Shining a light on Lake Tahoe

STATELINE, NEV. – Lake Tahoe was the winner today thanks to the 20th anniversary celebration by politicians, locals, visitors and environmental advocates of the Lake Tahoe Summit held at Harvey’s Outdoor Arena.

“Lake Tahoe is one of the highest, deepest, oldest and purest in the world,” President Barack Obama said in his first visit to Tahoe.


President Barack Obama called for the continued protection of Lake Tahoe | Mael Passanesi

Thousands waited in long security lines to enter the Harvey’s Outdoor Concert Arena in Stateline, Nev., for a chance to be part of the monumental milestone of the Lake Tahoe Summit, featuring Sens. Harry Reid, Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, along with California Gov. Jerry Brown and Janice Schneider, Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management, U.S. Department of the Interior.

The excitement was palpable as residents and local policymakers mingled with visitors, dignitaries, Secret Service and throngs of media in the blazing sun for the President’s visit. Although some attendees were equally, if not more, excited by the pending performance of the rock band The Killers that followed the President’s speech.


Sen. Harry Reid hosted the 20th anniversary Lake Tahoe Summit. | Mael Passanesi

The atmosphere was part rock concert complete with long food and beer lines (although the Drink Tahoe Tap line was nearly as long), and part environmental summit as nonprofits worked to inform guests on everything from the plight of the Lahontan Cutthroat Trout to lake clarity and state parks.

President Obama focused on the conservation issues facing Lake Tahoe during his speech in which he also attacked those who don’t acknowledge climate change.

“The fact is that it’s man-made,” he said. “It’s not, ‘We think it’s man-made.’ It’s not, ‘A lot of people are saying it’s man-made. … There is overwhelming evidence that climate change is caused by human activities.”

He also emphasized the economic importance of conservation. “There’s no contradiction between having a strong economy and a strong environment,” he said.

The visit by President Obama catapulted the protection of Lake Tahoe onto the national spotlight, and the President was obviously awed by the beauty of the Jewel of the Sierra as he arrived on Marine One for his visit to Lake Tahoe, promising to coming back as a visitor to the region.


The security was tight at Harvey’s Outdoor Arena in Stateline, Nev. | Mael Passanesi

Before the President took the stage, Schneider announced the approval of $29.5 million in funding for the Lake Tahoe Basin and surrounding areas for restoration, conservation projects and wildfire prevention efforts.

The Tahoe Environmental Research Center summed up the day’s environmental awareness to protect Lake Tahoe best through the reusable bags at their booth – “Help Tahoe Keep Its Cool” – along with fans (thank you). Many were seen cooling themselves with the fans and then reading the message on the back: “Lake Tahoe is warming up. … Climate change is threatening our environment, including Lake Tahoe,” and prompting action to help by visiting


Heather Segale from the Tahoe Environmental Research Center, which was urging everyone to help the effects of climate change on Lake Tahoe. | Katherine E. Hill

“Lake Tahoe is getting warmer, faster than any large lake in the world,” Feinstein said during the summit, quoting TERC director Geoffrey Schladow.

For some, the message to protect Lake Tahoe feel on deaf ears as the arena was left littered with empty water bottles and torn pieces of paper touting environmental stewardship at the end of the summit.



Learn more about Lake Tahoe’s environmental issues in the special edition of “Tahoe In Depth”