While the concerns of a relative handful of citizens gathered around one of the most beautiful lakes on this or any other planet may rank low on national priorities, take it from us: life is a lot less difficult for us out here, and we have nature to thank for it. It’s a big reason why those people from the San Francisco Bay Area have decided to move into their vacation homes for good. Unfortunately, with the influx of city dwellers also comes the refuse, the plastic bottles. They may live in nature now, but they don’t know how to live WITH nature. Medicine Box is committed to teaching people how to heal not only themselves, but the world around them. To that end, we invited Sierra Business Council Director of Government and Community Affairs Brittany Benesi to speak about the changing landscape of Tahoe, and the lessons Tahoe can teach the non-residents of this area — i.e.: most of you reading this — how nature takes care of those who take care of it.
In keeping with its mission to spur small business innovation, economic empowerment and regional advocacy, the Sierra Business Council has partnered with National Geographic on the Sierra Nevada Geotourism website, which highlights the hidden natural gems in the region. “For a long time, our tourism economy has always been focused much of our tourism impact on the charismatic areas of the region. Lake Tahoe, Mammoth, Yosemite, and those areas experience both the benefits and the hardships that come from tourism impacts, impacts on the infrastructure as well as benefits to the economy,” says Benesi. “So geotourism highlights destinations both in and around those areas as well as out in our very rural parts of the region in order to spread out that tourism love.” The impacts of climate change are already being felt, with wetter, warmer winters and year-long fire seasons becoming the norm. Benesi soberly noted the plans of ski resorts to pivot towards mountain biking trails, perhaps within the lifetimes of those who can remember seeing the 1960 Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley on TV.
However, Benesi does feel exposure to the Tahoe environment is its own best argument for its preservation. She praises the work of Recreate Responsibly and Take Care Tahoe to spread the gospel of environmental stewardship, and continually connected the economic fate of the region to its environmental health. Brian discusses his desire to cut back on plastics pollution, which is now showing up as barely visible microplastics on the beaches as well as through discarded water bottles imported from outside the region. Businesses like Medicine Box and SBC Brian argues, can push these goals along much faster with collaborative efforts that are often a mix of painstaking policy and advocacy work. Heading into the homestretch of the episode, Brian inquires about Brittany’s pet project, to which she quickly responds: forest management. This to her is mission-critical, because she stresses that it’s a matter of when and not if the fires will eventually come to the region, given the overgrowth in the local forests. “I’ve once heard that a natural Sierra Nevada forest was one that you could gallop a horse through. And you see the density of these forests and you understand how a wildfire could so quickly breakthrough, climb from the ground to the treetops and spread across an entire mountain range in a matter of hours.” For those moved to take action, she draws attention to the Climate Catalyst Fund, a portion of California’s climate budget which allows private investors to place capital into revolving loans for forest resiliency, where she predicts much of the funding for full climate action will come from in the future.
Benesi’s favorite off the beaten trail spaces: The Truckee Donner Land Trust
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