In response to opinion piece Adversarial Front Line Caused by Forest Service Ineptitude

Tough Read

Tough to read our wildfire and forest management organizational structure isn’t working well, but thankful it’s coming to light. Hope it encourages collaborative innovation instead of territorial finger pointing.

~ Geoff Millikan, Truckee, via Twitter



I reread the article and found it even more egregious than before. The author claims [to have] witnessed USFS employees destroy land, property, livestock? But hasn’t ever reported it? [They claim] the forest service doesn’t protect private property. Not true. [They claim] they do burn out operations at night so no one will be recognized? Not true.

Often burnout operations are carried out at night because that is when fire behavior is less extreme.[They make] a claim that [they’ve] seen fires that could have been contained at two acres but grew to 300,000, and somehow that is the agency’s fault? Never mind increasing urban interface, climate change, drought, residents who refuse to evacuate, wind events. Fires have gotten bigger, badder, and more complex.

If Moonshine Ink wants detailed explanations of firefighting tactics and agency policies, they should go to the source, not someone with an ax to grind with some other motive. [The author] is dabbling in conspiracy theory. In the meantime I feel Moonshine Ink owes all the local forest service firefighters an apology for publishing this.

~ Wendy Mastroianni, Truckee, via letter

In response to Trudging Forward Despite Advisory Committee Concern, online only

We All Care

Updating Truckee’s General Plan has proven to be a heavy lift only made more complicated by the pandemic. While I share some fellow General Plan Advisory Committee members’ frustrations with the process, I appreciate how much effort and expertise was invested by town staff and our consultants into a process bound to be imperfect. Land use planning is complicated and comes with trade-offs. Personally, I hate trade-offs.

Even though GPAC members invested dozens of hours into the process, I believe many members were hungry to dive in deeper and go “off the menu” provided to us. We wanted to take a more granular look at individual properties affected by the land use alternatives, to really understand the opportunities, pitfalls, and trade-offs, and then create a consensus alternative. Perhaps this may not have been possible given the constraints of time, budget, and Zoom. Consensus is easier in person.

In October, Truckee’s volunteer planning commission did a commendable job of unpacking the land use alternatives recommended by staff in two marathon meetings, achieving what many GPAC members wanted to do for months, go off the menu. No surprise: consensus on some decisions and divergent opinions on others.

The planning commission deliberations resulted in a custom land use alternative with some open questions. I trust the town council to further refine this custom alternative to come up with a reasonable land use element for our 2040 General Plan. This is what we have elected them to do.

Of course, nobody will be entirely satisfied. I am grateful to live in a town where so many neighbors invest so much time in service of the community we love. We may not all agree on the best path forward, but we all care.

~ Jan Holan, Truckee, via letter

In response to the end of the fire ban

Ready for Anything

It’s grilling season! I did a turkey in a blizzard once.

~ Keith Sandor, Crystal Bay, via Twitter

In response to The Enforcers

Unenforced Near Me

There’s a lot [of environmental code noncompliance] next to me that has been turned in at least once … still a major fire hazard.

~ Carol Pauli, Truckee, via Facebook

The Non-Enforcers

I wish to add my voice to the Tahoe area residents who are frustrated with environmental code enforcement. Code compliance enforcement is generally slow, hard to initiate, and appears lax to the public, particularly for nearby affected property owners. I do not entirely accept the excuse by public agency officials that the slow progression is by design to allow violators time to fix the problem.

While fixing the problem is a good overarching goal, I have observed that longtime, experienced Tahoe region contractors and developers who are well acquainted with applicable environmental code use and the slow progression  approach by Placer County and the [Tahoe Regional Planning Agency] know that they can push beyond the environmental code requirements for their personal gain and not suffer any consequences.

I witnessed this recently in the Kingswood West area of Tahoe Vista. Two lots are under development. Despite the fact that “Lake Tahoe Region Winterization Requirements” went into effect on Oct. 15, significant grading continued on the sites through Oct. 19, bare soil areas were not stabilized by the deadline, and bare debris and spoil piles in some cases remained uncovered. Despite being aware of the situation (Placer County inspectors visited the site multiple times), the contractor/developers were allowed to continue the prohibited activity until they completed the tasks they needed to proceed with erection of the structures during winter period. TRPA allows for grading season exceptions where emergencies exist and the grading is necessary for the protection of public health or safety, or the grading is for erosion control purposes or protection of water quality. I don’t believe an emergency existed, unless it was a financial one; nor was the post deadline grading solely for the purpose of erosion control, but rather to advance the development of the site (e.g. utility trenches, general site leveling, foundation fill-in, driveway access).

I can only conclude violators are not intimidated by TRPA or Placer County environmental code enforcement. I support the purpose of the environmental codes and am very disappointed to see it so deliberately abused and weakly enforced.

~ Walter Mirczak, Tahoe Vista, via letter

In response to October/November Moonshine cover

A Note From the Artist

I love [my artwork featured on the cover] so much! Thank you for the amazing support. I love being an artist so much!

~ Tina Basich Haller, Nevada City, via Instagram

Fiery Response to the State Firefighter Opinion Piece: A Note from Moonshine Ink

In Moonshine Ink’s October edition, we published an opinion piece by an anonymous California state firefighter which boldly blames the U.S. Forest Service for “willful and intentional destruction” of California lands.

To date, readers have submitted a tremendous amount of feedback to the My Shot titled Adversarial Front Line Caused by Forest Service Ineptitude, both positive and negative. Some from locals, some from out of the area. Some civil, some not.

Given the fiery response, we want to share what went on behind the scenes in deciding to publish the piece.

We recognize the opinion piece levies serious allegations. Thus our team extended considerable time and effort to comb through and vet the piece. Staff cross-checked certain facts about the forest service in the piece with USFS personnel, though it’s important to note that we did not share the complete article. We took the time to check with a number of other state and regional firefighters to make sure this wasn’t some outlier perspective; all corroborated the writer’s claims.

In the end, it is an opinion piece and we all know opinions vary — even eyewitness reports to the same events will not match. Not surprisingly though, in the comments we’ve seen, those who agree with the October opinion piece either work at or ally themselves with state or regional fire departments and those that disagree work at or ally themselves with the forest service. The lines are drawn.

Several readers lamented the anonymity, and we understand. Transparency is a golden rule for this newspaper and we believe it should be across life. It takes extraordinary circumstances for us to grant anonymity and in the case of this piece, we ensured it was written by an individual with extensive experience in the field and when the author reported past threats of severe bodily harm, in our eyes, that warranted being anonymous.

Wildfire poses a dire threat in the West today, leading to almost uncontrollable situations and thus fire management is an extremely important topic, and in turn, it is under intense scrutiny. The stakes are incredibly high and we know it’s a sensitive topic. The Moonshine Ink reporting team is investigating the potentially conflicting styles of fire management between our public agencies. Many conversations with a variety of involved parties have already been held, and we will have more. We expect our readers will hold us accountable for our reporting.

But significantly, it is our hope that everyone recognizes that there is no “other” in this topic. And no one is in complete control. We are all affected, we are all stakeholders, and to address the issues takes everyone being at the table. We will not all agree on the details, but we can all agree that everyone cares and is seeking solutions.

Moonshine Ink staff emphasize that the October piece is an opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views held by the newspaper or its staff. What we do believe is that it is vital for people to discuss the big issues. No other way will lead to an informed citizenry.

If you have knowledge, experience, or opinions on issues raised in the piece, reach out via

~ Moonshine Ink


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