Frequently Asked Questions

About the League

What does the League to Save Lake Tahoe do?
The League is a solutions-based environmental watchdog. Our core focus is to protect Lake Tahoe’s inspiring water clarity. Our current campaigns include combatting pollution, promoting restoration, tackling invasive species, and protecting Tahoe's shoreline.
  • We advocate for strong environmental regulation and enforcement to protect Lake Tahoe for this and future generations. Learn more about our current priorities.
  • We educate and engage the public about how to protect Lake Tahoe. Learn more about our volunteer and education programs. We collaborate with stakeholders to address environmental issues.
  • We support collaborative, innovative, and science-based solutions to environmental issues facing the Lake. Learn more about our achievements.
What are the League's main accomplishments?
The League has been instrumental in most environmental success stories at Lake Tahoe. The League led the effort to create Tahoe's first unified planning agency, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA). We played a key role in securing hundreds of millions of dollars in public funds for restoration projects at the Lake, through the Lake Tahoe Restoration Act, Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act and the overall Environmental Improvement Program. The League successfully advocated for limited development on wetlands and steep slopes in the 1987 regional plan. We pushed to establish urban boundaries in 1993. We led the effort to ban two-stroke jet skis in 1999. We successfully fought to ban grazing in Meiss Meadows, the headwaters of Tahoe’s longest river, in 2002. We issued the “wake-up call” to begin the fight against aquatic invasive species. Read more about our accomplishments.
Why does the lake need a strong watchdog?
Lake Tahoe is a national treasure. The pressure to exploit this resource is great and ever present. Tahoe is losing its famed deep-water clarity, and some areas of its shoreline are succumbing to algae blooms, muck and water weeds. Scientists know why these events are happening, and know what measures are needed to prevent further harm. Tahoe needs a strong watchdog to ensure that there is a science-based plan to save the lake, and that rules meant to protect the lake are enforced.
How is the League funded?
The League is 100 percent privately funded. We are a nonprofit organization with more than six thousand members in 46 states and several countries. Our members represent a broad range of political perspectives. Over 80 percent of our donations are for $250 or less. Tens of thousands of individuals have supported the League since its inception in 1957.
Who does the League represent?

The League represents the public interest, including the interests of future generations, in a pristine Lake. The environmental laws governing Tahoe were enacted by both California and Nevada, and approved by Congress. This demonstrates that there is a strong public interest in Keeping Tahoe Blue.

This makes us different.  Because the League doesn’t face the political pressures put on elected officials and public agencies, we have more freedom to push hard against proposals that pit the economic benefits of a few powerful special interests against the wellbeing of the Lake. The good news is that a clean lake and a strong Tahoe economy are not only compatible, but essential for each other’s success.
Why isn't the League involved in all environmental issues at Tahoe?
We focus our work on the things that will have the greatest impact for protecting the lake's water quality and restoring Tahoe's clarity.  Our current campaigns include combatting pollutionpromoting restorationtackling invasive species, andprotecting Tahoe's shoreline.  We focus our advocacy work on the main regulatory agencies in Tahoe and their broad-reaching plans and projects. In addition, we believe education and volunteer programs focusing on the main threats to Lake Tahoe are an essential component of engaging the public to Keep Tahoe Blue. With help from the dozens of other environmental organizations working in Tahoe, we are optimistic that together we can Keep Tahoe Blue.
Does the League fund restoration projects?

Tahoe needs both a strong watchdog and strong restoration programs. The League works to prevent further harm to Lake Tahoe’s sensitive ecosystem by promoting wise land-use planning. Rather than directly funding restoration projects, the League lobbies the state and federal governments to provide restoration funding. These efforts have resulted in far more restoration than the League’s revenue alone could have produced.

The League is a major reason Tahoe has received $1.5 billion in restoration funds through the Environmental Improvement Program. Every year, agencies like the U.S. Forest Service receive EIP funds to restore meadows, install BMPs, and other erosion-control projects. Also, in the 1980s the League pushed to create the California Tahoe Conservancy, which purchases and restores sensitive lands in Tahoe.

