January 2024 Conservancy Newsletter
The Lake Tahoe Basin is finally under snow after a dry start to winter. We wish everyone a happy and healthy new year. In this month’s newsletter, we share a video about work by Conservancy grantees to study wildlife connectivity in the Basin, updates on prescribed fire operations, important upcoming events, the latest installment of our Meet the Conservancy video series, and more.
Jason Vasques, Executive Director
California Tahoe Conservancy
Studying Wildlife Connectivity at Lake Tahoe
Funded by a grant from the Conservancy, the Wildlands Network and Pathways for Wildlife are conducting a multi-year study of wildlife connectivity in the California side of the Basin. Understanding wildlife corridors and barriers can help land managers support Tahoe’s extraordinary biodiversity and furthers California’s 30×30 goal.
Using Prescribed Fire to Reduce Wildfire Risk
The Conservancy and its partners with the Tahoe Fire and Fuels Team (TFFT) are conducting prescribed fire operations in the Basin. Prescribed fires, including pile burns, are a vital forest management tool land managers use to help protect communities by removing fuels that can feed unwanted wildland fires. For pile burns, agency partners thin overcrowded brush and trees, stack the debris into piles, and return when weather is favorable for burning.
Historically, low-intensity wildfires ignited by lightning or Indigenous peoples routinely burned through fire-adapted ecosystems of the Sierra Nevada. These fires burned at lower temperatures and moved slowly across the ground, removing forest debris such as pinecones, needles, limbs, dead and downed trees, and ladder fuels. Clear-cutting in the 1800s and 20th-century fire suppression left Tahoe forests overcrowded and lacking the diversity of species that make up a healthy forest. Wildfires pose extreme risks under these conditions. TFFT partners intend prescribed fires to mimic the naturally occurring low-intensity fires that are essential to fire-adapted ecosystems, while also reducing wildfire risk to the community.
Winter typically brings cooler temperatures and precipitation, which are ideal for conducting prescribed fire operations. Each operation follows a specialized burn plan, which considers smoke dispersal conditions, temperature, humidity, wind, and vegetation moisture. The Conservancy and our partners use all this information to decide when and where to burn. Visit the Tahoe Living With Fire website to learn more about prescribed burns, and sign up for updates on upcoming prescribed fire projects.
Outdoors for All - California’s Pathway to Providing Equitable Outdoor Access
Secretary Speaker Series
January 18, 2024 | Noon–1:00 p.m.
Spending time outside and in nature is an important part of living a healthy, full life, yet too many Californians don’t have these opportunities. Outdoors for All is a groundbreaking initiative across the state to build more parks and open space, reduce barriers to getting outside, and ensure all feel welcome in our outdoor places. A just-released Outdoors for All Strategy charts recent progress expanding opportunities and highlights key actions needed to broaden outdoor access. Join the California Natural Resources Agency and a range of leaders to unpack what’s working to expand outdoor access, where California needs to concentrate its efforts, and how each of us can join the Outdoors for All movement.
Online Community Meeting on the Conservancy’s Equity and Strategic Planning
January 24, 2024 | 4:00–5:30 p.m.
The Conservancy invites you to a special presentation on the findings of community-based research by five regional partners: the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California, ADVANCE, Bread and Broth, Gateway Mountain Center, and Live Violence Free. Supported by the Equity and Wellness Institute, these five partners will share findings that can help government agencies like the Conservancy improve its community engagement and better serve communities. The Conservancy will also provide updates on its strategic planning process and future opportunities for your input.
New Website for the Tahoe-Central Sierra Initiative
Have you seen the new website for the Tahoe-Central Sierra Initiative (TCSI)? Visit www.tahoecentralsierra.org to learn more about how the TCSI aims to restore the resilience of 2.4 million acres of Sierra Nevada forested watersheds.
Climate-amplified wildfire and drought threaten the health and resilience of forested watersheds of the Sierra Nevada. In 2017, the Tahoe Conservancy joined with federal, state, and private partners founded TCSI to pilot innovative solutions to improve science-based forest management and restoration. Check out the TCSI website and sign up for email updates to learn more.
Meet the Conservancy, Vol. 6
Next up in our video series in which we periodically highlight a Conservancy employee: Erin Ernst, the new director of the Conservancy’s Natural Resources Division. Erin oversees the Conservancy’s Community Forestry, Landscape Resilience, and Watershed Programs.
Want to join a great team helping to protect a national treasure? The Conservancy has multiple openings for permanent and seasonal opportunities:
Forest Management Specialist
Amy Jirka has joined the Conservancy’s Community Forestry team as the Forest Management Specialist. In her new role, Amy oversees contract implementation for forestry operations on Conservancy lands. She also administers grants to partners to build capacity for forest management and wildfire risk reduction. Amy comes to the Conservancy with over 20 years of forestry and natural resource management and research experience, most recently working in the Basin with the Great Basin Institute (GBI) as the Forest Stewardship Coordinator for the USDA Forest Service, Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit. Prior to GBI, Amy worked in research for the University of California, Davis Regional Fuels Treatment Effectiveness Team and the USDA Forest Service Aerial Survey program. She has also worked with Lake Valley Fire Protection District.
Upcoming California Tahoe Conservancy Board Meetings
The Board will meet on March 21, 2024. The agenda will be available on the Conservancy website ten days prior to the meeting.
Lake Tahoe in the News
Renowned Climate Scientist Katharine Hayhoe to present at the Tahoe Science Center – Tahoe Daily Tribune, January 2, 2024
That’s not snow: Thousands of styrofoam beads wash up on Incline Village beaches – Tahoe Daily Tribune, January 9, 2024
California Tahoe Conservancy board meeting: more funding for greenway, equitable recreation – Tahoe Daily Tribune, December 29, 2023
Plates For Powder Returns
Ski For Free at a Tahoe Area Resort When You Buy a Tahoe License Plate
Snow has returned to Lake Tahoe and Plates for Powder is underway. This annual program offers free skiing opportunities to those who purchase a California or Nevada Lake Tahoe license plate. Proceeds from California Tahoe plate sales and renewals support the Conservancy’s work.
Learn how to purchase your plate and redeem your free lift ticket by visiting tahoeplates.org.