May 2021 Conservancy Newsletter

Upper Truckee River

May 2021 Conservancy Newsletter

With unseasonably warm weather, it is starting to feel like summer at Lake Tahoe. Along with our Lake Tahoe Basin partners, the Conservancy is preparing for what will likely be another record-breaking summer recreation season. We have joined with Placer County, California State Parks, and Clean Tahoe to improve litter management at popular Conservancy recreation sites.

May is National Wildfire Awareness Month. California is facing another extremely dry year, raising concerns about wildfire risk statewide. Don’t miss the great information provided below on ways each of you can help be wildfire prepared. Last month’s early budget action for wildfire prevention will allow the Conservancy to double the acres of forest treated on Conservancy land, helping to protect communities and Basin resources. To that end, Conservancy seasonal aides are already prepping forest health projects and forestry and land management crews start work on Conservancy land next month.

Lastly, this month we include a special letter from Sue Novasel, Chair of the Conservancy Board, with updates about leadership changes for our agency.

Jane Freeman
Acting Executive Director, California Tahoe Conservancy

Letter from Board Chair Sue Novasel, Tahoe Conservancy:

Letter from Board Chair Sue Novasel, Tahoe Conservancy:

On behalf of the entire Tahoe Conservancy Board (Board), I’d like to congratulate Patrick Wright on his recent appointment to serve as the Director of Governor Gavin Newsom’s Wildfire and Forest Resilience Task Force. This appointment follows his role as Acting Director of Governor Gavin Newsom’s Forest Management Task Force where he has served since July 2020. We know from this new role he will continue to be a champion for Tahoe. 

During Patrick’s role as Acting Director, Jane Freeman stepped up to lead the Conservancy as the Acting Executive Director. Jane has and continues to lead the Conservancy during an unprecedented time of the COVID-19 pandemic, maintaining momentum on Conservancy projects from the Upper Truckee River Marsh and Lake Tahoe West to treating hundreds of acres and advancing affordable housing. Jane’s leadership has been instrumental to staff coordination and cohesiveness throughout the last several months.

On behalf of the Board, I would also like to thank Dorian Fougères for his leadership and service to the Tahoe Conservancy and Tahoe Basin. Dorian has served as Acting Deputy Director over the last year and has more broadly worked at the Conservancy since fall 2017. Dorian’s dedication, charisma, and strategic thinking will certainly be missed. We wish him all the best as he moves onto his next chapter and know he’ll always remain a friend to the Tahoe Basin. 

As Dorian departs, we are excited to welcome Jason Vasques into the Acting Deputy Director role. Jason has served as Landscape Forestry Supervisor since 2017.

I am excited to publicly congratulate and welcome both Jay Hansen and Bill Jackson to the Board. Jay was appointed by the California State Senate in March 2021. He is the President and CEO of the California Foundation on the Environment and Economy (CFEE). Bill is the Forest Supervisor for the Lake Tahoe Basin and has taken the ex-officio seat on the Board. I look forward to working with both Jay and Bill and welcome their fresh perspectives and expertise that will undoubtedly benefit the efforts of the Conservancy.

With the recent leadership shifts, new board members, and the COVID-pandemic still under effect, the Board has asked Jane to continue serving as the leader of the Tahoe Conservancy as Acting Executive Director until further notice, which she has accepted. The Board feels strongly that Jane’s continuity for both staff and external partners is more important than ever during this time and she will continue leading the Conservancy with the full backing of the Board. 

Lastly, I want to thank the entire Tahoe Conservancy staff for their work and efforts over this last year. The Board continues to be impressed with the scale and pace of projects despite all the additional challenges encountered over the last year. We all know that the eminent needs of Tahoe do not have a “pause” button. It’s been heartening to see staff rise to the challenge and continue advancing the mission of the Conservancy. Thank you! 

Sue Novasel
Board Chair, California Tahoe Conservancy

Lake Tahoe Wildfire Awareness Campaign

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Wildfire knows no season. For this reason, we are joining with partners in the Tahoe Fire and Fuels Team to recognize the Lake Tahoe Wildfire Awareness Campaign from May through October. During this campaign, we hope to empower and encourage Lake Tahoe residents to prepare for wildfire.

Is your home ignition resistant? Between 60 to 90 percent of homes lost during wildfires are ignited by burning embers that can travel as far as a mile ahead of a fire. Engaging in pre-fire activities, such as creating defensible space and hardening homes to withstand wildfire, can help create ignition-resistant homes and communities that are less vulnerable to embers.

Learn more by reading the Wildfire Home Retrofit Guide for the Lake Tahoe Basin.

Find more wildfire protection tips at the Tahoe Living with Fire website.

Upper Truckee Marsh Restoration Project to Resume

Upper Truckee River

Upper Truckee Marsh Restoration Project to Resume

This summer, the Conservancy will resume work on the Upper Truckee Marsh Restoration Project, the largest wetland restoration in the Basin’s history. The Conservancy is restoring and enhancing over 250 acres of floodplain by returning Upper Truckee River flows to the center of the Marsh. The Conservancy is also creating new wetlands in the northwest corner of the Marsh.

