Tahoe now has official Sierra Club
The Tahoe Area Sierra Club may be a new organization, but many of its 700 members have been around for quite awhile.
The club received its national recognition nearly two weeks ago, after organizing for two years. However, 10-year resident Michael Donahoe, the club’s conservation chair, said many members are lifelong residents and activists of the Tahoe Basin.
Members of the Northern California Motherlode and Reno Toiyabe Sierra Club chapters have been active in controversial basin issues, but co-chair Shannon Raborn thought it was important for Tahoe residents to get involved.
“There wasn’t a focus just on Tahoe,” Raborn said. “We were saying, ‘This is the crown jewel of the country, where’s the Sierra Club?’ “
At the club’s first meeting two years ago, 70 people showed up and the group grew from there.
Raborn said the club’s vision is to protect and preserve the basin by focusing on education and grassroots activism. The club has focused on fertilizer use as its first priority.
The club sponsored a fertilizer slogan contest at Kingsbury Middle School in June to educate youngsters about using harmful phosphorus-rich fertilizers on lawns and gardens.
“Phosphorus is public enemy No. 1 when it comes to the lake losing a foot of lake clarity every year,” Donahoe said. “A lot of phosphorus gets into the lake via soil erosion. But a lot of it is because people use way too much fertilizer. So we need to educate them. People want to do the right thing, but they don’t understand what the right thing is.”
Donahoe said the club wants to partner with nurseries and landscapers to limit the sale and use of non-organic, more harmful fertilizers.
Although Donahoe and Raborn said education is a major goal of the club, they said traditional activism is also important.
In the past few months, the Sierra Club opposed cattle grazing in Meiss Meadows, building on raw land and development in the Martis Valley around Truckee.
Raborn said one of the group’s biggest challenges has been getting volunteers, especially those who have time to attend government meetings that are usually held during the day.
Raborn said volunteer opportunities span from letter writing and attending environmental meetings to helping with hands-on erosion control projects and teaching neighbors proper landscaping and watering techniques.
With members in their 20s all the way up to their 70s, Raborn said meetings and outings can be a good way to meet people while helping the environment. Outings, from 10-mile hikes and mountain bike rides to a grand tour of Desolation Wilderness are scheduled almost every week through October.
Donahoe said he hopes to get more people interested in the club at the Lake Tahoe Basin Restoration Summit Tuesday.
The summit, held at Zephyr Cove Marina, is a sequel to the Presidential Forum held in 1997. The summit will focus on defining the federal, state and local roles in the implementation of the Environmental Improvement Program. Funding needs for EIP projects, which range from expensive wetland restoration to residential erosion control, are estimated at more than a billion dollars.
Donahoe and Raborn said club members are dedicated to helping local agencies in meeting EIP project goals.
“We’re lucky to have an agency like the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency here. It’s scary to think where we would be today without it,” Raborn said. “But you can’t just have legislation and think it’s going to work. We have to help people care for the environment in the right ways.”
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