Cover Image: View of the lake from the summit of Mt. Tallac. Image: Aaron Hussmann
Lake Tahoe is one of the most pristine alpine lakes in the world. Its famed clarity reflects a deep cobalt blue that brilliantly contrasts the surrounding snow capped peaks.
Every year, millions of visitors flock to the jewel of the Sierra to take in the grandeur of Tahoe’s glimmering water and inhale the crisp pine-laden mountain air. Yet, for a small group of fifteen tenacious employees at the League to Save Lake Tahoe (the author included), there are plenty of days where our only views of Tahoe are the breathtaking photographs that adorn our South Lake Tahoe headquarters.
The League has been working to “Keep Tahoe Blue” since 1957.
League staff ride Pedego electric bikes to the beach as part of a staff retreat to enjoy Tahoe and build the organization. Image: League to Save Lake Tahoe
Dogged by problems including pollution from urban stormwater runoff and the introduction of aquatic invasive species, League staff are confronted with what can sometimes feel like a twenty-four hour job. It’s not easy to gaze upon Tahoe’s dazzling waters without noticing the dozens of cigarette butts thoughtlessly cast on the ground around your feet.
Yet the staff of Keep Tahoe Blue strikes a balance that allows us to represent Lake Tahoe around the clock while also striving to enjoy the natural playground in our backyard.
At Oboz we believe “one hour on the trail undoes 40 behind the desk.” I couldn’t agree more, which is why I’ve caught up with a few of my colleagues to find out how they enjoy and savor Lake Tahoe while also working to save it.
The fifteen dedicated employees of the League to Save Lake Tahoe enjoying their annual holiday party. Image: League to Save Lake Tahoe
Savannah Rudroff, Natural Resources Associate
Favorite Destination: Bayview Trail
As the League’s unofficial algae expert and resident delicious baked goods provider, Savannah has been working to protect Lake Tahoe since November 2014. By coordinating volunteers in the League’s Eyes on the Lake and Pipe Keeper programs, Savannah helps local residents feel empowered to collect meaningful citizen science data that drives tangible solutions. “My favorite way to enjoy Lake Tahoe is swimming and exploring underwater,” said Rudroff. “Sometimes I’ll have to go swimming for invasive plant samples, you know...for science,” she laughs, enjoying the prospect doing such scientific endeavors for work.
Jesse Patterson, Deputy Director
Favorite Destination: Desolation Wilderness from Echo Lakes to Emerald Bay
Jesse was the recipient of the office “Human Vulture” award for eating just about any food in the office. But when you look at the work Jesse does to protect Lake Tahoe, it’s no wonder he needs to keep his caloric intake up. Jesse is tasked with directing all staff in the League’s programmatic, advocacy, education, and collaboration efforts, while also working to build capacity within the organization. When pressed about work/life balance, Jesse reflects, “many people choose this profession because they believe it’s important and get pleasure from it. Working hard to protect something, what better way to stoke your fire than to get out and enjoy it.” Jesse maintains his balance by finding adventure throughout the changing seasons, including mountain biking, hiking, snowboarding, and cross-country skiing.
Martha Lopez, Database Associate
Favorite Destination: Nevada Beach
Martha’s passion for learning is contagious and it’s clear that Martha doesn’t shy away from new experiences. Martha works as our data entry guru, helping to manage the thousands of members that contribute to Keep Tahoe Blue. She takes the League’s work to heart by stepping out from behind the data and sharing everything she learns about Tahoe with her family, while also delivering bi-lingual presentations to the community. “When I was younger, I didn’t really get a chance to get out and explore in Tahoe,” Martha reflects the 25 years she has spent in Tahoe. “Now, we can actually take the kids out kayaking or camping and enjoy the place we live in.” Martha can often be found enjoying Tahoe by taking family bike rides to picturesque Nevada Beach for dinner.
Marilee Movius, Community Engagement Manager
Favorite Destination: Fallen Leaf Lake
Marilee is the League’s encyclopedia on single-use plastic pollution and will be the first to help someone she’s never met reduce the plastic in their life. Since joining the League in March 2014, Marilee has been responsible for more than quintupling the number of Keep Tahoe Blue volunteers from 250 in 2013 to an astounding 1,393 volunteers in 2015. For someone who is often the public face of Keep Tahoe Blue, maintaining balance and finding an off switch can be difficult. “I try to schedule at least one outdoor activity per week to look forward to. This lets me get everything done during the week so I can get outside and enjoy Tahoe,” said Marilee. Throughout the year you can usually find Marilee chasing Tahoe’s epic sunsets.
Communications Manager Chris Carney drops a telemark turn while he and Oboz Ambassador Aaron Hussmann score some dawn patrol powder before work. Image: Aaron Hussmann
Chris Carney, Communications Manager
Favorite Destination: The North-facing trees of Angora Peak
Since joining the League in 2015, Chris has immediately become the envy of other League staff for his sharp wit and ridiculously calm demeanor. In a role that would push most zen monks over the edge, Chris almost effortlessly maintains the League’s stellar record of credible and professional communication with the outside world. Chris recommends that organizations should strive to avoid burnout and “be supportive of coworkers by creating an environment where you are encouraging people to get out and be active, and find whatever balance is good for them to be most effective in their work.” His favorite activity and he jokes, “the only reason we moved to Tahoe,” is backcountry skiing.
Aaron Hussmann is the Community Engagement Associate with the League to Save Lake Tahoe and author of 500 Miles of South Lake Tahoe Hikes.