TRPA asked to look into Tahoe’s bear issues | SierraSun.com

TRPA asked to look into Tahoe’s bear issues

Griffin Rogers
griffin@tahoedailytribune.com
A bear and cub are caught rummaging through a trash bin in Lake Tahoe's north shore.
Provided courtesy of BEAR League |

It’s no secret: Tahoe bears love trash.

The cunning animals have a reputation in the Lake Tahoe Basin of sniffing out and procuring the most protected of human disposables. They are known to raid trash bins frequently, often spilling hazardous material all over the ground.

So why is this happening? Some local and wildlife experts say it’s partly because of a major basin-wide trash problem — one that needs a basin-wide solution.

“A coordinated approach across the basin is necessary to address the human trash problem, which has caused the unwanted and frequent presence of bears in urbanized areas seeking easily accessible food,” said Carson City resident Fred Voltz, who spoke in front of a Tahoe Regional Planning Agency committee last Wednesday.

A group — which included officials from California’s and Nevada’s state wildlife agencies — met with members of the TRPA committee last week to talk about the region’s growing trash problem.

Some asked the agency to issue an ordinance mandating bear-proof trash bins throughout the basin.

Others, such as Incline Village General Improvement District board trustee Jim Hammerel, asked TRPA to look at how other mountain communities deal with trash and urged the agency to step in locally.

“I think that although the TRPA is worried about wildfire ash and quagga mussels and things that we measure in millimeters, the TRPA, in my mind, has turned a blind eye to some of the larger trash and litter across our environment,” Hammerel said.

Hammerel has been the most vocal IVGID trustee in pushing for the board to adopt a mandatory wildlife-proof trash law for Incline Village/Crystal Bay’s roughly 300 commercial and 8,000 residential properties.

The board voted in March to delay a vote on the move, which would increase monthly trash rates for most commercial properties by $19.67, while resident rates for most would go up about 30 percent.

The district’s new general manager, Steve Pinkerton, has since chosen to put the issue on the backburner for more research.

Last week, TRPA governors said the issue does not have a simple solution. One concern is whether the agency has enough resources to enforce an ordinance if one is issued.

“This is a much bigger problem than just saying, ‘OK. So TRPA, pass a rule,’” said Marsha Berkbigler, a TRPA Governing Board member and Incline Village’s representative on the Washoe County Commission. “I think this has to be looked at from a lot of different aspects and a lot of different communities.”

Nevada Department of Wildlife Director Tony Wasley, Nevada Wildlife Commissioner David McNinch, California Department of Fish and Wildlife scientist Canh Nguyen, IVGID Resource Conservationist Madonna Dunbar and BEAR League Founder Ann Bryant were also among those who spoke last Wednesday.

Wasley said about 95 percent of the issues NDOW has with nuisance bears are directly linked to trash and its management.

TRPA Governing Board chair Shelly Aldean agreed the issue does need to be looked at more closely and said “she wouldn’t be adverse” to putting together a work group on the matter.

Sierra Sun Editor Kevin MacMillan contributed to this report.