Does the League do legislative advocacy?
Yes, legislative advocacy is one of the main activities of the League. The League lobbies the two state’s legislatures, governor’s offices, and congressional representatives to take action, through funding and legislation, to Keep Tahoe Blue.
What is the League's view of litigation?

Litigation was for many decades the only tool for securing environmental protections for Lake Tahoe. However, leaders of the modern environmental movement know that collaborating to find solutions to environmental challenges can also be an effective tool and often gets positive results faster. Litigation is sufficient for stopping bad things from happening, but it cannot make good things happen. For this reason it is no longer our first choice for achieving environmental gain. However, we will use any tool necessary to protect Lake Tahoe, and we maintain the resources necessary for litigation when that becomes the appropriate course of action.

The League views litigation as a last resort, after all advocacy efforts have failed. We try our best to convince policy makers to choose the best course of action before a vote is ever cast. We file legal challenges when a plan or project violates the Compact or sets a precedent that endangers Tahoe’s ecosystem and communities.
About Lake Tahoe

What does the League to Save Lake Tahoe do?
The League is a solutions-based environmental watchdog. Our core focus is to protect Lake Tahoe’s inspiring water clarity. Our current campaigns include combatting pollution, promoting restoration, tackling invasive species, and protecting Tahoe's shoreline.
  • We advocate for strong environmental regulation and enforcement to protect Lake Tahoe for this and future generations. Learn more about our current priorities.
  • We educate and engage the public about how to protect Lake Tahoe. Learn more about our volunteer and education programs. We collaborate with stakeholders to address environmental issues.
  • We support collaborative, innovative, and science-based solutions to environmental issues facing the Lake. Learn more about our achievements.
What are the League's main accomplishments?
The League has been instrumental in most environmental success stories at Lake Tahoe. The League led the effort to create Tahoe's first unified planning agency, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA). We played a key role in securing hundreds of millions of dollars in public funds for restoration projects at the Lake, through the Lake Tahoe Restoration Act, Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act and the overall Environmental Improvement Program. The League successfully advocated for limited development on wetlands and steep slopes in the 1987 regional plan. We pushed to establish urban boundaries in 1993. We led the effort to ban two-stroke jet skis in 1999. We successfully fought to ban grazing in Meiss Meadows, the headwaters of Tahoe’s longest river, in 2002. We issued the “wake-up call” to begin the fight against aquatic invasive species. Read more about our accomplishments.
Why does the lake need a strong watchdog?
Lake Tahoe is a national treasure. The pressure to exploit this resource is great and ever present. Tahoe is losing its famed deep-water clarity, and some areas of its shoreline are succumbing to algae blooms, muck and water weeds. Scientists know why these events are happening, and know what measures are needed to prevent further harm. Tahoe needs a strong watchdog to ensure that there is a science-based plan to save the lake, and that rules meant to protect the lake are enforced.
How is the League funded?
The League is 100 percent privately funded. We are a nonprofit organization with more than six thousand members in 46 states and several countries. Our members represent a broad range of political perspectives. Over 80 percent of our donations are for $250 or less. Tens of thousands of individuals have supported the League since its inception in 1957.
Who does the League represent?

The League represents the public interest, including the interests of future generations, in a pristine Lake. The environmental laws governing Tahoe were enacted by both California and Nevada, and approved by Congress. This demonstrates that there is a strong public interest in Keeping Tahoe Blue.

This makes us different.  Because the League doesn’t face the political pressures put on elected officials and public agencies, we have more freedom to push hard against proposals that pit the economic benefits of a few powerful special interests against the wellbeing of the Lake. The good news is that a clean lake and a strong Tahoe economy are not only compatible, but essential for each other’s success.
Why isn't the League involved in all environmental issues at Tahoe?
We focus our work on the things that will have the greatest impact for protecting the lake's water quality and restoring Tahoe's clarity.  Our current campaigns include combatting pollutionpromoting restorationtackling invasive species, andprotecting Tahoe's shoreline.  We focus our advocacy work on the main regulatory agencies in Tahoe and their broad-reaching plans and projects. In addition, we believe education and volunteer programs focusing on the main threats to Lake Tahoe are an essential component of engaging the public to Keep Tahoe Blue. With help from the dozens of other environmental organizations working in Tahoe, we are optimistic that together we can Keep Tahoe Blue.
Does the League fund restoration projects?

