Creating an exchange between Tahoe and Siberia |

Creating an exchange between Tahoe and Siberia

The chair lift Siberia, in Tahoe’s Squaw Valley, mechanically rolls skiers off its four-person airborne bench onto a snowy ridge that to the east overlooks the clear blue waters of 22-mile-long Lake Tahoe. The Russian Siberia, houses a body of water called Baikal, older than any other water mass on the planet and spanning almost 20,000 square miles.Lake Baikal and Lake Tahoe. Two prized, natural gems of the world that share conservationists’ and scientists’ efforts to preserve their watersheds. The Tahoe Baikal Institute, a partnership between Russia and the U.S., was conceived in 1988 and began in 1990. The institute achieves its goal of protecting Lake Tahoe and Lake Baikal through environmental education programs and research with frequent student and scholar exchanges.

Baikal in the Siberia region of Russia, north of the Mongolian border, is a 20 million-year-old body of fresh water. It is home to the only fresh water seal, the Nerpa, and holds one-fifth of the world’s fresh water. And though it is more than a mile deep, it freezes several feet deep for many winter months.The Tahoe Baikal Institute is a nonprofit that hosts a 10-week summer environmental exchange for undergraduates, graduate students and professionals, with five weeks at Lake Baikal and five weeks at Lake Tahoe. The three facets of the summer program consist of watershed management, sustainable economic development and cultural exchange.Deputy Executive Director of the Tahoe Baikal Institute Rachel Sigman participated in the exchange program in 2001 and came back to work at the institute.

“A number of alumni come back to Tahoe and work for the [Tahoe Regional Planning Agency] and Tahoe Conservancy,” Sigman said. “People who remain engaged, [they’re] tied to a larger interest to Tahoe and Baikal in the field of watershed protection.”In addition to protection for Tahoe and Baikal, the institute focuses on methods of sustainable development, with ecotourism at pole position. The Tahoe Rim Trail, which winds around the Tahoe Basin, was an inspiration for the Baikal region. Though a Russian citizen had the idea for a circumnavigating hiking trail around the Siberian lake nearly 30 years ago, only in the past few years has the idea been taken seriously.

This collaboration and positive exchange between nations is the Tahoe Baikal Institute’s goal alongside their aim of environmental and economic resource preservation in the Tahoe and Baikal lake regions.The Tahoe Baikal Institute is an organization participating in the Truckee Tahoe Community Foundation’s Gifts for Good program. Look in your local paper for a cut-out to mail in with your donation to P.O. Box 366, Truckee, CA 96160. Also, you can visit local businesses and pick up an envelope to include a contribution or phone it in to the foundation at 587-1776.

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