CHAPTER XXXIX. THE TAHOE NATIONAL FOREST
The Tahoe National Forest was first set apart by proclamation, September 17, 1906. Previous to this there had been the Tahoe and Yuba Forest Reserves which were established by proclamation under the acts of March 3, 1891, and June 4, 1897. The original Tahoe Forest Reserve consisted of six townships along the west side of Lake Tahoe. Part of this territory is now in the Tahoe and part in the El Dorado National Forest. Changes and additions were later made by proclamations of March 2, 1909, and July 28, 1910.
Although Lake Tahoe does not lie within any National Forest it is almost surrounded by the Tahoe and El Dorado Forests. There are a few miles of shore-line on the Nevada side in the vicinity of Glenbrook which are not within the National Forest Boundary.
The gross area of the Tahoe National Forest is 1,272,470 acres. Of this amount, however, 692,677 acres are privately owned. The El Dorado National Forest has a gross area of 836,200 acres with 284,798 of them in private hands. These privately owned lands are technically spoken of as "alienated lands."
The towns of Truckee, Emigrant Gap, Cisco, Donner, Fulda, Downieville, Sierra City, Alleghany, Forest, Graniteville, Goodyear's Bar, and Last Chance, as well as Tahoe City, are all within the Tahoe National Forest.
It is estimated that there are probably 350 people living on the Forest outside of the towns. These are principally miners or small ranch-owners living along the rivers in the lower altitudes.
Slowly but surely the people are awakening to the great value of the natural resources that are being conserved in the National Forests. In the Tahoe Reserve the preservation of the forest cover is essential to the holding of snow and rain-fall, preventing rapid run-off, thereby conserving much of what would be waste and destructive flood-water, until it can be used for irrigation and other beneficial purposes.
Many streams of great power possibilities rise and flow through the Tahoe Forest Reserve, such as the Truckee, Little Truckee, Yuba and American rivers. Working in conjunction with the U.S. Reclamation Service the Truckee General Electric Company uses the water that flows out of Lake Tahoe down the Truckee River for the development of power. The Pacific Gas and Electric Company, of San Francisco, controls the waters of the South Yuba river, and its Colgate plant is on the main Yuba, though it obtains some of its water supply from the North Yuba. Lake Spaulding, one of the largest artificial lakes in the world, is a creation of this same company. It is situated near Emigrant Gap and is used for the development of power.
The Northern Water and Power Company controls the Bowman reservoir and a string of lakes on the headwaters of Canyon Creek, a branch of the South Yuba river. As yet its power possibilities are not developed.
Through the activities of these companies electricity and water for irrigation are supplied to towns and country regions contiguous to their lines, and they have materially aided in the development of the Sacramento Valley.
Only about five per cent. of the Reserve is barren land, and this is mostly situated at a high elevation above timber line. The tree growth is excellent, and under proper direction reproduction could be made all that any one could desire. Fully twenty per cent., however, of the present Reserve is covered with chaparral. Practically all of this originally was timbered. The chaparral has grown up because nothing was done at the proper time to foster reproduction over acres that had been cut. Systematic and scientific efforts are now being made to remedy this condition, the rangers being encouraged to study the trees, gather seeds from the best of their type, plant and cultivate them. Tree cutting is now so regular as to obtain by natural reproduction a second crop on the logged-over areas. Where natural reproduction fails planting is resorted to. Thus it is hoped, in time, to replant all the logged-over areas now owned by the government, serving the double purpose of conserving the water-supply and providing timber for the needs of the future. Much of the timber-land, however, of the Tahoe region, is patented to private owners. Little, if anything, is being done towards reforestation on these private tracts. Legal enactments, ultimately, may produce effective action along this needed line.
As has elsewhere been shown the world owes a debt of gratitude to the Tahoe region. Had it not been for the timber secured so readily from the Tahoe slopes the mining operations of Virginia City, Gold Hill and Dayton would have been seriously retarded and crippled. As it was the Tahoe trees were transferred as mining-timbers for propping up the immense and continuous excavations of that vast series of honey-combings underground, the products of which revivified the gold supply of the world.
Tahoe timber also has contributed much to the upbuilding of the towns and country farms on the whole upper Pacific Coast and interior regions of Northern California, and today much of its timber finds its way to San Francisco and other Pacific Coast markets.