Climate profile: Julie Regan
Welcome to the Climate Profile, a feature brought to you by the North Tahoe chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby https://citizensclimatelobby.org/, which explores the stories of local citizens and how climate change has affected their lives.
For this month’s Climate Profile, I was delighted to chat with Julie Regan of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency. After nearly twenty years as an executive at the agency, Julie was selected from a national search to become the new executive director three months ago. I certainly see why. Until now I don’t think I’ve met anyone who can talk as fast or as much as I do (we’re both East coasters!). And I have rarely met someone so dynamic and energetic, a woman whose passion for the land and preservation of Lake Tahoe is unparalleled. I imagine those who know her well and are reading this are smiling or chuckling in agreement. I love Julie’s story of her migration out west. Julie and her husband, Kevin “Reds” Regan, eloped from Bridgeville Delaware and were married on Valentine’s Day 1993 on Lake Tahoe’s Regan Beach (FUN FACT, but merely a coincidence). I imagine Julie fell in love twice that day: not only with her husband, but with the magnificent lake she would later serve and protect.
And I was thrilled to learn more about Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA), one of the most effective and far-reaching organizations in lake and land preservation. Julie told me, “I’m so honored to be here, in charge of this organization that will continue to preserve the lake for our future generations.”
The TRPA is unique and impactful. It is the first Bi-State (Nevada and California) Compact agency in the nation dedicated to regional environmental planning and natural resource protection. (An interstate compact is a pact or agreement between two or more states). Established in 1969, TRPA coordinates with over ten federal and state agencies, the largest being the US Forest Service. Others include the CA State parks, the League to Save Tahoe, the Tahoe Fund, the Tahoe Transportation District and local governments. This duty to collaborate with others is a great opportunity and responsibility. In Julie’s candid words, it’s “collaboration on steroids…”
TRPA oversees a myriad of programs ranging from transportation in Tahoe, managing bike trails and boat inspection on Lake Tahoe, to name only a few. One of its largest programs Julie told me about is the Lake Tahoe Environment Improvement Program (EIP). One can visit LakeTahoeinfo.org https://www.laketahoeinfo.org/ and click on EIP Project tracker to marvel at the scope and magnitude of this program’s accomplishments. For over twenty-five years, TRPA has coordinated with over 80 federal, state, local, tribal and non-profit organizations to complete 795 projects in improving water quality, promoting sustainable recreation and transportation, and forest health. Over 2.8 billion dollars have been invested and the program adds an estimated 1700 jobs per year to the local economy; jobs from environmental engineers and construction workers to the person in retail selling souvenirs or making sandwiches.
Every August, TRPA is a key organizer of the Lake Tahoe Summit which brings legislative leaders together to improve the environment of the Tahoe Basin. Julie reminded me of the first summit in 1997, attended by President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore, and the 2016 summit attended by President Barack Obama honoring the retirement of the late Harry Reid, Senator of Nevada. It was Reid who invited Clinton and Gore in 1997 and the summit has gone a long way in improving Lake Tahoe’s clarity.
Julie expanded on the idea of preserving the lake’s clarity. TRPA works with the Tahoe Resource Conservation District in managing one of the most protective boat inspection programs in the country. Thanks to this partnership, there have been no new invasive species detected in Lake Tahoe in the program’s history. Invasive species such as Quagga and Zebra mussels present in large lakes such as Lake Meade are not found in Tahoe. Julie is extremely proud of this accomplishment, and the program is supported by our local boating community.
Nearing the end of this incredibly rich conversation that my challenge was to condense into a single article, I asked Julie for a few take home messages for our readers on how to help improve the environment and mitigate climate change. She immediately suggested a few impactful yet simple measures. Drive less and consolidate errands (imagine the roads as conveyer belts to deposit sediment into our rivers and lakes) and take micro transit if possible. There are two new, free programs: Lake Link (South shore) and Tart Connect (North Shore). Even better, walk or ride your bike if possible. TRPA works on funding trails. Be aware of our beautiful surroundings and treat the land with care. “Pack in, pack out and leave no trace,” an adage Julie repeated. She reminded me, “When you see trash, pick it up—it all adds up and each person can take a few small actions…” Furthermore, she suggested to be smart about landscaping and water use around your home, use native or adaptive species and if possible, replace wood shake roofs with less flammable materials. Respect our wildlife, we’re in their home after all, and pack your trash in bear proof containers.
I am so fortunate that Julie Regan took the time to talk to me on such a variety of environmental topics. This summer, my Spaniel, Domino, and I look forward to hiking the trails that TRPA helps to preserve. I’ll be sure to look for Julie, their new whirlwind of a director, as she enjoys the trails with her Great Pyrenees, Captain Rainbow and her Jack Russell, Kelpie. In Julie’s words, please remember the ethos: “The environment is in all of us and life is sustained by it…”
Celeste Leon is an author, physical therapist, and the media coordinator of the North Tahoe Chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby. When she’s not skiing, hiking or biking on the trails of Tahoe, she enjoys good food and wine with friends and family.
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