Friday, May 24, 2013

Keep Tahoe Blue Redux

After I blogged on Lake Tahoe (Last Post) I received an email from the people at the "League to Save Lake Tahoe".  The person was nice and put a very articulate response together, but it was clear I upset them when I implied their "Keep Tahoe Blue" stickers may just be a money making enterprise.  I've heard that before, but was it from a reputable source and is that the truth?

I copied their response into this post (below).  I was asked not to quote this person directly - using their name, but rather to post it as coming from their organization.  That was a little curious, since this person seemed to be the "Minister of Information" over there.  However, I decided there are many legitimate reasons why someone wouldn't want their name used in this situation, so I don't really think its suspicious.  Do you find it odd?  Here's their response:

Hello Mr. Davis,

I wanted to write to you because we noticed your blog on Keep Tahoe Blue. I'm not sure if you know, but Keep Tahoe Blue is the slogan of the League to Save Lake Tahoe, a 55-year-old 501c3 nonprofit environmental advocacy organization. We issue the stickers and all the proceeds support our nonprofit work, which includes advocating for smart policy and regulation at Lake Tahoe, educating the public about how they can help, supporting volunteer programs and collaborating with other agencies to find solutions to protect the lake.

Because of many of our efforts over the decades to spread the word about the threats to the lake, enact policies to restrict urban sprawl and secure restoration funding, we believe we are one of the main reasons the lake is still clear today. You can learn more at

Thank you for urging your readers to Keep Tahoe Blue.


Amanda Royal

Communications consultant

League to Save Lake Tahoe
I requested to interview this person.  I wanted to ask some questions about their organization.  I haven't heard anything definite back (yet), so I decided to post my questions here.  I put a list together and included it below.   I would be interested in hearing what my readers think about this topic and my questions about "Keep Tahoe Blue".
1) I'm interested in knowing what percentage of the money from sticker sales goes to save the lake and what percentage goes to salaries/overhead and other expenses?  This clearly relates to your status as a non-profit organization.
2) There are many types of non-profit organizations.  Please define for my readers what a 501c3 non-profit is and how you fit into that category.
3)  My understanding is the water clarity in Lake Tahoe continues to decline, but you seem to suggest the water clarity is improving or has stabilized; due at least in part to your efforts.  You stated, "we believe we are one of the main reasons the lake is still clear today".  Do you have any empirical data to show Lake Tahoe isn't losing clarity or that it has improved/stabilized?
4) Why don't we hear more about your organization on the internet or the news?
5)  In your opinion, what are the main contributors to the decline in water clarity?
6) What can the average person do to help?  Can we make a difference?
7) Can you give us some specifics on what volunteer or community outreach programs you're involved in around the Lake Tahoe Basin?
I would love to hear what you think.  I have many more questions, but I don't want to post a huge list here.  It would probably be boring for my awesome readers.
I love Lake Tahoe and want to do everything I can to protect it.  Problem is its hard to know where to start and exactly what to do as an individual person to make a difference.  My angle is I take pictures and shoot video of the lake to show how magnificent it is and I try to get involved in education/outreach + volunteer work when I can.
If you have any comments or ideas, please post them below.  I hope we can all help out or do our part!  I also want to thank the "League to Save Lake Tahoe" for their response to my Blog and any future responses to my questions!  Some information can be found on their website, which is listed above in their response to me.  I was told they have a full calendar of Volunteer/Outreach/Education events this season.  Please see their website for details.  Thanks for all your comments!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Keep Tahoe Blue People!

Lake Tahoe From Zephyr Cove at Dawn
Some people see the statement "Keep Tahoe Blue" as a rally cry for change and some people from Northern California associate it with a money making endeavor.  We see cars with the dark blue bumper sticker posted on them and its hard to make out the amorphous light blue shape of Lake Tahoe when you look close just like its hard to be sure where your money goes when you donate to Keep Tahoe Blue.  Has that money actually improved water clarity in the lake or kept it blue somehow?  I still love the stickers, but I'm a bit of a skeptic too.
I equally love "Keep Folsom Green" bumper stickers I see around Sacramento California sometimes.  These stickers are a parody of the Keep Tahoe Blue stickers and refer to Folsom Lake, which has a green hue or tint to the water. They also put an indistinct shape on the stickers for the lake (green) and poke fun at the idea of the Tahoe stickers.  I love a dry snappy sense of humor.  The funny thing is the green color of Folsom Lake is nice or aesthetically pleasing.

Regardless of what people think about these stickers, its important to maintain the water clarity in Lake Tahoe, which has suffered, since all the major development around the lake has taken place. How to approach the problem is another matter entirely.  One thing is clear:  golf courses and large commercial/residential developments are contributing runoff that's adversely affecting water clarity. This is a shame, because everybody wants to have a place up in Tahoe!  Unfortunately we need to stop developing land around the Lake Tahoe Basin.  We also need to work on better management of golf courses and other developed land to reduce harmful runoff of fertilizers and pesticides.

Here are a few fun facts about Lake Tahoe: 

Its an alpine lake sitting at over 6,000 feet of elevation (6,224') and is located between the Sierra Nevada mountain range (to the West) and the Carson range (to the East).  Some of the peaks around the lake reach over 10,000 feet of elevation.  Mount Tallac, which is the most well known peak near the lake sits at 9,735 feet.  Freel Peak, which is the highest peak near the lake sits at approximately 10,891 feet of elevation.

Lake Tahoe was created by a geologic block fault, which caused the land in the area to lower (down-dropped block).  This is a combination of tectonic forces and seismic activity.  Lake Tahoe is as unique as it is beautiful.