Tahoe needs both a strong watchdog and strong restoration programs. The League works to prevent further harm to Lake Tahoe’s sensitive ecosystem by promoting wise land-use planning. Rather than directly funding restoration projects, the League lobbies the state and federal governments to provide restoration funding. These efforts have resulted in far more restoration than the League’s revenue alone could have produced.

The League is a major reason Tahoe has received $1.5 billion in restoration funds through the Environmental Improvement Program. Every year, agencies like the U.S. Forest Service receive EIP funds to restore meadows, install BMPs, and other erosion-control projects. Also, in the 1980s the League pushed to create the California Tahoe Conservancy, which purchases and restores sensitive lands in Tahoe.

Does the League do legislative advocacy?
Yes, legislative advocacy is one of the main activities of the League. The League lobbies the two state’s legislatures, governor’s offices, and congressional representatives to take action, through funding and legislation, to Keep Tahoe Blue.
What is the League's view of litigation?

Litigation was for many decades the only tool for securing environmental protections for Lake Tahoe. However, leaders of the modern environmental movement know that collaborating to find solutions to environmental challenges can also be an effective tool and often gets positive results faster. Litigation is sufficient for stopping bad things from happening, but it cannot make good things happen. For this reason it is no longer our first choice for achieving environmental gain. However, we will use any tool necessary to protect Lake Tahoe, and we maintain the resources necessary for litigation when that becomes the appropriate course of action.

The League views litigation as a last resort, after all advocacy efforts have failed. We try our best to convince policy makers to choose the best course of action before a vote is ever cast. We file legal challenges when a plan or project violates the Compact or sets a precedent that endangers Tahoe’s ecosystem and communities.
League Positions

What are the League's views on the South Lake Tahoe airport?

The airport was built in the 1950s and is the second largest development that destroyed a large portion of Tahoe’s sensitive wetlands, next to the Tahoe Keys. The airport does not provide a substantial economic benefit and is currently subsidized by the city’s taxpayers. Of the available options for restoring Tahoe’s wetlands, the League believes the airport poses a strong possibility. We believe the area would provide more value as a wetland and small-scale emergency staging zone, than a money-losing airport.

The City of South Lake Tahoe began a new master plan process for its airport in early 2014, the first since 1991. In a major win for the community and the Lake, South Lake Tahoe’s City Council has agreed that commercial air service is not appropriate for Tahoe. This decision removes the threat of an expanded footprint for the Lake Tahoe Airport, as well as additional noise and other environmental impacts associated with commercial service.  The League will be keeping a close watch on the plan to ensure that management of the airport will comply with noise and environmental standards, and to advocate for wetland restoration.
What is the League's view of economic development?
The League knows that communities with vibrant economies are best able to invest in environmental improvement and protection. The League supports the revitalization of Tahoe’s communities and the development of a sustainable economy. We are confident that economic vitality and environmental protection are both compatible and possible at Tahoe. After all, without a blue lake, there won’t be much of an economy at Tahoe.
What is the League's stance on the risk of catastrophic wildfire?
Catastrophic wildfire poses a grave risk to communities, forests and water quality. We urge homeowners to work with their Fire Safe Council and create defensible space. In addition, we support forest thinning in the wildland-urban interface. Each year, we host Tahoe Forest Stewardship Day, which engages hundreds of volunteers to restore a section of forest near a community. To reduce wildfire risk, thinning should focus on small understory trees rather than mature trees.
What is the League's stance on development?
The League supports sustainable development at Tahoe. Everyone agrees that development practices of the past contribute to the degradation of the lake today. Tahoe was overdeveloped long before the League convinced the TRPA to enact urban boundaries, to limit casino growth, to limit development on wetlands, and institute a strict retrofitting program of all Tahoe properties to protect water quality (BMPs). Further development should only proceed as part of a comprehensive and strong plan to save the lake.
What is the League's stance on redevelopment?

