USDA Forest Service and League to Save Lake Tahoe announce plans
LAKE TAHOE, Nev./Calif., July 14, 2023 – Recent international news stories showed shocking images of volunteers and nonprofits removing thousands of pounds of litter from one Lake Tahoe beach following the July 4th holiday. The media coverage caused public outrage and drew widespread attention to the challenge of preventing litter at the iconic Sierra Nevada destination. Those same stories largely overlooked the good news: the vast majority of sites cleaned as part of the “Keep Tahoe Red, White & Blue” July 5th Beach Cleanup, hosted annually by the League to Save Lake Tahoe, were far less impacted.
This continues a multi-year trend toward cleaner beaches at many locations around the lake, thanks in large part to improved management and more responsible use by the public. Yet, the disgusting state of that single stretch of trash-choked shoreline, and the fact that League volunteers still find hundreds of pounds of beach litter, shows that more must be done quickly. The League to Save Lake Tahoe and USDA Forest Service’s Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit are working both independently and collaboratively to stop the scenes of July 5th from happening again.
“What happened at Zephyr Shoals was absolutely unacceptable,” said Forest Supervisor Erick Walker from the USDA Forest Service, naming the National Forest location hardest hit with litter on July 4th. “Lake Tahoe is a national treasure, with 155,000 acres of public land that are open for everyone to enjoy. You wouldn’t empty a trash-filled cooler on your living room floor; it’s just as unthinkable to do it on a Tahoe beach.”
Over the last decade, land managers for many of Tahoe’s popular recreation sites have taken aggressive and effective steps to prevent user impacts, like adding more trash receptacles during busy days, improving developed recreation facilities, and actively enforcing alcohol prohibitions. That has squeezed irresponsible partygoers into smaller, less intensively managed sites, concentrating the impacts there. Zephyr Shoals, located on the lake’s southeastern shore, is a prime example.
To better serve the public and protect natural resources, the Forest Service announced that Zephyr Shoals will be managed by a concession beginning this fall for the first time, similar to other developed National Forest sites around the Tahoe Basin. With a concessionaire managing day-to-day operations under a permit with the Forest Service, the public will continue to have access, but can expect changes like managed parking, enhanced trash management, signage, sanitation services, and staffing.
Working in partnership, the League to Save Lake Tahoe, Forest Service, and other stakeholders are going further to raise the bar for beach management across the Tahoe Basin. The organizations have made a multi-year commitment to “Tahoe Blue Beaches,” a new model that centers around:
- Education – Proactive outreach prior to and during high-use times, combined with physical signage that gets people’s attention and clearly communicates the “Tahoe way” to responsibly enjoy the outdoors and prevent the impacts of bad behavior.
- Engineering – Adding trash cans, dumpsters, restrooms, and the staffing required for upkeep, along with designing access points that fit the natural contours of the site, because paved roads and buildings are not right for everywhere in Tahoe.
- Enforcement – Enforcing rules and regulations to ensure public lands aren’t misused or abused, following education and engineering.
The use of innovative technologies and techniques, including the BEBOT beach-cleaning robot, brought to Tahoe by the League and ECO-CLEAN Solutions, will complement other improvements. Taken together, this elevated management will define what it means to be called a “Tahoe Blue Beach,” a place where the environment is respected, protected, and enjoyed. The League will publicly recognize beaches and businesses that take these extra steps to Keep Tahoe Blue for the future.
“As the public’s interest in Tahoe continues to climb, it’s increasingly important that people who enjoy this special place also do their part to take care of it,” said Public Services Staff Officer Daniel Cressy from the USDA Forest Service. “Promoting this goal is one of the core pillars of the Lake Tahoe Destination Stewardship Plan, and one way we’ll reach our shared vision for Tahoe as a healthy, thriving, welcoming place.”
The League and USDA Forest Service’s Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit ask that everyone do their part to take care of Tahoe, set positive examples, and leverage their influence to inspire responsible enjoyment of Tahoe and other special places. Volunteers and partner organizations who participated in the League’s July 5th cleanup are modeling that stewardship behavior for others to follow.
“Every year, I hear from people who plan their vacations so they can join our cleanup on July 5th. It’s become their families’ tradition,” said Marilee Movius, senior community engagement manager for the League. “This year, it was also amazing that so many folks responded to posts on social media by dropping everything to join our cleanup. We hope everyone will follow their lead by not littering in the first place and taking small, simple actions to leave Tahoe better than they found it. That’s the Tahoe way.”
Anyone can do their part to Keep Tahoe Blue, whether they have five hours to spare or only five minutes. Visit keeptahoeblue.org/tahoebluegooder to learn how.