Al Gore said it best at the Tahoe Summit on Monday by characterizing the process of environmental protection in the basin as one without partisanship and ideology. The December 2012 adoption of the updated regional plan was evidence of an exhaustive seven-year process undertaken by the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency to ensure that all stakeholders had an opportunity to engage in the process. Literally thousands of citizens representing all walks of life, business, recreation, preservation and more participated. This transparent and collaborative process was further enhanced through the work of a bi-state committee guided by representatives from Nevada and California. It would be difficult to identify a more thorough and exhaustive process than that which was undertaken. As with any successful collaborative process, there were perceived wins and losses from various perspectives. True leaders and organizations of vision are respectful of the collaborative process, and vow to move forward in the same spirit towards implementation. Tahoe Chamber Board and Government Affairs Committee members engaged in the process and are supportive of plan implementation.
A methodology shift contained within the new plan is adaptive management. We supported this concept believing that science continuously informs and monitors and we should adjust practices that best protect our natural resources and the lake. Owners of business of all sizes are all too cognizant of the importance of the lake, and hence the interrelationship between the economy, environment and our communities.
For the aforementioned reasons, we agree with Governor Brown and Senator Reid’s recent comments in support of this new direction for Lake Tahoe. The Sierra Club’s lawsuit on the plan is based upon their dissatisfaction with the compromises. They represent small fringe group, many from out of the area — as opposed to the other 55,000 residents who understand their shared responsibility to protect one of America’s most treasured, clear and pure lakes for future generations.
Language contained in recent Nevada law and a corresponding bill in the California Legislature dealing with TRPA advances two concepts that the Tahoe Chamber membership also supports. It augments the language contained within the compact that recognizes the interdependency between the scenic beauty of the basin and the economy. The proposed language would make this more explicit and as such mirrors a contemporary understanding of the three-legged stool of the environment, the economy and community. Secondly, we support the proposal to shift the burden of proof to plaintiffs who challenge TRPA as this should reduce frivolous lawsuits, which have far reaching negative implications. Costly and time-consuming lawsuits send a global message that dollars are not welcome here. As we are dependent upon investment dollars from both the public and private sector to achieve our vision of environmental and economic sustainability, we must reduce this negative practice.
The time is now for us to move boldly forward in establishing the Lake Tahoe Basin as a place where the environmental debate is won in conversations as Gore suggested, and not in a courtroom.
— Betty “B” Gorman, J.D., B.S., A.C.E., is the president and CEO of TahoeChamber.