About the Forest

Caring for the Land and Serving People

The Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit was formed in 1973 to provide focused management of the Lake Tahoe watershed.

Photo by Jonathan Cook-Fisher, USFS

The Forest Service is a bureau of the Department of Agriculture, and has the responsibility to manage 191,000,000 acres of public lands called National Forests and Grasslands across the nation. National Forests are managed under the principles of conservation of resources, balancing resource protections with multiple uses.

Management through conservation has been a successful strategy for managing lands and resources since the establishment of the Forest Service in 1905.

Tahoe Basin Focus

Approximately 78 percent of the area around Lake Tahoe is public land managed by the USDA Forest Service. Totaling over 156,335 acres, this land includes beaches, hiking and biking trails, wilderness, historic estates and developed recreation areas such as campgrounds and riding stables. The forest is managed to provide access for the public and to protect the natural resources of the area. We hope you will join us in ensuring that the lake and surrounding lands will be even more beautiful and healthy in the future than they are now.

The Forest Service manages the land in the Lake Tahoe Basin as a unique kind of National Forest, called the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, or LTBMU for short. The LTBMU is managed in many ways like other National Forests, but because of the needs of the lake and the relationship it has with the forests that surround it, the LTBMU has special focus areas, including:

  • Erosion Control Management
  • Watershed Restoration
  • Fire Management
  • Forest Management
  • Recreation Management

In many ways, the LTBMU can be described as a restoration forest, because of the strong ecosystem restoration roles.

Establishment and History

In 1973, this most unique area of America's National Forest System was established. The establishment of the LTBMU was not really the creation of a "new" National Forest, but rather a re-organization of National Forest Lands that had already existed in the Tahoe Basin since 1899.  In the last year of the 19th century, President McKinley created the "Lake Tahoe Forest Reserve" to conserve the remaining forests of the basin following the decades of logging for the Comstock mining boom. National Forests were beginning to be established over the years since 1891, and the Lake Tahoe Forest Reserve would officially enter the National Forest System when the U.S. Forest Service was established in 1905.  Creation of the Lake Tahoe Forest Reserve was the first official step in a process of conservation at the Tahoe Basin that is now over a century in development.  As the years rolled on, the reserve lands of the basin were divided between three large and separate National Forests that surrounded the basin on three sides. To the east was the Toiyabe, to the south and west was the Eldorado, and to the north the Tahoe National Forest. Each of these separately managed forests had land reaching into the basin, yet most all of the shoreline land was privately held.

By the 1960s development around Lake Tahoe was in high gear, while early attempts at regional planning were being forged. By the early years of the 1970s, it became clear to Forest Service managers that the divided forest management of the basin hindered a unified approach to public land management. The Forest Service and the National Forests they managed were changing. Science and ecosystem-management were becoming more important tools for the Rangers and Foresters. Urbanization and development were clashing with a growing environmental awareness of the public. To manage the values and resources of the Tahoe Basin effectively into this new future, the National Forest Land of the basin needed its own unique "management unit." In April of 1973, the National Forest Lands of the basin were consolidated into the new Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit. This new and unusual sort of forest area would be small in comparison to other National Forests, yet its issues, resources and values would in comparison remain very large. A core job for the new unit would be comprehensive watershed protection and restoration, as part of an ecosystem approach to management. The forests, the wildlife, the soil, as well as the recreational values and uses would be managed as a dynamic system.

As the largest land manager of the basin, the Forest Service has, and will continue to play a key role in managing, conserving and improving the lands that contribute so much to the quality of Lake Tahoe, its special communities, lifestyle and experiences.

Professionalism and Dedication

The Forest Service employees of the LTBMU have great pride in the work they do. They include hydrologists and biologists, forestry and vegetation specialists, planners, soil scientists urban lot managers, wilderness rangers and more. Their work is far more than employment- it is a committed mission. They are part of an agency, now in a new century of service to the environment, the basin and the nation- to care for the land and to serve the people, today and into the future.