IL Meeting

Independence Lake Meeting in Loyalton 042011

News, Analysis, Opinion

A nice crowd turned out at the Loyalton Social Hall on Monday, 18 April to discuss Independence Lake and Nature Conservancy plans for it.

Also present were representatives of The Nature Conservancy, including Chris Fichtel and Kathryn Landreth, Nevada State Director of TNC. 

The affair was facilitated by Heidi Hill Drum, a professional from South Lake Tahoe.

The meeting began with snacks and chatter, then Ms. Drum took command of the light switch and flicked it to get everyone’s attention.  Except that this was Loyalton which gets power from NV Energy, and with the cogen plant down flickering lights are a part of life just like in Baghdad, or so some say.  Anyway, folks were talking.  She flicked a few more times and then people noticed and she ordered the meeting. 

Ms. Drum explained how the evening would flow.  There would be two brief presentations, and then the room would break up into four stations and she would allow a certain amount of time at each station.  People would travel from station to station to discuss:

Station 1 Aquatic Invasive Species/Lake Health

Station 2 Watercraft Options

Station 3 Seasonal Recreation Activities

Station 4 General issues


In much of the world, structure like this organizes the flow of time, ideas and people. She then introduced Kathryn Landreth, TNC Nevada Director.

But first, to show how well local folks go along with the flow of time, ideas, and people, much loved and respected Loyalton resident Royce Stevens took the floor to tell a story from 1972, when he and the old man and some chums were logging up there.  It was a great story, and it reminded everyone that there was a time when a man who’d spent his life working in the woods was entitled to tell a couple of stories when he was a geezer. 

Kathryn Landreth greeted the crowd and presented them with information on which agencies gave what money to TNC to purchase the lake, and the reasons they gave the money:

Bureau of Reclamation: “For the acquisition of land surrounding Independence Lake and protection of the native fishery and water quality of Independence Lake.” ($6.6 million)

CA Wildlife Conservation Board: “The Property shall be held and used for the purposes of acquisition and protection of habitat that promotes the recovery of threatened and endangered species, that provides corridors for linking separate habitat areas to prevent habitat fragmentation and that protects significant natural landscapes and ecosystems.” ($5.5 million)

CA Resource Agency: “For the purpose of protecting this pristine watershed which surrounds Independence Lake and straddles approximately 3.5 miles of Independence Creek.  The Grant Funds will be used to acquire the property along Independence Creek and surrounding Independence Lake and to allow open space for low-impact recreational uses.” ($1.3 million)


One can see at a glance that the lion’s share of the money was intended to protect the watershed and the fish and only a measly $1.3 addresses users, and then it’s “low-impact” uses. 

Ms. Landreth was making a sound case that the money was given to The Nature Conservancy by The Government to protect The Fish.  On a different crowd the simple clarity of her information might have had a profound effect.

Not on this crowd, though, because most of them understood this important truth: it was TAX MONEY.  It was money that belonged to the people.  Now, you can pay it out from different pockets and ear mark it this way or that but it’s tax payer money, and tax payers mean more than fish.

Next, Mr. David Kean, Program Coordinator for the Truckee Regional Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention Program made a presentation.

Many readers will remember a film or video in Health class in school which showed various cankers and pustules, the purpose of which was to portray the evils of sex.  Mr. Kean’s presentation was reminiscent of such films as he outlined the various bivalve and weed infestations Independence Lake could contract if unprotected boating is allowed.  

Unfortunately, Mr. Kean’s presentation highlighted the inevitability of the introduction of invasive species, no matter what steps are taken.  Global warming and the increased mobility of species means these aggressive species are going to be introduced, and they’re going to be successful, to varying degrees, against native species. 

Ms. Drum announced that it was time to break into groups but Plumas County Watchdog Sherry Halverson caught her attention.  Petite and prim and tough as a mongrel terrier Ms. Halverson (she’d probably prefer “Mrs. Halverson”) kept asking “when are we going to hear the other side?”

Ms. Drum explained that wasn’t the format of the evening’s event.  It wasn’t to present “sides” it was to introduce TNC and scary invasive species and reasonable thinking. 

Mrs. Halverson persisted, “this is just one side, where’s the other side?”

Eventually the Halverson logjam broke up and people mostly ignored Ms. Drum’s instructions of going to each station and instead mobbed the watercraft and seasonal recreation options to shout their thoughts at people who quickly scribbled them on large paper pads. 

After a time Ms. Drum flickered the lights again, but by then people knew what it was and largely ignored her. 

Ideas on the pads varied from confused to pipe dream to ecological.

This reporter spoke with people present, including two members of a local trout protection organization. 

Those two were very clear: it’s about the trout.  One suggested no one put anything on the lake for 5 years while a complete study is done.  I asked, “no one can use the lake at all?”  The reply: people can hike.  But, while there were some present who felt they could hike on the lake, most of us will need boats to go on the lake, and hiking is an activity of the land.

The second stated that “there are 23 lakes within 25 miles of Independence Lake which allow boating.  Why can’t users go to those lakes?”  

TNC’s management plan focuses on the Lahontan cutthroat trout, water quality, hazard fuel reduction and forest management, and last and certainly least, “public access for recreation compatible with protection of the ecology of the watershed that is cost effective and administratively feasible.” There’s more wriggle in the last goal than there is in a fat rainbow trout.  They’ll provide some recreation, as long as it’s not too much trouble.

Fringe Anal-pinion:

TNC bought the lake, and most reasonable people accept that they now own it, to manage according to the wishes of their funders and the values of the organization.  The presentation was very clear, and very professionally run, but not particularly satisfying to many of the people there. 

What is the best use of Independence Lake?  To save the Lahonton Cutthroat trout, a fish that was once hugely plentiful, but which was decimated to feed markets in the cities, and which simply can’t survive against rainbow trout, who not only out-compete them, but also hybrid readily with them?  There are LCT in lakes and streams all over California and beyond, but they aren’t this particular strain, and they aren’t sustainable.  Is the best purpose to continue to provide recreation to boaters? 

The Fringe agrees with Bill Copren, Lee Adams, and many others, that there should be no watercraft going in to IL.  All boats, waders, floaties, waterwings, everything should be purchased or rented on site.  That’s how it’s often done on the East Coast, where the battle with invasive bivalves is many decades old.

Whatever the policy is, it needs to be equitable to local and traditional users.  If no boats go in, if all kinds of boats are available for rent, that’s fair to everyone.

The writing is on the wall: Independence Lake is a lake museum.  It’s what reasonable people imagine a pristine lake is, with sustainable populations of seven native fish, and only a few introduced or invasive species.  However if it’s a museum, it’s incomplete without Kenny Osburn in a motorized fishing boat, because if the lake is “pristine” by any measure, it is so thanks to the owners and users of the past.

Let’s see what TNC makes of the lake.


As an aside, one of the highlights of the evening for me was to see Bill Copren, towering over but not daunting Sherry Halverson, saying, “What about the Louisiana Purchase, that was done with public money.  I want to be able to go wherever I want to in Kansas.”  She missed his point, but I didn’t.



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