Volunteers rally for 25th year of Lake Tahoe ecosystem restoration event
Residents, visitors, businesses and agencies team up on National Public Lands Day
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — For the 25th consecutive year, volunteers laced up their boots, pulled on their gloves, and went to work healing Tahoe’s beautiful but sensitive environment for Tahoe Forest Stewardship Days – the region’s longest running ecosystem restoration event.
One hundred volunteers and event partners dedicated Saturday, Sept. 24 to a range of projects on the South Shore that revitalized forests, meadows and trails damaged by wildfire, threatened by climate change and squeezed by Tahoe’s millions of annual visitors.
One group of participants focused on the fire breaks cut by bulldozers last summer as the Caldor Fire threatened Lake Tahoe. Dozer lines are a critical part of wildfire suppression, but they can scar the landscape. With guidance from USDA Forest Service specialists, restoration volunteers gathered seeds from eight species of native plants and distributed them in the fire breaks. When the seeds take root and grow they’ll stabilize soils and prevent runoff that hurts Tahoe’s water clarity.
“Firefighters made these dozer lines to keep our community safe from Caldor,” said Katie Riley, volunteer and local resident. “Now we’re nursing the forest back to health. There’s something really special about being able to pay back that favor.”
Meadows, marshes and wetlands are Tahoe’s natural filtration system, sifting out tiny particles that can make the lake’s blue waters murky. But the changing climate encourages pine trees to creep into these wet, low-lying areas where they outcompete other species and cause the natural system to break down. To ease the strain, more than 30 volunteers removed thousands of small encroaching conifers from meadows along California State Route 89, so these ecosystems can do their important work at full strength.
Another volunteer team maintained a popular mountain biking trail at Gardner Mountain, while a separate group improved defensible space at Tallac Historic Site for fire protection. For their efforts, volunteers were thanked with free lunch, drinks and music donated by local businesses, along with an expo from environmental groups.
“Volunteering and environmentalism are deep-seated traditions in Tahoe,” said Darcie Goodman Collins, CEO of the League to Save Lake Tahoe, the organization that has hosted the event since its start in 1997. “Today so many people came in from out of town too and gave their sweat, effort and love to Tahoe. Both locals or visitors are leaving this place better than they found it, and it’s helping Keep Tahoe Blue.”
The 25th annual Tahoe Forest Stewardship Days was hosted by the League to Save Lake Tahoe with event partners USDA Forest Service – Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit and Great Basin Institute. Food and drink donations were provided by South of North Brewery, Ten Crows BBQ, Whole Foods, Tahoe Bagel Co. and Starbucks, with music by bluegrass band Bison.
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