The League strongly supports redevelopment that fixes past mistakes and achieves environmental gain. We seek redevelopment that maximizes restoration and reduces coverage such as paved surfaces, especially in Tahoe’s overly urbanized areas. We support cleaning up Tahoe’s old and blighted properties and transferring development into Tahoe’s town centers, near existing infrastructure and transportation hubs.

We oppose any development that spreads urbanization outside of currently existing urban boundaries, degrades scenery, or increases traffic congestion and water or air pollution.

View our recent advocacy work on the implementation of Tahoe's 2012 regional plan and area plans.
What is the League's stance on turning Tahoe into a national park?
The League does not endorse the idea of turning Tahoe into a national park, nor does it believe it is remotely possible. Tahoe contains so much private property that the national park idea was deemed infeasible by the early 1900s. Basic private property rights can coexist with smart development policies that minimize footprints and maximise environmental benefit.
What is the League's view of property rights?

The League has long supported and respected property rights. When we discuss solutions to Tahoe’ environmental challenges, we always take into consideration the constitutionally protected rights of property owners.

Property rights are finite. Like many places throughout the nation, Tahoe’s regulators place certain limits on the amount and type of development each property can support. For instance, Tahoe’s sensitive lands, like wetlands and steep mountain slopes, are limited to development on only one to three percent of the parcel. This provides environmental protections while also enabling property owners to practice their rights. Land conservancies also purchase properties with limited development potential, so that owners can be fairly compensated.
What is the League's stance on population increases in the Basin?
The region may be able to accommodate population increases if there is a plan to protect Lake Tahoe. The lake may be able to sustain a lot of people, just not a lot of high-impact, polluting activities. The League does not believe that increasing population to spur economic growth, in the absence of strong measures to protect Lake Tahoe, is a wise course.
What is the League's stance on public access?
The League supports maximizing and protecting public access for low-impact recreational activities. The League also respects private property rights and has always taken a neutral stance on the public trust easement, which refers to the right of the public to access beaches between the high and low water mark in California.
What is the League's view of motorboats and piers?
The League supports the sustainable recreational use of Lake Tahoe, including boating, and supports new boating facilities, including piers and buoys. However, it is crucial that the lake is protected from degradation, and that any new boat facilities are developed in compliance with a plan to achieve environmental goals.
What is the League doing related to aquatic invasive species in the Tahoe Keys?

Aquatic invasive plants in the lagoons of the Tahoe Keys are growing out of control and are spreading to Lake Tahoe. Unchecked, they threaten to destroy Lake Tahoe’s native ecology, pristine water quality and famous clarity.

The current methods of controlling aquatic invasive species are not adequate to address the size and complexity of the decades-old infestation of aquatic invasive plants in the lagoons of the Tahoe Keys, near Lake Tahoe. New methods need to be tested and a solution found soon.

The League has offered to fund a portion of a scientific test, to be conducted in a small section of the Keys lagoons, to determine what treatments can successfully control the invasive plants in the lagoons before more spread to the Lake.

Read more about this issue.

Questions About Tahoe Policies

Why is fertilizer still allowed at Tahoe?

Nutrients are one of the leading causes of Lake Tahoe’s clarity loss. Lake Tahoe is naturally low in the nutrients needed for abundant aquatic plant life, which is a primary reason for its famous clarity. Humans have introduced the two nutrients that drive growth of the Lake’s nuisance aquatic weeds: nitrogen and phosphorous. Automobiles emit tailpipe emissions that lead to the deposition of nitrogen to the lake from the atmosphere, while fertilizers — used to make it possible for lawns and other non-native vegetation to survive in the Lake Tahoe Basin — are a primary source of excess phosphorous.  

