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 Wednesday.
A group — which included officials from both California and Nevada’s state wildlife agencies — met with members of the TRPA committee this 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 trustee Jim Hammerel, asked the TRPA to look at how other mountain communities dealt with their trash problems 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,” said Hammerel, who was not representing IVGID at the meeting, but speaking as a private citizen.
However, 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 so happened to be issued.
Marsha Berkbigler, a TRPA Governing Board member, said there are a lot of factors that need to be considered.
“This is a much bigger problem than just saying, ‘OK. So TRPA, pass a rule,’” she said. “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 to TRPA governors about trash issues Wednesday.
Wasley said about 95 percent of the issues NDOW has with nuisance bears are directly linked to trash and trash management.
TRPA Governing Board chair Shelly Aldean agreed that 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.
Without the TRPA’s intervention, however, the trash issue likely remains in the hands of the many jurisdictions surrounding the lake.