‘Land that last run’: Resiliency takes center stage at virtual Lake Tahoe Summit

“It goes without saying the backdrop of climate change exacerbates all of the challenges that we have to face, but it also goes without saying the spirit that unites us here every year at the summit — the spirit of a bi-state, bi-partisan approach to solving problems — that collaborative spirit is the antidote to any fear or anxiety you may have about our inability to deliver on our promises,” said Gov. Gavin Newsom at this week's Lake Tahoe Summit.
Photo submitted by Tim Mayhew

The 24th annual Lake Tahoe Summit featured speeches from senators, house members, and governors from Nevada and California on several issues the Tahoe Basin faces.

But among the talks most true to this year’s summit theme, Resilient Tahoe, was a presentation by two-time Olympic Gold Medalist David Wise, of Reno, Tuesday’s keynote speaker.

Wise shared his story of resiliency from the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. The halfpipe skier said during his practice runs he’d been locked in, nailing a set of tricks that were more difficult than anyone else’s in the field.

Wise started his first of three runs in solid fashion but had a ski fall off, resulting in a crash. He then switched skis for his second of the best-of-three-run format, but again had a ski fall off, leaving only one last chance to defend his 2014 gold medal.

“… the Lake Tahoe Basin today serves as an example to the nation of how communities can work together to address the environmental challenges we face.”— Kamala HarrisU.S. Senator/Vice Presidential nominee

Wise went on to throw down the run of a lifetime, stomping each trick on the way to his highest score of his career and a second gold medal.

“So my message to you right now, is that we’re kind of on the third of our best-of-three-run format,” said Wise. “Nature is resilient and Tahoe has put up with a lot of the abuse that we’ve put it through … but we also have to put our skis back on and we have to land that last run. We have an opportunity to land that last run, and that’s what we need to do.”

Wise’s sweeping message on protecting Tahoe was driven home by many of the government officials, who talked about the importance of the collaborative effort to safeguard Tahoe.

U.S. Senator and Vice Presidential nominee Kamala Harris, D-Calif., used her video speech to reminisce on fond memories of visiting the lake as a child, and the example set by the Tahoe community toward working to preserve the lake for future generations.

“The reason for our work and dedication to the Lake Tahoe Basin is really quite simple — to ensure future generations that they can also enjoy this most beautiful part of our country. At its core, the Lake Tahoe Basin today serves as an example to the nation of how communities can work together to address the environmental challenges we face in this moment in time,” said Harris.

“There is still so much more to be done including facing a climate crisis that is banging on our doorstep and threatening the future of our nation. Make no mistake, this crisis will test the resilience of Lake Tahoe on everything from invasive species to wildfires. That’s why your efforts to address water security, clean transportation, ecosystem health, and more, is so critical.”

Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., spoke on efforts to create new bike and pedestrian trails, reduce the risk of wildfire, restore streams and watersheds, prevent storm water pollution, and control the spread of invasive species.

“Despite the tremendous success these projects have had in restoring our lake, we now face our biggest test, and guess what it is — climate change,” said Feinstein. “Climate change is already having a profound effect on this lake and it threatens to roll back much of our progress … this is a call to action and we’ve got to respond with urgency and science-based solutions.”

The University of California, Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center recently released its annual State of the Lake report, which showed that despite a cooler year in 2019, the long-term climate trends are increasing the length of the warmer months and impacting clarity.

Sen. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., also spoke on invasive species, and wildfires along with her co-sponsorship of the Stop the Spread of Invasive Mussels Act of 2019 and the Wildfire Defense Act.

“We must do more to protect Nevada and California communities from the threat of costly and deadly wildfires that severely impact the Tahoe Basin,” said Rosen on protecting an economy of $5.1 billion, according to the Tahoe Prosperity Center.

Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., also touched on the issue of wildfires, sending in his taped video from a recently treated area of forest in the basin.

“A resilient Tahoe requires resilient forests, and resilient forests require active scientific forest management,” said McClintock, who compared the effects of a fire like the 2018 Camp Fire, which burned 153,336 acres and killed 85 civilians, with the Tahoe Basin.

“A similar fire here would mean the utter destruction of Tahoe’s communities,” added McClintock. “Our neglected forests are no different than those that surrounded the Town of Paradise that day.”

Currently, Tahoe’s West Shore has ongoing and proposed actions to restore forests and watersheds across 59,000 acres. For more information on the Lake Tahoe West Restoration Partnership, visit

Governors weigh in

California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak also sent in videos for this year’s Lake Tahoe Summit.

