No Time to Rest on Past Success: The 17th Annual Lake Tahoe Summit

The opportunity is clear: One day, regions around the world should look to Lake Tahoe as a shining example of an environmental success story.  

That’s certainly the hope for Lake Tahoe, particularly among those speaking at the 17th Annual Lake Tahoe Summit this past Monday. It was a distinguished group: from the world of politics we saw Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (who hosted the Summit), Senator Diane Feinstein, Governors Jerry Brown and Brian Sandoval, and former Vice President Al Gore.  Local speakers included Tim Carlson – Presidential Appointee of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, Art Chapman of the Tahoe Fund, and Sierra Business Council’s Founder Lucy Blake.LakeTahoeSummit LucyBlake 250x300 2013 08

These elected officials and local stakeholders presented encouraging evidence, such as 11ft of increased clarity in Lake Tahoe since the first Summit in 1997, that the efforts and regulations put forth to both preserve and restore the lake are working.  This impressive progress has been hard won, with $1.6 billion spent over the last ten years.  

The work, however, is far from over.  The senators are preparing to present the latest version of the Lake Tahoe Restoration Act, a bill that would allow $415 million to be spent over the next ten years on preserving Lake Tahoe, preparing it for the effects of climate change and increased development, and repairing damage from the past (for instance, finding ways to restore biodiversity at the lake’s bottom). 

Senator Feinstein said of the bill, “Even in times of fiscal austerity, we cannot ignore the natural wonders that define our country. Lake Tahoe continues to suffer from pollution and sedimentation that reduces the lake’s remarkable water clarity; the potential for devastating wildfires remains high; and a variety of invasive species threaten to devastate the region’s economy.”  

SBC’s efforts fall within the same lines of belief.  We can’t ignore either the ecosystem services — such as carbon sequestration, nutrient cycling and even general recreation — nor the economic lift that the natural wonders of the Sierra provide our communities.  The efforts to restore Lake Tahoe are encouraging so far, but the job is certainly not complete: If we want the Lake Tahoe region to continue to serve as an inspirational example of bipartisan cooperation resulting in impactful solutions to the threats of climate change, then we need to continue to support the efforts of organizations working hard to ensure its health. 

Thus we’ll support the Lake Tahoe Restoration Act and hope that one day we may find ourselves looking out over Lake Tahoe and thinking of the many natural wonders that came to be restored and protected because the stewards of Lake Tahoe had the courage and vision to say “We’re not quite done yet”.