Collaboration is critical to understanding and managing the natural environment, California Gov. Jerry Brown said Tuesday during the 2014 Lake Tahoe Summit keynote address.
Brown said efforts to protect the environment take “science, management, technology and learning how to live with nature.” Sometimes there are setbacks, he said, but people have to push forward.
“We are engaged in a great undertaking, working together, living with nature and living, hopefully, in a way where we come together, overcome our differences and see clearly, and we care enough to get it done,” Brown said.
Catastrophic wildfires, invasive species and drought were among the big topics of discussion at the 18th annual Lake Tahoe Summit, which was held at the Valhalla Estate in the South Shore this year.
Several hundred people attended the event. Speakers included Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Sen. Dean Heller, Rep. Mark Amodei, Rep. Tom McClintock, California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein hosted the summit and kicked things off by listing a variety of accomplishments in the region, such as improvements in water clarity, the installation of erosion control measures and efforts to prevent wildfires.
Among other achievements, about 20,000 acres of wildlife habitat has been restored since 2000, and dozens of acres at the bottom of Lake Tahoe have been treated for invasive Asian clams.
“Our public-private partnership has made a difference,” she said.
Feinstein touched on the new Lake Tahoe Restoration Act introduced last year. If passed, the legislation would authorize $415 million in federal funds to continue restoration work in the basin.
“As you might guess, we face in uphill battle to get the bill passed,” she said. “The federal budget isn’t what it used to be. But that brings me to my final point: the public-private partnership is more important than ever.”
Later, Sandoval used the example of the grounded Thunderbird to discuss the impacts of drought in the region. The Thunderbird, an old wooden speedboat once owned by George Whittell, is stuck in its boathouse as a result of damaged engines and low water levels.
Sandoval, who was recently elected chairman of the Western Governors’ Association, said meetings looking at the drought’s impacts on tourism, agriculture, energy are planned over the course of his chairmanship. Forums will also be held on water availability and urban water planning.
The results from these meetings will be presented to Western governors at a 2015 convention in Lake Tahoe.
“The prolonged drought conditions that California and Nevada face highlight the interconnected nature of our natural resources, our land and our economy,” he said. “It’s critical that we work collectively to address the drought’s impacts and take measures to increase our ability to adapt both to the natural resource challenges we face in the near and long term.”
In another dry year, many people are looking into the impacts of wildfires, which McClintock said is “the greatest natural threat facing Lake Tahoe.”
Wildfires have devastated the area in the past several years, he said, but removing excess timber from the surrounding forests would help prevent some of the damage.
“This ought to be self-evident: There’s no greater threat to the environment and economy in the Tahoe basin than a catastrophic forest fire,” McClintock said, “and our efforts ought to be prioritized to place this at the very top of the list of policy changes.”
The politicians spent quite a bit of time acknowledging the efforts of people involved with persevering Lake Tahoe and its surrounding environment.
Newsom said what brings everyone out to the summit is the spirit that “we are all in this together” and that the summit is a celebration of overcoming differences.
“We rise and fall together,” he said. “We’re all going to experience the future. The question is, what kind of future is it going to look like.”