President Barack Obama came to see the clear, cobalt waters of Lake Tahoe on Wednesday, with new plans to protect the nation’s most pristine natural places.
conservationists across the country to try the Sierra Nevada way -- using
private dollars to boost preservation efforts, instead of relying solely
on state and federal dollars.
Obama talked about countering climate change before a crowd of at least 7,000
at the Lake Tahoe Summit
on the southern shore in Stateline, Nev.
Amy Barry, the nonprofit
Tahoe Fund CEO, told AMI Newswire that people paying for projects to preserve
the pure, picturesque water and tree-lined mountains around it has bolstered
the budget and allowed innovation that might have otherwise gotten stuck in the
red tape attached to government dollars.
“When the president
comes to town and says he wants to do the same thing, it’s like, ‘hey, we’re on
to something here,’ ” she said. “We can use Tahoe as a testing ground. If it
works here, it can be exported all over the world.”
Obama is working to fight climate change across the country and abroad.
Before his first
visit to the crystalline lake shared by Nevada and California, the outgoing president made
headlines by directing $30 million in federal funding, and possibly $10 million
more from a nonprofit, to speed restoration of the Salton Sea. The man-made
lake is drying up in the southeastern California desert, threatening human health
and the environment.
asked for information about possibly buying geothermal energy from the area.
The money might help cover costs of cleanup, including the rotting fish that
create a stink along the shores. The president also put $29 million into researching geothermal energy
at sites in Nevada and Utah.
Democratic Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada
hosted Obama’s trip to Tahoe. It marked two decades since Reid kicked off the first Lake Tahoe Summit with former president Bill
California Gov. Jerry Brown and Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer joined fellow Democrats at Wednesday's summit.
The $2.1-billion state
and federal investment to improve the clarity of the Lake Tahoe's water has paid off in the
past 20 years, data from the University of California, Davis shows.
The lake had an average clarity of 73 feet in 2015, nine feet better than the lowest recorded average of 64.1 feet in 1997. But it still
falls short of the 97-foot goal.
To tackle troubles in
the Tahoe Basin, Obama planned $29.5 million in federal spending to reduce hazards that might fuel forest fires.
wants Nevada to lead the nation in renewable-energy production. Earlier this
month, the retiring senator praised NV Energy’s plan to speed up the shutdown of
a coal plant northeast of Las Vegas and replace it with solar.
These examples of
governmental action do, however, have critics.
Michael Schaus, a watchdog with
the Nevada Research Policy Institute, said it’s tough to come up with effective one-size-fits-all federal regulations, such as how much of a state’s energy
has to be renewable. He would prefer to let local lawmakers choose the right power source for their area, after reviewing the
environmental consequences and economic costs.
favoritism of certain energy industries, namely solar and wind, “cronyism.” He said politically
unpopular alternatives, such as nuclear, aren’t given the same consideration,
despite the fact they might be more efficient and less expensive in some places.
Although some applaud Obama
and Reid for championing new national monuments and protecting more than 2 million acres of wilderness, trails, rivers and valleys, others are cautious about
allowing federal management of state resources.
Insisting on keeping local
control of public land is not uncommon in Nevada, the home of Bunkerville rancher Cliven Bundy. He instigated
an armed standoff with law enforcement over disputed federal grazing fees and
was eventually jailed.
“People in Nevada don’t
like to have to ask the feds what they can do with their land,” Schaus said.
However, Tami Africa and
Sharon Kerrigan, both of South Lake Tahoe, appreciated Obama’s efforts to
preserve the environment and take action to slow the effects of climate change.
“He’s our environmental
president,” agreed Kerrigan Gomez, a trade group executive. “He recognized this
place is sacred. I’m proud of the work he’s done, despite the challenges.”
stops to check on conservation efforts in Hawaii and a newly protected marine
area in the Pacific, Obama is expected to continue his climate-change campaign in China.
“We’ve partnered -- as the world’s two largest economies and
two largest carbon emitters -- to set historic climate targets that are going
to lead the rest of the world to a cleaner, more secure future,” he said.