It was nearly 60 years ago when Bill Evers was having dinner with his friend Jim McClatchy and they began discussing the worrying development trends at Lake Tahoe. Both had grown up spending their summers on Lake Tahoe’s West Shore.
“Things are not going well. The lake’s going to get polluted and there’s going to be unbridled development,” Evers recalled thinking. The Tahoe Keys had broken ground, and was already recognized as a disaster for the lake.
That evening, he and McClatchy decided there had to be an association to represent those who loved Tahoe, had property at the Lake, but didn’t have a vote relative to matters affecting the Lake. The thrust of the thinking was the need to protect the unique environment of the Lake Tahoe Basin.
That dinner 60 years ago took place in Washington, D.C., where Evers was living with his wife and young son for a year while working for the Securities and Exchange Commission. This was just three years after his graduation from the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law.
As Jim remained in Washington and Evers returned to California, Evers founded a nonprofit California corporation with “the awkward name Jim and I had concocted: the Tahoe Conservation and Improvement Association, fondly referred to as TICA,” Evers said.
That was 1957. For five years, he and others worked tirelessly to build TICA, which helped to successfully block the planned highway and bridge across the entrance to Emerald Bay, for which some rights of way were already being acquired. Evers also worked closely as a board member and Vice Chair of the Lake Tahoe Area Council, which was well organized, well financed and was centered on creating a bistate agency and a Lake-wide sewer system.
After five intense years, a group of Tahoe summer homeowners, including among others, Jim Crafts, Lee Emmerson and Al Heiner, offered to take over TICA. “I was elated to pass on to these able men the burden. As proof of their ability, they came up with a new name for the corporation, the ‘League to Save Lake Tahoe’ and also brilliantly, the slogan ‘Keep Tahoe Blue.’ And even more brilliantly, they gave a party at Trader Vic’s to get the ladies involved and to raise funds.” The name changed in 1965; the slogan in 1969.
Knowing he’d left the League in good hands, Evers moved on. He eventually sold his family home at Tahoe to Senator Dianne Feinstein, for whom he had chaired the Economic Development Council when she was mayor of San Francisco.
He went on to create and contribute to many great environmental causes, including founding the Planning and Conservation League, which serves as the lobbying arm of the environmental movement in Sacramento. PCL is responsible for creating the California Environmental Quality Act, the strongest environmental law in the nation. Evers also served as the managing partner of Pettit, Evers & Martin for 12 years as it grew from seven attorneys to 70. He cofounded Alpine Meadows and Boreal Ridge ski resorts. He is a former chairman of the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission. He also served as president of SPUR, chair of the Yosemite National Institutes (now known as “Nature Bridge”) and on the national board of the Wilderness Society. Now 87, he has no plans to retire: He is the general council of a healthcare company.
Evers recently renewed his involvement with Tahoe issues, particularly the threat of invasive species, and maintains a conviction that the Lake still needs a strong watchdog. He is involved in an effort to bolster the League’s “Keep Tahoe Blue Endowment” in order to keep the organization strong for another 60 years and beyond. He encourages members to include the League in their wills.
“Life is such a joy, people just don’t want to think they won’t be around someday,” Evers said. “I’ve got news for you: The Lake is going to be there. Tahoe is not going away. It needs care, or our kids, our grandkids and our great grandkids, will not experience what we have today. It needs tender loving care if it’s going to be in the future what you enjoy in the present.”