California Tahoe Conservancy Awards $600,000 Grant to Support Joint USDA Forest Service-Washoe Tribe Project at Máyala Wáta (Meeks Meadow)

Media contact: Chris Carney, Communications Director,, 530-543-6057

South Lake Tahoe, Calif.—February 28, 2024—The California Tahoe Conservancy Board has awarded a $600,000 grant to the USDA Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit (LTBMU), for forestry operations as part of its joint project with the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California to restore Máyala Wáta (Meeks Meadow).

“This generous grant matched with federal funds allows us to move forward with vital restoration work needed to restore how the meadow functions in order to reach our goal of improving water quality and wildlife habitat in Meeks Meadow,” said LTBMU Forest Supervisor, Erick Walker. “We are excited to partner with the Washoe Tribe as we work together to implement our restoration strategy in this important cultural area.”

Máyala Wáta has cultural importance for the Washoe Tribe, but the meadow’s ecological health has declined since European settlers drove the Washoe off their homeland. Historically, the Washoe people used the meadow as a summer camp. They hunted, fished, gathered plants, and held ceremonies in the meadow and adjacent Meeks Bay area.

Before European settlement, the region’s frequent low-intensity fires naturally maintained the meadow system. Washoe Tribe members routinely ignited and controlled such fires to support native plants and game habitat.

Cattle grazing, logging, and fire suppression have degraded Meeks Meadow since the displacement of the Washoe. The absence of low-intensity fire has allowed lodgepole pines to encroach on the meadow, drying the soils and reducing the availability of culturally significant plants. Such impairment also degrades the meadow’s function for wildlife habitat and water quality filtration. Degraded meadows also act as a source of greenhouse gas emissions, while healthy functioning meadows combat climate change by capturing carbon from the atmosphere and storing it in plants, roots, and soils.

The LTBMU will use these funds, matched by $1 million in federal funds, to remove encroaching conifers from 213 acres of the meadow and thin 70 acres of the surrounding upland forest.

This grant builds on past funding from the Conservancy to support the Tribe’s plans to restore the meadow in coordination with the LTBMU. Other elements of the Máyala Wáta Restoration Project include support for Tribal crews and staff to complete prescribed fire training and participate in culturally guided prescribed burning. Tribal elders, youth, and crews will plant culturally significant vegetation, remove invasive species, and protect culturally significant plants. An earlier Conservancy grant will enable the Tribe to ship biomass removed during the forestry operations to its headquarters for Tribal members to use as firewood for home heating.

After restoration is complete, Tribal crews will continue to monitor the effectiveness of restoration activities.

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