Opinion Pieces

Taking action for Lake Tahoe

Darcie Goodman Collins, Ph.D., is CEO of the League to Save Lake Tahoe
December 13, 2020

Tahoe never ceases to amaze me. From my earliest memories water skiing on a mirror-like morning lake to this December’s breathtaking sunsets, this place continues to impress.

After being born and raised in South Lake, then venturing outside the basin for my early career, the lake called me back in 2012. I returned to take a position as the CEO of the League to Save Lake Tahoe, an organization where I interned in high school (with embarrassing 90s photographs to prove it).

It wasn’t just the job or the basin’s natural beauty that brought me home; it’s this community. It’s the people that make Tahoe a truly special place. A place that always draws you back. A place worth working for.

This year, this community showed its #TahoeBlueGooder spirit by stepping up to protect Lake Tahoe in the face of unexpected adversity. From the firefighters and nurses to the hospitality workers, public agencies, and volunteers, so many took action to Keep Tahoe Blue. We created a video to show our gratitude to Tahoe’s frontline workers: keeptahoeblue.org/frontline. For your passion, your work, and your commitment to this place we call home, thank you.

My team and I saw that commitment firsthand. When stay-at-home orders canceled Keep Tahoe Blue cleanup events and citizen science programs, our volunteers didn’t just shrug and add another series to their Netflix queues. They reached out to us for suggestions, signed up for online training, and formed their own Tahoe Blue Crews by the dozens.

Tahoe Blue Crew was the League’s answer to pandemic isolation. Crew members receive training from our staff, adopt an area in or around the basin, and organize regular cleanups to remove litter, graffiti, and other pollution from Tahoe’s environment. The program’s self-paced nature and outdoor setting made for safe, physically distanced, and effective activities.

Through a partnership with the U.S. Forest Service, our crews cared for some of the most popular sites around the Basin. We’re finalizing partnerships with California State Parks and Heavenly Mountain Resort, so our crews can adopt even more forests, streams, and beaches.

In 2020, the total number of Blue Crews exploded from 18 to 90. They conducted 413 individual cleanups and removed 5,681 pounds of trash from Tahoe’s environment. Notably, more than 25% of crews are from outside the basin.

We’ve all been frustrated by instances of irresponsible visitor behavior. Yet, this group proves that everyone can be part of the solution. It’s our goal that more people who enjoy Tahoe will adopt an ethic of environmental stewardship and protect the Lake while they play. The League will continue to provide fun and accessible ways for everyone to get involved.

Blue Crew is just one positive example of people taking action for Tahoe. Clean Up the Lake and Below the Blue are removing pollution beneath the lake’s waterline, while the Clean Tahoe Program picks up messes across the East and South shores.

The Tahoe Resource Conservation District, California Tahoe Conservancy, and Tahoe Regional Planning Agency are advancing important ecosystem restoration work to revitalize the Basin’s wetlands, marshes, and meadows. These stories are a bright spot in an otherwise odd and sometimes overwhelming year.

One way or another, Lake Tahoe is why we’re all here. Whether you were born here, moved up for a ski season decades ago and never left, or just arrived, it’s up to us to protect and preserve this special place. Once again, thank you for all you do to Keep Tahoe Blue.

Darcie Goodman Collins, Ph.D., is CEO of the League to Save Lake Tahoe.

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