One of the easiest ways to limit the nutrient phosphorus from getting into the Lake is to not apply fertilizers unnecessarily. The League has long pushed to limit fertilizer use. In the early 1990s, the League convinced the TRPA to mandate that major landowners, like golf courses, create management plans to limit fertilizer use. However, it’s clear that much more needs to be done to protect the lake.
Can Lake Tahoe charge a toll to pay for environmental improvement?
The League has long supported the idea of charging a user fee for Tahoe. The TRPA, the only region-wide authority, lacks the ability to tax the public. However, TRPA could create a plan to encourage jurisdictions to charge user fees which could fund environmental improvement projects.
Why are motorboats allowed at Tahoe?

Motor boating has been a recreational activity at Tahoe for many decades, long before it occurred to anybody that it might be detrimental to the lake.

The League supports sustainable motor boating at Tahoe if adequate measures are in place to protect the lake from aquatic invasive species, and air and water quality degradation. Tahoe’s regulators could lead the way to sustainability by requiring cleaner boat engine technology.

What are BMPs and why does everyone talk about them at Tahoe?
BMPs stands for “best management practices.” A term widely used by many industries, in Tahoe they refer to erosion control measures to capture rain and snowmelt so that runoff doesn’t flow off the property, carrying pollution and sediment into Lake Tahoe. BMPs are required on all public and private properties, including roadways. The BMP policy was enacted in 1993, but unfortunately almost 75 percent of properties have not complied with the ordinances. BMPs include a variety of measures. Stormwater retention basins, catchment basins, driveway drains, and planting native plants are just a few. The League is collaborating with several government agencies on ideas to incentivise BMP compliance. Read more about BMPs.
What is the connection between BMPs and redevelopment?
Redevelopment is a practice in which old development is torn down and replaced with newer development, often allowing for pavement reduction, landscape improvement and BMP installation. BMPs (best management practices to capture stormwater runoff) are required on all properties, but almost 75 percent have not complied. However, any new redevelopment will have BMPs installed.
Miscellaneous

What is the TRPA?
The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency is a unique bi-state planning organization that governs environmental regulation and land use at Tahoe. It was created in 1969 to provide uniform planning over Tahoe’s two states, five counties and one city.
What is the TRPA governing board?
The governing board is similar to a planning commission in other jurisdictions. It includes representatives from Nevada and California, and one non-voting presidential appointee. The board must approve all major plans and projects.
What is the Compact?

The Tahoe Regional Planning Compact is an agreement between the states of California and Nevada that provides special environmental protections for Lake Tahoe. It is also created the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency and determines who serves on the board. The Compact is like the Constitution of Tahoe. All plans and projects must be consistent with the Compact.

The Compact also provides an important reminder that the will of the people is to protect Lake Tahoe. Because of its unique mandate by both states and Congress, it reminds us that Lake Tahoe belongs to everyone, not just those who live, own property, or are represented by elected officials at Tahoe. For example, the Compact mandates that at least half of the TRPA governing board members are not local officials, but are appointed from outside the Tahoe Basin, to ensure that the voices of the people of the nation and both states are heard.

Is the League the same as the TRPA?
No. The League is a private nonprofit organization while the TRPA is a public governmental agency. The League led the effort to create the TRPA in 1969 to address the need for regional planning in a region divided between two states and multiple local jurisdictions. The League serves as a watchdog for the Lake to ensure that public agencies such as the TRPA are doing their best to protect Lake Tahoe.
Why were the Tahoe Keys allowed to be developed?
The Tahoe Keys, which were built on 750 acres of prime wetlands in South Lake Tahoe, broke ground in the late 1950s, before the environmental regulations, development restrictions and the League were created. The development was one of the reasons why a group of Tahoe’s citizens became so concerned that they formed the League and began pushing for the creation of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency so that development could be governed uniformly across the two states, five counties and one city.
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