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Over-tourism and wildfire prevention top of mind at annual Lake Tahoe Summit

A crowd of people with their backs to the camera are sitting in white folding chairs on a beach facing Cortez Masto who is speaking and gesturing with her hands. There is a lake with boats behind Cortez Masto.
Lucia Starbuck
KUNR Public Radio
Nevada Democratic U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto spoke at the annual Lake Tahoe Summit at Kings Beach, California, on Aug. 9, 2023.

Lawmakers, conservationists, and Lake Tahoe residents from both Nevada and California gathered at Kings Beach for the 27th annual Lake Tahoe Summit.

A handful of Tahoe locals held signs that read, “Stop Vertical Sprawl, Tall Trees, Not Tall Buildings.” They said some of the biggest issues facing the lake include rubber stamping of development, over-tourism, and trash. They want to see more trashcans and regulations.

Leah Kaufman, a land use planning consultant, has lived in Tahoe Vista for 40 years. After the 4th of July this year, volunteers collected 4.3 tons of trash.

“The community organizations cleaned it up, but I think you have to educate tourists and people,” Kaufman said. “Maybe a reservation system – This campground is full, this beach is full.”

With the backdrop of the blue lake, tree-covered mountains, and paddle boarders, elected officials from the federal and state level spoke about the importance of preserving the lake that straddles the two states.

Nevada Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto highlighted millions of dollars in funding for public transportation to cut back on cars driving in the basin. She also called for renewing the Lake Tahoe Restoration Act, which was implemented more than 20 years ago to address water clarity, invasive species, and wildfire prevention, among others. It’s set to expire in 2024.

The 2021 Caldor Fire, which forced South Lake Tahoe to evacuate, is still fresh on people’s minds. This week Cortez Masto toured a sawmill in Carson City that is processing some of that timber.

“It’s taking all the burnt fire wood and all of the trees from the Caldor Fire and processing it through the sawmill,” Cortez Masto said. “That’s part of our fuels management.

Other issues raised included the high concentration of microplastics found in Lake Tahoe and firefighter pay.

Lucia Starbuck is an award-winning journalist covering politics, focusing on democracy and solutions for KUNR Public Radio. Her goal is to provide helpful and informative coverage for everyday Nevadans.
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