Lake Tahoes health and beauty remain bipartisan cause | SierraSun.com

Lake Tahoes health and beauty remain bipartisan cause

Patrick McCartney

If partisan politics in the United States seems more polarized than ever, you wouldnt have known it by the display of political amity on a bright, breezy Tahoe Friday afternoon. Gathering on the lawn of Sierra Nevada Colleges new campus, President Bill Clinton led a delegation of Nevada, California and federal officials in an exercise of political protocol observing the 10th anniversary of the Lake Tahoe Presidential Forum.Few places in the United States enjoy the kind of bipartisan support that Lake Tahoe continues to attract.The 1997 event was preceded by months of Cabinet-level meetings that scooped up the views of Basin residents and agency professionals about Tahoes endangered environment. After Vice President Al Gore and President Clinton presided over two days of forums, state lawmakers joined the administration in backing a $1.2 billion Environmental Improvement Plan.It was a clarion call to action, said Fridays master of ceremonies, former U.S. Sen. Richard Bryan of Nevada.On Friday, three U.S. senators (Majority Leader Harry Reid and Republican John Ensign of Nevada, Dianne Feinstein of California), Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons, California Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne and Undersecretary of Agriculture Mark E. Rey in their remarks recounted the legislation, projects and studies that followed the presidential focus on Lake Tahoe.All pledged to support continuing efforts to restore the health of the Basins forests and the clarity of the lakes water. Let us redouble our efforts to make sure this treasure in the Sierra is preserved for generations to come, Ensign said.Kempthorne announced $45 million in immediate federal grants to help reduce the risk of fire in the basin and restore the area ravaged by this summers Angora Fire.The offers of support continue decades of cooperation by public officials over Lake Tahoe, since the U.S. Congress and governors of Nevada and California agreed that they had to overcome political differences and jurisdictions to preserve and protect the national treasure.But for all the evident goodwill, perhaps the best measure of Lake Tahoes special place in the political world could be measured Friday by the absence of two high-profile politicians who were absent U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton, a presidential candidate, and former Vice President Al Gore, who while not a candidate has been urged to enter the race by some Democratic party activists.For months, insiders expected Gore to attend the 10th anniversary of the Tahoe environmental summit. And Hillary Clinton was a mere 30 miles away from Incline Village Friday, attending a campaign fundraiser in Reno.But Sen. Reid, the host of Fridays event, did not want the attention on Lake Tahoe to be overshadowed by the hoopla surrounding a presidential campaign, said one agency official familiar with the forums planning.That left Bill Clinton in his remarks Friday to make the only reference to the former First Ladys absence.Lamenting that he no longer had the authority to personally order help for Lake Tahoe, Clinton joked: However, I know someone who can.Judging from the bipartisan support for Lake Tahoe voiced on Friday, though, Hillary Clinton would be joining a long line.Patrick McCartney is the Sierra Sun city editor. Reach him at pmccartney@sierrasun.com.