Tahoe Yellow Cress surveys underway in the Lake Tahoe Basin
LAKE TAHOE, Calif./Nev. – In early September, the Tahoe Yellow Cress Adaptive Management Working Group began their annual lake-wide monitoring surveys of Tahoe Yellow Cress in the Lake Tahoe Basin. These surveys will continue throughout September across numerous land ownerships, and on every beach where this rare plant is known to occur. The success of the monitoring program depends on a partnership between California Department of Fish and Wildlife, California State Parks, California Tahoe Conservancy, Nevada Division of Natural Heritage, Tahoe Lakefront Owners Association, Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, USDA Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California and private landowners.
“Protecting rare plant species like the Tahoe Yellow Cress requires effective collaboration by Tahoe partners,” said Jason Vasques, executive director for the California Tahoe Conservancy. “Only by working together have we been able to bring this special part of the lakeshore ecosystem back from the brink of being lost forever.”
The Lake Tahoe Basin is a remarkable ecosystem where unique vegetation, such as TYC, can be found. TYC (Rorippa subumbellata) is a small native plant that grows on the shoreline of Lake Tahoe and nowhere else in the world! It belongs to the mustard family and is exclusive to the sandy shores of Lake Tahoe and along creeks and streams that flow into the lake. TYC grows low to the ground and has pinnate leaves and small yellow flowers.
Two decades ago, this distinct species was in danger of extinction. TYC had vanished from beaches in Nevada and could only be found at a few sites on the California side of the lake. Because of this critical situation, TYC was listed as endangered by the State of California and critically endangered in the State of Nevada. In 1999, TYC was identified as a candidate for federal listing under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
Over the years, TYC numbers have increased thanks to the collaborative effort of numerous partners and implementation of the TYC Conservation Strategy. Since 2002, this strategy helped identify and reduce threats to TYC through scientific research, community outreach, and protective measures.
In October 2015, the USFWS removed TYC as a candidate for federal listing under the ESA, referencing the success of the TYC Conservation Strategy and the long-term, proactive, conservation demonstrated by the partners to significantly reduce threats to TYC.
While the recovery of TYC is promising, the factors leading to the near extinction of TYC still exist today, emphasizing a continued need for monitoring and protection. Current threats include high water levels, lake-front development, and heavy public beach use.
Next time you are on the shores of Lake Tahoe, you may notice fences surrounding some areas of sandy beach. These areas are prime TYC habitat, and the fences help protect these delicate plants from being trampled. By staying out of these enclosures, avoiding vegetated areas on beaches especially near the mouths of streams and creeks, maintaining control of pets and launching and beaching watercraft away from TYC, beachgoers can help ensure its survival.
The recovery of TYC was made possible by cooperation between land management agencies, conservation groups, private landowners, and the public. If we all continue to work together to protect this unique Tahoe species, TYC will thrive and be present at Lake Tahoe for future generations to enjoy.
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