Making progress toward a healthy lake

Dec 18, 2010:
By Rochelle Nason
Tahoe Daily Tribune
Dec 18, 2010

We are nearing the end another year of strong efforts by many agencies and groups to protect and restore Tahoe’s unique environment.

Our community continues to make progress on several fronts, including preventing wildfire and invasive species, restoring meadows and trails, enhancing low-impact recreation opportunities, creating ideas for a sustainable environment and economy, and working toward a comprehensive, long-term plan for Tahoe’s future.

First, the boat inspectors and staff at the Tahoe Resource Conservation District deserve immense praise for their diligent efforts to protect Tahoe from the threat of new invasive species. This summer, Tahoe RCD inspected 8,000 boats and decontaminated 1,200, including 11 that contained invasive mussels or New Zealand mudsnails. The League to Save Lake Tahoe, in partnership with the Tahoe Lakefront Homeowners Association, has provided funding for this program.

In 2010, we also saw the first enforcement action against a boater trying to evade inspections. The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency delivered a strong message that inspection evasion will not be tolerated.

In addition, property owners continued efforts to implement defensible space, which protects both our forests and our lake. More than 1,900 properties have completed defensible space since 2008, according to the Nevada Fire Safe Council. The League has urged its members to conduct defensible space since at least the early 1990s.

On another front, the U.S. Forest Service, which manages 85 percent of land in the Tahoe Basin, continued restoring heavily used trails to protect streams and meadows, and enhance low-impact recreation opportunities like hiking and mountain biking. The Forest Service also started a two-year project to restore 80 acres of High Meadow. The project received funding from the Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act, a piece of legislation that passed in 2004 after many years of League effort. The League has been a longtime member of the Federal Advisory Committee, which oversees the activities of Forest Service in Tahoe.
This year also marked the 13th year of the Environmental Improvement Program, a massive effort to fix past development mistakes that threaten Tahoe’s clarity. Near Tahoe City this summer, crews began an EIP project to restore 35 acres of meadow that were filled in decades ago for a condominium development that never materialized.

The League, in partnership with the TRPA and the business community, helped create the EIP in the 1990s. The League paid for the lobbying effort to identify and secure funding for the EIP and assembled a broad range of interests to support that effort. To date, the program has brought over $1.5 billion for restoration at Tahoe.

This year, we saw the release of the Tahoe Prosperity Plan, which embraces concepts the League has supported since its inception over 53 years ago. We have long believed the region holds great potential as an ecotourism destination for low-impact recreation.

Finally, the League has been working hard on evaluating several policy issues. The work of our program staff and volunteers requires scientific and policy expertise, as well as an excellent grasp of TRPA regulations. The League devotes countless hours researching plans and convincing policy makers to do the right thing before a vote is ever cast. This often involves reading hundreds of pages of environmental documents, and many hours of meetings with decision makers.

Over the past few decades, these efforts have produced numerous successes. For instance, the League led the effort to establish urban boundaries for Lake Tahoe Basin communities in 1993. We led the effort to ban two-stroke engines on Lake Tahoe in 1999.  We led the effort to ban grazing in Meiss Meadows in 2002. We issued the“wake-up call” to begin the fight against invasive species and in 2008, the boat inspection program was approved.

For these same reasons, our staff has worked closely with TRPA staff to refine a regional plan alternative that places environmental protection as paramount at Lake Tahoe. The League has also been coordinating efforts to seek improvements on the Boulder Bay and Homewood development projects.

Also, in an effort to increase our transparency in the community, we have launched a new website. Of all the things we do, our comments to public agencies tell the most about the League’s work. Read these comments by visiting “Current Priorities” at

Finally, the past year has been one of healthy debate, which is an important part of any democratic society. For the year ahead, we encourage everyone to stay informed and engage in the issues.

- Rochelle Nason is executive director of the League to Save Lake Tahoe, Tahoe’s oldest and largest environmental advocacy group. Nason is a recipient of the California governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award, and the Outstanding Environmental Achievement Award of the U.S. EPA’s Region 9. Contact the League at

This column first appeared in the Tahoe Daily Tribune.
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