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Backyard conservation aids entire community

The Tahoe Resource Conservation District has a challenge for all residents of the Lake Tahoe Basin.

“We’re challenging residents to dare to care this year. That’s the theme for the Backyard Conservation Program,” said Suzanne Pearce, manager of the conservation district.

Only in its second year, the district’s Backyard Conservation Program at Lake Tahoe has become a leader for similar programs throughout the nation. The goal of the program is to help educate residents on how to minimize erosion on their property, learn how to incorporate defensible space into their landscaping, better understand the best way to irrigate their plants and learn how to make their yards more inviting to wildlife.



While not ignoring any of those elements, the Backyard Conservation Program plans to narrow its focus this year. Because of imminent water-usage restrictions in parts of the basin, water conservation will be the program’s primary focus.

The Backyard Conservation Program at Lake Tahoe stemmed from the 1997 Lake Tahoe Presidential Forum.




“As the summer approaches, we’re reminded of the challenge of putting projects on the ground that will dramatically reverse the decline of the lake’s clarity,” Pearce said. “We are now faced with a shorter window for this effort. Eight years and counting.”

Last year more than 750 people were contacted with information. Those contacts included having the program coordinator visit individual residences to talk to property owners, holding “block parties” where officials could talk to several people at once and speaking at workshops. Through cooperation with several Lake Tahoe utility districts, 22,000 Backyard Conservation pamphlets were mailed out with utility bills in July 1998.

The success was overwhelming. The district has been recognized as the nation’s backyard conservation leader, and articles on the program have been written in the National Association of Conservation Districts quarterly newsletter and the magazine “Conservation Voices: Listening to the Land.”

“We are modeling for other districts throughout the United States,” said Doug Witt, special assistant for the district. “Phase 1 was successful, Phase 2 will be successful and wait until you see Phase 3.”

What can the Backyard Conservation program do for residents of Lake Tahoe?

The program coordinator is available to visit homes and discuss what can be done there to help control stormwater runoff, which – if untreated – can contribute to Lake Tahoe’s decline in clarity. The coordinator can inform people about native vegetation, erosion control and – or course – water conservation.

What can residents do for the Backyard Conservation program?

People can offer to host block parties, where neighborhoods can meet at one house and officials can provide information to numerous people.

“We need neighbors to volunteer to become block party hosts. We would assist them in that activity,” Pearce said. “They’re fun. They’re educational. Be the first in your neighborhood.”

Additionally, residents are encouraged to contact absentee homeowners and tell them about the program.

“When you have as many absentee homeowners as we have here, it takes networking within neighborhoods,” Pearce said.

“We also encourage those groups that wish to become partners to help us expand our program to contact us. It takes money, and that’s the bottom line. It takes money to put conservation on the ground, and we can’t do it by ourselves,” she added.

More information on the Backyard Conservation Program can be obtained by calling (530) 541- 4318.


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