The average depth of the lake is 1,000 feet and the maximum depth is 1,645 feet, which makes it the second deepest lake in the US.  At its widest the lake reaches 22 miles across, which is amazing.  This is from North to South.  Along the East - West portion the minimum distance across Lake Tahoe is 12 miles.  It's a very large lake! Many of these fun facts were supplied by the US Geological Service (on their website).

The Lake Tahoe Basin is a wonderful place to visit.  The area near the lake is divided into North Shore and South Shore.  Both areas have great Resorts for skiing and boarding, but primarily the gambling casinos and major nightlife are in South Lake Tahoe (South Shore).  Squaw Valley is a Resort on the North side of the lake that hosted the Winter Olympics back in 1960.

Some other things to see around Lake Tahoe include the Desolation Wilderness and the village in South Lake Tahoe.  There's a gondola in the village that goes up to the top of the peak at Heavenly Mountain Resort (on the California side) and it runs all year along the famous Gun Barrel Ski Run.  There's also a large section of Heavenly in Nevada.  I personally like to ski there around the Stagecoach Lodge area.  I typically stay on the Nevada side, but you can cross over to the California side while skiing and boarding, but beware if you snowboard, since its hard to make the connection from Nevada back to California if you don't have poles to get you through the flat spot.

Gun Barrel is the famous ski run at Heavenly on the California side and it comes right down to the parking lot!  It's steep and full of big moguls.  Many of the snow board and ski events (races) are held at Gun Barrel like the Sprint USSA Freestyle Championships I attended recently as a Photographer.  Here's a photo I took of a skier going off the large aerial jump (booter) during the competition. It's a long exposure:


Lake Tahoe is also a nice place to enjoy during the Summer months with miles of hiking/biking trails and great weather.  It never gets too hot and not too many bugs to bite you at that elevation.  You can enjoy a number of water sports and activities on the lake.  The water is cold, but completely spectacular.  I suggest taking a look at Emerald Bay and the small island there.  It's located on the West end of the lake.  There are stunning peaks towering overhead and the water is a special shade of blue!  There's even a small alpine lake above the bay with a nice waterfall.  See the photo of Emerald Bay below:

I think the key is to allow people to enjoy Lake Tahoe while we also fight to protect and preserve it.  If you visit the area and fall in love with the lake like I have, then you'll have a desire to protect it.  We need to be mindful when we enter National Treasures like the Tahoe Basin and tread lightly.  For example, if we go on a hike around the lake, we must avoid leaving trash or other items behind.  You pack out what you pack in and clean up your campsite area.  Bring trash bags with you and keep everything together so you don't leave anything laying around.  Leave the land like you found it or in better shape!  Pickup trash if you find it laying around, even if you didn't leave it there.  Do your part to KEEP TAHOE BLUE!


Friday, May 10, 2013

Seal Nurseries Under Fire

Harbor Seal Pup in Point Lobos Marine Reserve
Taking photos of Wildlife enables me to see many cool things others might miss (unfortunately).  With my zoom lens I get to see tiny harbor seal pups close up. It's amazing what stunning detail I see through my lens.  It makes me want to learn more about animals and protect them + share everything with you.
Congress is considering cutting funding for many open space areas like Regional Parks, Preserves and even some State Parks to help balance the Budget.  What this means is some areas will close and there will be no public access or staff presence.  Reducing the number of Park Rangers, workers and preventing access will leave sensitive areas unprotected.  When legal access is denied to a beach or Nature Preserve, we also lose volunteers and non-profit organizations in the equation.  Docents, Wildlife Rescue Organizations and other volunteers can't even help by donating their resources.  These people are GIVING AWAY their time/resources to help animals like this tiny seal pup shown above and Congress is saying "No thanks, we'll just close the beach!".
I believe these volunteers along with Park Ranger and other key staff help protect sensitive areas like the Harbor Seal Nursery I visited last week near Monterey California. They keep people from getting too close/harming wildlife and they deter poachers, as well as people involved in the illegal trade of exotic animals/protected species.  Poaching and illegal harvesting of wildlife is a big problem in California.  Crab and Abalone seem to be the biggest concern along the coastline, but there is a darker presence at work here. Other species are at risk.
Even simple things will be lost in this equation like a thoughtful Park Ranger telling an unsuspecting family not to bring the family pet down to the beach due to the presence of a seal nursery there.  Dogs can attack seals and pups are most vulnerable to being injured or killed.  It might not be something on your radar, but staff and volunteers are always on top of these kinds of things.  If we lose their presence, then all kinds of unforeseen problems will arise.  People will still gain access to the beaches and sensitive areas (illegally) and little will be done to mitigate the negative impact on the environment.  It's similar to when a tree falls in the forest, "Does it make a sound?"  Yes it does!  In the same way a baby animal still cries when it gets injured due to our negligence, even if nobody's there to hear or help! 
We need to do our best to protect wildlife and leave areas we visit pristine/untouched as if we were never there.  It's our duty to the environment, so our kids and their kids will also be able to enjoy Nature!  I want every child to be able to see and experience the beauty of our natural world.  We can do our part by being heard!  Let Congress know its not OK to balance the budget by cutting funding for our parks and open spaces!  We can't lose these treasures.
Please let our political representatives know we hold then accountable for the fiscal mess we're in and they should be responsible for their poor management, not the Wildlife!  They wont get away with passing the buck again - this time!  Thank you for taking the time to care and please let your voice be heard!  Tell somebody what you think!  I care about little baby harbor seals!!!!  Please see this short piece on the Harbor Seals at Point Lobos Marine Reserve (Near Monterey Bay California):