“As we meet today, we are not just at a pivotal point for Lake Tahoe. We are at a pivotal point for our planet’s history and in Nevada’s and California’s history.”
“The threats to Lake Tahoe, to our states, to our country, and to our planet are very real. And while we may not have a President that supports the Paris Climate Accord, or a majority in Congress that supports direct action to stop climate change, each one of us has a voice. Now, more than ever, we must make sure we use it.”
South Lake Tahoe, Calif. – Today, U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) delivered remarks at the Lake Tahoe Summit highlighting the need to preserve Lake Tahoe and combat the effects of climate change throughout the Western United States, and the world. Below are her remarks as prepared for delivery:
Thank you, Dianne for that warm introduction. Senator Feinstein’s work as a champion for Lake Tahoe, and as a convener of this conference, is well known. Thank you for everything you have done – and continue to do – to preserve and protect the shared natural history of our two great states.
I am happy to be here today with my colleagues, Senator Dean Heller of the great State of Nevada, and Senator Kamala Harris of California. I also want to acknowledge Nevada’s Governor, Brian Sandoval, for being here today.
Thank you to the House Members in attendance – Congressmen Garamendi and McClintock.
Joanne Marchetta, Executive Director of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency – you stand at the front line of our effort. I am grateful for everything that you do to preserve California and Nevada’s shared natural heritage. Thank you for your continued good work and helpful outreach to my office.
So many of the organizations and individuals here are instrumental in protecting and preserving Lake Tahoe. And many of you have also joined in the effort to protect Nevada’s other natural treasures – Tule Springs and Pyramid Lake.
You were also instrumental in making Basin and Range and Gold Butte national monuments. I want to recognize all of you for your efforts. Thank you.
In 1997, President Bill Clinton and Senator Harry Reid convened the first Lake Tahoe Summit. In fact, it’s my understanding that we are convened in the same location where Senators Reid, Richard Bryan, Feinstein and Boxer joined President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore. It was here that they announced their shared commitment to the lake.
That summit laid a foundation for crucial partnerships between federal, state and local government and stakeholders, the Washoe Tribe, private foundations, citizens, and public agencies. These public and private partners made a commitment to our shared responsibility to protect Lake Tahoe.
Together, over the last two decades, we have made significant progress toward that goal.
As Senator Reid said in 2013 about that first summit – “environmentalists, developers, state and local government and more than 50 organizations participated. It was really something.” Thanks to Senators Reid, Feinstein and Boxer’s leadership over two decades, more than $2 billion in federal, state, local and private funding has been invested in Lake Tahoe.
Thanks to them, and many in this here today, we’ve protected this lake, upgraded its infrastructure and actively worked to preserve the surrounding natural beauty. As Senator Reid said then, it’s really something – Senator Harris, I’d say that you and I have quite the legacy to live up to, don’t we? And we will.
That legacy continues today. Thanks to Senators Reid, Feinstein, Boxer and Heller, the 2016 Lake Tahoe Restoration Act was passed. The bill authorized $415 million in federal dollars for key Environmental Improvement Programs. These funds are going to improve the quality of the water, protect against aquatic invasive species, mitigate the threat of wildfires, enhance Tahoe’s infrastructure and create a “smart lake” that will better inform our scientists and create a more sustainable Lake Tahoe for its residents and visitors.
I am so proud of the progress that Tahoe is making in improving its water quality and ecosystem. Just in 2016 alone, our partners here today completed twenty environmental impact projects. As one example of this great work, our Nevada-Tahoe Conservation District worked on the Burke Creek Highway 50 Crossing and Realignment project. They restored 750 feet of stream channel by removing 8,712 square feet of coverage obstructing its path.
Through the partnerships we strengthen here today, we will continue to produce results like the ones our Nevada-Tahoe Conservation District has achieved, while improving our environment in the process.
Hearing all of these achievements, it’s easy to feel as though we’ve done enough, isn’t it? Yet, the theme of today’s summit, “A Pivotal Point for the Future of Lake Tahoe,” makes clear that we still have more to do. As we meet today, we are not just at a pivotal point for Lake Tahoe. We are at a pivotal point for the health and sustainability of our public lands and environment.
I was born and raised in Nevada. I know how essential protecting our environment and natural resources is to our physical – and economic – health. I recently visited Basin and Range National Monument. It’s one of our newest protected wilderness areas and it is gorgeous – open skies, beautiful desert landscapes and amazing Native American petroglyphs. I grew up visiting national parks, hiking and fishing with my dad. I want future generations to have those same experiences.
As many of you know, Secretary Zinke and President Trump are looking to revoke our national monuments. Stripping away our monuments would damage our rural economies and destroy our natural heritage. It’s wrong and we must stand together to protect them. My office alone has seen a tremendous response. I’ve received comments from Nevadans, and all across our country, calling on the Department of the Interior to support our national monuments. As of July, when the public comment period closed, 2.3 million people had submitted comments in favor of protecting the national monuments in Nevada.
These monuments enjoy widespread public support and serve as economic drivers across our state. Protecting the environment for present and future generations is one of my top priorities as a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
Every day, I am fighting to ensure that we grow our nation’s clean energy economy, while also protecting our environment. Together, Nevada and California are leading the way in building a green economy. Nevada is a national leader in developing clean energy technology and creating green jobs. Today, we invest six billion dollars in clean energy projects throughout Nevada with nearly 6,000 Nevadans working in the solar energy industry and over 20,000 in the clean energy industry as a whole.
We must continue to fight for commonsense policies that reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and promote clean energy choices. Not only is protecting our environment good for our economy. It’s good for the health of our children and our communities. We must fight against efforts to repeal basic, commonsense measures that protect the air we breathe from pollution and keep the water we drink free of contaminants.
Sadly, despite the incredible progress we have all made together to build a green economy and stop climate change, the threat has only increased. Especially under this Administration. It’s no secret that we have an Administration that refuses to recognize the damage climate change is having on our states’ economy and environment.
In California and Nevada, we experience the damaging effects of climate change first hand. We experience it every year with droughts harming farmers and ranchers, wild fires destroying homes, floods damaging private property and record breaking heat waves threatening our seniors and communities. In fact, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that 2016 was the hottest year on record. This was the third year in a row that global temperatures shattered previous records!
Some might call that a hoax. However, in the West we know that climate change is real. We must work together to fight it.
The threats to Lake Tahoe, our states, country, and planet are very real. And while we may not have a President that supports the Paris Climate Accord, or a majority in Congress that supports concrete action to stop climate change, each one of us has a voice. Now, more than ever, we must make sure we use it. We owe it to our children and grandchildren to continue fighting for our planet. Their futures are on the line. They deserve the opportunity to fish on Lake Tahoe, or hike at Basin and Range with their parents. Just like I did. Just like many of you have done.
At the first summit here in Tahoe, President Clinton observed: “we have an awful lot of work to do.” Well, he wasn’t kidding. As I look around I am invigorated because I know that together – all of us here– will be using our voices to protect the pristine beauty of Lake Tahoe, the cultural history of our public lands, and the future of our planet.
I look forward to hearing your thoughts, working with you to make sure you have the necessary resources, and continuing our hard fought victories to protect Lake Tahoe. Thank you all!