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Kayaking

Our shared responsibility to preserve and enjoy

Story by Andrea Iniguez | Riverside County Public Lands Fellow

This month, several news outlets reported a record-breaking 8,500 pounds of trash having to be removed from Lake Tahoe following this year’s Fourth of July celebration. The shocking images of cigarette butts, plastic bottles, and several other hazardous items cluttering Lake Tahoe’s beaches reveal the growing negative impact of tourism on the area. The summer months, and especially the holidays, bring in surges of people toward our public lands and waters. While the public’s interest in California’s natural treasures is exciting, it has become increasingly important that people take responsibility for caring for these areas, especially while visiting.

No substitute for good stewardship

Lake Tahoe

We tip our hats to the more than 400 volunteers with and other local organizations that came together on July 5th for an annual Lake Tahoe cleanup event. However, the responsibility of maintaining our outdoor spaces clean of litter should not rest on the shoulders of a few committed volunteers. Instead, we should all take it upon ourselves to recreate responsibly by following the seven principles of Leave No Trace. These include best practices like disposing of waste properly or minimizing campfire impacts. Abiding by these principles can have a lasting positive effect on the natural places we all love. Conversely, ignoring our collective responsibility to protect California’s beautiful landscapes can have a number of adverse effects. For example, not cleaning up your trash after camping can lead to wildlife ingesting garbage that is harmful to them. They can get tangled up in debris, choke, or get abrasions. In addition, the agency or agencies that manage some of our favorite places may choose to shut down or restrict access as a means of managing the results of irresponsible recreationists.

Small actions make a big difference

Indeed, there is a space for everyone outdoors, but we need to be conscious of our individual responsibility to participate in the upkeep of the areas we enjoy. Officials in Lake Tahoe are already taking steps towards elevating management in the area, like improving signage, to prevent such events from reoccurring. However, these actions should not be a substitute for good stewardship. We all need to do our part in protecting our wild places by keeping them free from litter. Individual actions (e.g., pack in, pack out) may appear small, yet they are equally important in ensuring the protection of beloved places like Lake Tahoe.

Remember, our wild places and outdoor areas serve an important role for millions of people and there is no substitute for them. While CalWild, and our partners, are working vigorously towards increasing protections and improving management of public lands across the state, we kindly urge the public to join us in our efforts to care for these special places by modeling stewardship behaviors, like Leave No Trace, for others to follow. Moreover, we applaud the organizations, like Keep Tahoe Blue and the who are putting Leave No Trace at the forefront of the effort. Equally commendable are the individuals who commit themselves daily to practicing good stewardship.