Learn more about the Upper Truckee Marsh project.

Conservancy Forestry Update

Forest health projects are underway. Crews from the California Conservation Corps and a contractor are thinning trees on 65 acres of Conservancy lots in South Lake Tahoe’s Ski Run and Bijou neighborhoods. Seasonal forestry aides are identifying project boundaries and marking trees for removal for forest health efforts on more than 100 acres of Conservancy-owned lots in neighborhoods along North Upper Truckee Road in El Dorado County. More projects will start up in June and July. Projects like these improve forest resilience and help reduce wildfire threat for adjacent neighbors.

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Nevada Senator Introduces Legislation to Reauthorize Lake Tahoe Restoration Act

Tahoe Daily Tribune | May 12, 2021

U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) introduced bipartisan, bicameral legislation to extend the authorization of the Lake Tahoe Restoration Act which is strongly supported by environmental agencies in the Basin. This legislation is supported by Senators Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), and Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) and Representatives Mark Amodei (R-Nev.-02), John Garamendi (D-Calif.-03), Dina Titus (D-Nev.-01), Susie Lee (D-Nev.-03), and Steven Horsford (D-Nev.-04).

Read the article. 

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Conservancy Staff Updates

New Roles

Forest Schafer

Forest Schafer

Director of the Natural Resources Division

Forest Schafer has accepted the position as Director of the Conservancy’s Natural Resources Division. In this role, Forest will oversee the Conservancy’s watershed, community forestry, landscape forestry, and climate change programs. Forest joined the Conservancy staff in 2017 as Forest Science and Management Coordinator. He had been serving in his current role in an acting capacity since summer 2020. Prior to joining the Conservancy, Forest spent nine years serving with the North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District. Forest studied at Lake Tahoe Community College and earned his Bachelor of Science in Forest and Rangeland Management from the University of Nevada, Reno.

Jason Vasques

Jason Vasques

Acting Deputy Director

Jason Vasques is now serving as the Conservancy’s Acting Deputy Director. Having joined the Conservancy staff in 2017, Jason had been most recently supervising the Conservancy’s Landscape Forestry Program. He had directed conservation programs for the nonprofit Coral Reef Alliance prior to joining the Conservancy. He had also previously served as a marine biologist for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Jason earned his Bachelor of Science degree from California Polytechnic State University – San Luis Obispo and his Master of science degree from the University of Otago, New Zealand.

Whitney Brennan, PhD

Whitney Brennan, PhD

Acting Landscape Forestry Program Supervisor

Whitney Brennan, PhD, is now serving as the Conservancy’s Acting Landscape Forestry Program Supervisor. In her new role, Whitney oversees the Conservancy’s work on large landscape efforts such as the Tahoe-Central Sierra Initiative and the Lake Tahoe West Restoration Partnership, as well as its landscape forestry projects. Whitney joined the Conservancy staff in 2014. She worked as wildlife biologist and led the Conservancy’s climate program. Prior to joining the Conservancy, Whitney had most recently served as a Biologist/Associate Environmental Planner for Caltrans. She earned her bachelor’s degree in biology from Kenyon College and her doctorate in animal behavior from the University of California, Davis.

Farewell

Lori Uriz

Lori Uriz

Management Services Technician – Programs

The Conservancy says goodbye to Lori Uriz, who retires this month after more than 20 years of service. Lori has played a key role in the Conservancy’s administration and fiscal services team, providing support to all the Conservancy’s programs and departments, as well to its Board. In her role at the front desk in the Conservancy office, she was often the first Conservancy employee community members met when they walked in the door. In recent months, Lori had stepped up to help the State of California meet the demands of the COVID pandemic by serving as a contact tracer as a temporary assignment to the San Bernardino County Health Department. Lori will be remembered for her upbeat attitude, collegial nature, and can-do spirit. We all wish her the best in her retirement.

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Show Your Love for Tahoe While Protecting It

When you order a California Lake Tahoe license plate, you help build biking and hiking trails, restore fish and wildlife habitat, and protect Lake Tahoe’s famous beaches and blue waters. 96 percent of all funds from Tahoe plate sales come back to Lake Tahoe. Now, the Conservancy has launched a new website to make it easier for you to get your own Lake Tahoe plate.

Show Your Love for Tahoe While Protecting It

When you order a California Lake Tahoe license plate, you help build biking and hiking trails, restore fish and wildlife habitat, and protect Lake Tahoe’s famous beaches and blue waters. 96 percent of all funds from Tahoe plate sales come back to Lake Tahoe. Now, the Conservancy has launched a new website to make it easier for you to get your own Lake Tahoe plate.

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Upcoming California Tahoe Conservancy Board Meetings

The California Tahoe Conservancy Board will meet on June 17, 2021. This meeting will take place virtually, with a teleconference option, to protect the health of Board members, staff, and the public. The agenda will be available on the Conservancy website ten days before the meeting.