SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. (November 30, 2023) – In a proactive move to safeguard the region’s wildlife and minimize human-bear conflicts, the USDA Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit (LTBMU) has issued a comprehensive Forest Order mandating the proper storage of food and refuse across all National Forest System lands in the Lake Tahoe Basin.
Scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2024, the Forest Order establishes stringent guidelines, requiring all unattended food and garbage to be securely stored in containers designed to thwart access by bears and other wildlife. Overnight visitors to the Desolation Wilderness are specifically directed to employ bear canisters, hard-sided bear-proof containers, ensuring heightened protection. Additionally, National Forest campgrounds will provide wildlife-resistant dumpsters and food lockers, commonly known as bear boxes.
The primary aim of this directive is to deter bears, inherently attracted to anything edible or scented, from engaging with improperly stored human food and garbage. Such encounters often lead to conflicts, posing a threat to both humans and bears. Bears habituated to human food lose their natural fear, potentially resulting in severe consequences, including euthanasia. Importantly, feeding bears and other wildlife is strictly prohibited, with potential violations attracting citations from law enforcement officers.
Wildlife Biologist Shay Zanetti emphasized the practicality of the new storage order, allowing hikers and day-use visitors to possess food or garbage as long as they remain within 100 feet of the items. Zanetti asserted,
“Requiring proper food and garbage storage will help reduce the number of human-bear conflicts by preventing bears and other wildlife from accessing these items.”
The Food and Refuse Storage Order can be reviewed on the LTBMU Forest Order webpage. Residents and visitors seeking guidance on responsible practices to coexist with Tahoe’s bears are encouraged to explore TahoeBears.org and BearWise.org for valuable information and tips. As the order aims to strike a balance between human recreation and wildlife conservation, its implementation marks a crucial step in preserving the unique ecosystem of the Lake Tahoe Basin.