Fostering environmental stewardship · Missy Mohler

Story by Tim Hauserman


Missy, at center, with Envirolution students in Washington, D.C., doing a Trashion show, from left, are Becca Berelson, Jenna Lindsay, Madison Richey and Taysa Mohler


[dropcap1]T[/dropcap1]hese days, Missy Mohler stays busy as executive director for the Sierra Watershed Education Partnerships (SWEP), a program that teaches children about environmental stewardship and attempts to create a passion for nature among the next generation of Tahoe residents.

Mohler, who attended Kings Beach Elementary, then later graduated from North Tahoe High School, discovered her passion for the environment at an early age.

“My father would take us on regular hikes and backpacking trips. That begin my love of the environment,” said Mohler. “We would appreciate nature camping at Sagehen without the crowds. My brother would film the beaver dams, which is probably why he ended up being a photographer. And, I would see the animals and fish in the water. It felt very untouched. It felt protected.”

These trips helped to develop her desire to protect the environment and especially animals.

While she loved Tahoe, after graduating from high school in 1981, she set off on a nine-year journey of education and exploration before returning to Tahoe full time.

Her first stop after graduation was a remote island in the Philippines.

“It was extremely tough at the beginning, but ended up being a great experience,” said Mohler.

“I came home from the Philippines and started looking into either nursing or conservation,” she said. She studied abroad in Italy and Spain, and spent time at Cabrillo College in Santa Cruz. On a whim, she bought a ticket to Africa traveling around East Africa for six months.

100115-Local_Missy1Eventually she settled at UC Berkeley where she received a degree in primatology with a focus on conservation education. In-between her education and adventures, Mohler would come to Tahoe to work as a waitress or ski instructor to collect the resources needed to head off on her next adventure. Eventually she decided to settle in Tahoe and began raising a family with husband, Chaco. They have two daughters, Makiah, 21, and Taysa, 18. Although she was back in Tahoe for good, she still wasn’t sure how to explore her passions for conservation and animals or where her life would take her next.

Life took her to education first, when she met Michelle Topper and they started talking about what they wanted for their kids and other kids in the area. What came next was the creation of Creekside Co-Op in 1998, followed by running a magnet school at Rideout for a few years.

When she discovered that the school didn’t leave time for her family, she moved to Truckee and returned to her environmental roots when the opportunity arose to become the project director for SWEP. Later she became its executive director.

SWEP’s mission is to promote environmental stewardship with students through service learning and watershed education. The organization accomplishes this goal through programs such as the Environmental and Sustainability Club, where students meet and work on service projects such as recycling and energy conservation, and by having students monitor streams to develop programs to restore ecosystems. In the winter, SWEP teaches hands-on winter science at the Tahoe Cross Country Ski Area yurt. And, in a full circle journey back to her childhood, SWEP teaches fifth-grade students in the Tahoe Truckee School District water quality and stream science at the Sagehen Field Station.

“I love the way SWEP exposes students to the environment and helps create passion for nature. We need a future where kids are more tied in to trash and protecting the land. I want to create more passion and a greater desire to protect. I want to teach kids they can make a difference,” said Mohler.


100115-Local_Missy&hubbyMissy Mohler with her husband, Chaco.

Film festival benefits SWEP
In honor of the Sierra Watershed Education Partnerships’ 20th anniversary, the organization presents its first film festival from Oct. 23 to 25 with “Water. The Essential!” Be inspired by compelling films and speakers about water issues through stories about river and ocean pollution, the western drought, stewardship projects and adventures on water in its many forms. The festival features a Gala at Sunnyside Restaurant on Oct. 23 featuring a Trashion Show, band and silent auction. Film showings will be held on Oct. 24 and 25 at Moe’s and Tahoe Art Haus. And, on Sunday, enjoy a panel discussion by local adventure filmmakers who will discuss their craft and the challenges of working in the wilderness and filming on snow and water.


“Water. The Essential!” Film Fest

Oct. 23
 Gala | Sunnyside Restaurant

Oct. 24 & 25
Film showings | Tahoe City

Advance $100 all-inclusive | $75 Gala | $20-$30 films| $40 2-day film pass



For more information on SWEP or to purchase tickets to the film festival, visit