TRPA’s lucky number 33 keeps U.S. attention here
Jane Freeman is a commitment – literally.
No. 33 to be precise.
When President Clinton came to the area during the 1997 Lake Tahoe Presidential Forum, a slew of commitments were established to kick off the federal government’s dedication to helping to save the endangered Tahoe, including providing money for prescribed burning, digital mapping of the lake’s floor, buying sensitive land and finding sources of gasoline pollution.
In a little different vein than the others, presidential commitment No. 33 called for a full-time Environmental Protection Agency employee to work in the offices of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency and coordinate EPA’s efforts in the Tahoe Basin.
Freeman was the lucky person to get the job.
“There’s a benefit in having a presence here, not only to TRPA and other agencies in the basin, but also to EPA,” Freeman said. “The EPA is committed to having someone here.”
Freeman, 35, grew up in northern Minnesota and earned a master’s degree in environmental studies from Yale in 1989. She has worked for EPA for nine years, starting in Washington, D.C., and then going to the regional office in San Francisco. She has been at Tahoe since June 1998.
Many people don’t know what she does – or that her position exists. Or they think she works for TRPA, where her office is located.
What she does is coordinate the EPA’s action with local governments and other federal agencies.
“For a lot of people, they probably think EPA is a big, monolithic regulatory agency,” she said. “I think it’s good for them to see there’s another face.”
Freeman works closely with the Federal Interagency Partnership – including the Forest Service, Natural Resource Conservation Service, U.S. Geological Survey, Army Corps of Engineers and federal Department of Transportation – regarding funding and restoration work at Tahoe. She talks with local groups such as TRPA, the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board, University of California, Davis, and University of Nevada, Reno.
And she has been involved in helping the Lake Tahoe Federal Advisory Committee, a coalition of officials from around Tahoe who are supposed to represent the community with the federal government.
“Not only is it helpful from the standpoint of having an EPA person at Tahoe, Jane has been a hard-working member of the federal interagency team that works with the Federal Advisory Committee,” said that group’s chairman, Steve Teshara of the Lake Tahoe Gaming Alliance. “It’s great having her here, and she does an outstanding job.”
Freeman organized three large research symposia at Tahoe and has since been involved in developing a newly formed Science Advisory Group, which is supposed to help keep Tahoe researchers from overlapping their work.
She’s a leader on the basin’s Environmental Improvement Program implementation team, the EIP being the blueprint of restoration work that needs to be done at Tahoe.
“I don’t know if I have an average day,” she said. “Because there are so many groups and so many agencies, we really do end up meeting a lot. It takes that to get the coordination.
“A regular day could be going to a TRPA meeting, looking over grant applications, pulling together conference calls, talking with the water quality working group. There are a number of things.”
Freeman, her partner, John Lynch, and their German shepherd, Mika, live in the Tahoe Paradise community. Their home is two blocks from Forest Service land, which the couple – avid hikers and cross country skiers – love.
“John and I used to come up and camp, and every time we would leave, I would just start crying when we got to Oakland,” Freeman said. “I think we both knew we wanted to live in the mountains, so this job was a great opportunity.
“We just love it up here.”
Freeman says she enjoys working for EPA, too.
A recent survey of federal employees showed that six out of 10 of them were happy at their jobs, she said. EPA ranked the highest in happiness.
“I think that’s partly due to our mission – you’re helping the environment,” she said. “But also, under (EPA Administrator) Carol Browner, I think the employees are more empowered, they’re encouraged to think more creatively, to think more outside the box on how we can approach environmental issues.
“I feel really fortunate,” she added.
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