Sisolak praised the efforts of the Tahoe Fund, which celebrated its 10th anniversary of funding environmental projects around the basin this year. Sisolak also spoke on projects at Spooner Lake, which include an amphitheater and redesign of facilities, along with stream restoration projects at Rosewood Creek, Incline Creek, and Third Creek, which were all completed since the last Lake Tahoe Summit.

“Nevada remains committed to protecting and enhancing Lake Tahoe, and working hand in hand with our federal, state, local, and private partners to achieve our mutual goals throughout the basin. The secret to success in Lake Tahoe is collaboration, said Sisolak.

“While it is important to celebrate our successes, it is even more important to have an eye to the future and to remain focused on future needs to protect this iconic lake.”

Sisolak concluded his time by stating that transportation issues and emissions are among the greatest threats facing the lake.

“It’s a critical issue facing the Tahoe Basin,” he said. “(Emissions) represent the nexus to nearly every environmental and economic challenge within the Lake Tahoe Basin. While visitation to Lake Tahoe supports a multi-billion dollar tourist economy, the increased number of visitors heading to Tahoe is causing more congestion and more parking shortages that impact the region’s environment, it’s quality of life, and visitor experience. It is essential we create new options for visiting Lake Tahoe that allow you to leave your personal vehicle at home.”

On Monday, the Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County announced plans for a future regional service between the Reno/Sparks area and Incline Village and Sand Harbor in Lake Tahoe through a collaborative partnership. Project development is underway in partnership with the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, Tahoe Truckee Area Regional Transit, and the Tahoe Transportation District. Plans are for the service to be available during the summer months of 2021.

In a brief statement, California Gov. Newsom spoke on the importance of collaboration and the opportunity to protect the Tahoe Basin.

“It goes without saying the backdrop of climate change exacerbates all of the challenges that we have to face, but it also goes without saying the spirit that unites us here every year at the summit — the spirit of a bi-state, bi-partisan approach to solving problems — that collaborative spirit is the antidote to any fear or anxiety you may have about our inability to deliver on our promises,” said Newsom. “We have agency. We can protect this basin and this lake for generations to come. It’s decisions, not conditions that will determine that fate and our collective future.”

Experts offer insight on litter

During the outbreak of COVID-19, many have sought refuge in the outdoors.

The uptick in visitors and subsequent litter left behind, however, has prompted protests across the basin and in Truckee from locals.

“In light of the global pandemic, the outdoors have become an oasis for many and brought tremendous numbers of new visitors to our national forests, especially in the basin,” said Randy Moore, Pacific Southwest regional forester for the U.S. Forest Service. “Everyone has a role to play in the resilience of the ecosystem that they live in and visit. My hope is that with each trip you make to your national forest it is with wonder and admiration, accepting the social responsibility to pack out the trash that you bring with you, and to share in the stewardship of your public lands.”

Dr. Monica Arienzo, assistant research professor of hydrology at the Desert Research Institute, closed out this year’s Lake Tahoe Summit by speaking on research done regarding microplastics in Lake Tahoe.

Arienzo and her team have already found plastic in the stomachs of fish that live in the Las Vegas Wash, which flows into Lake Mead in Southern Nevada. In the Tahoe Basin, the team has been looking at microplastics from the snow, down to streams, to the surface waters of Lake Tahoe. Arienzo has also made use of citizen scientists in the basin to collect samples from stormwater pipes that drain into the lake. She added that health effects from microplastics in animals and in the water supply for people are still poorly understood.

“We’re hoping is that our science can help inform policy makers, help inform water managers, and help inform local community members,” she said.

Consistent efforts to remove trash are made by groups like the Tahoe Blue Crew, and Clean Up the Lake, which host cleanups throughout the year, resulting in thousands of pounds of litter being removed from Tahoe’s beaches, forests, and waters. The most common item found during these cleanups, according to the League to Save Lake Tahoe, is cigarette butts.

“The work we’ve seen from the League to Save Lake Tahoe and Clean Up the Lake demonstrates how there is still a lot of trash being left on our beaches and in our lake,” said Arienzo. “That’s the first thing I’d say is don’t litter, especially cigarette butts. Those are the big ones. Cigarette butts very quickly degrade and they can form microplastics very quickly.”

Arienzo also recommended carpooling, limiting the washing of clothes, and hang drying laundry when possible in order reduce microfibers from eventually entering Lake Tahoe.

Other speakers from this year’s event, hosted by U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., included Rep. John Garamendi, D-Calif., and Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev.

For full video of this year’s Lake Tahoe Summit, visit the Tahoe Fund’s Facebook page at

Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. Contact him at or 530-550-2643.

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