will have the benefit of protecting the trails from damage after a fire, by reducing the amount of erosion near the trail corridor. Recently, we did a lot of work in the Armstrong Connector and Armstrong Pass area, where we replaced old wood retaining structures and replaced them with rock. These areas should be able to be repaired much quicker because of those efforts.