Pine Nuts: ‘Saving Lake Tahoe’ a must-read |

Pine Nuts: ‘Saving Lake Tahoe’ a must-read

McAvoy Layne

Michael Makley is Nevada’s most prodigious author. Following preeminent biographies of John Mackay & William Sharon, Makley collaborated with his son, Matthew, on a history of Cave Rock.

Last year he gave us “A Short History of Lake Tahoe,”and now, just out, an environmental history, “Saving Lake Tahoe,” all published by University of Nevada Press.

“Saving Lake Tahoe” should be required reading for Tahoe secondary students and everybody who loves the lake. I am confident it will be read a hundred years from now, and Mike Makley will be sitting up there alongside Mark Twain (please hold your applause) in the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame.

The book argues that the lake’s heritage must take precedence over the unrestricted use of private and commercial properties, and reviews groundbreaking efforts to utilize science in establishing policies of governance.

The book takes us outside the basin with a backdrop of prevailing attitudes from an earlier age. In 1909, newly appointed Secretary of the Interior, Richard Ballinger, scolded conservationists: “You are hindering the development of the West. In my opinion, the proper course is to divide it up among the big corporations and let the people who know how to make money out of it get the benefits of the circulation of money.”

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There are still some Ballinger types with us today. One man’s Walden Pond is another man’s Coney Island.

Makley’s style is first-rate and compact:“Nevada is an arid state whose precipitation comes largely in episodes.”

And his penetrating research uncovers some priceless quotes. Paul Laxalt said of his good friend Ronald Reagan: “When it came to what to do with the degradation of Lake Tahoe he was just lost.”

Then there is this poignant observation from Bob Kingman of the Nevada Sierra Conservancy: “It is encouraging, seeing the transition to a more sustainable resource-based economy, one that recognizes that the health of the environment is critical to the health of the community —that the two are inextricably joined.”

Along with a scintillating history of the TRPA, Makley brings us up to date with the League to Save Lake Tahoe’s drive to ensure that science gets translated into policy, policy that will keep Tahoe blue.

I must confess I’m a little jealous of Makley. My small claim to fame here at the lake came in saving a dozen people as a lifeguard back in the summer of ‘61, all of them saved when I stopped them from going into the water.

Makley is a founder of the Never-Sweats, a society of Nevada literary swells that gathers once a month to talk about other people.

Next month’s meeting is at Bill Bliss’ place in Glenbrook, and when Makley is in attendance Bill counts the spoons when we leave.

Other than smooching spoons, Makley has no other flaws to his otherwise sterling character that I know of, and I highly recommend reading his exemplary environmental history, “Saving Lake Tahoe.”

Learn more about McAvoy Layne at


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