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The Tahoe-Douglas Rotary Club “Blue Bandits”
Crew flex after a successful cleanup at Zephyr
Shoals. Photo credit: Tahoe-Douglas Rotary.

LAKE TAHOE, December 16, 2020 –  The Tahoe Blue Crew, the League to Save Lake Tahoe’s litter-fighting volunteer program, was presented with a 2019 Best in Basin Award for its contribution to a clean, clear and litter-free Lake Tahoe. Best in Basin Awards are granted annually by the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency to showcase projects and programs that demonstrate exceptional planning, implementation, and compatibility with Tahoe’s natural environment and communities.

The Tahoe Blue Crew program trains, equips and supports volunteers to adopt areas across the Tahoe-Truckee region to protect from litter. Crews commit to conduct regular cleanups and gather data on the types and amount of trash they remove from Tahoe’s environment. The data is used to identify trends and develop solutions, such as litter prevention policies.

“We’re honored to receive this Best in Basin Award, and so proud that it recognizes our volunteers’ passion and dedication to protecting Lake Tahoe,” said Marilee Movius, the League’s Community Engagement Manager. “The program took off in 2020 and had a real impact. We can’t wait for more people to join the Blue Crew and protect where they play.”

The program launched in 2019 as a way to empower residents, visitors, businesses and groups to protect their own treasured corners of Tahoe. When the pandemic struck, Tahoe’s popular recreation sites were bombarded with trash, and some land managers’ resources were stretched too thin to address all of it. The Tahoe Blue Crew was well suited to step in, clean up, and relieve some of the burden. Through a partnership with the U.S. Forest Service, Blue Crews cared for some of the Basin’s most-visited National Forest lands. In 2020, the program grew from 18 to 90 Crews who adopted and are still cleaning up areas from Meyers to Mt. Rose, even during winter.

“Tahoe Blue Crew was the League’s answer to pandemic isolation,” said Darcie Goodman Collins, CEO of the League to Save Lake Tahoe. “The program’s self-paced nature and outdoor setting made for safe, physically-distanced, and effective cleanups. In 2020, our Crews removed more than 6,000 pounds of litter from Tahoe’s environment.”

Litter in Tahoe is not just a symptom of the pandemic; it’s a persistent problem. Trash left on Tahoe’s sidewalks, beaches and trails can wash into the Lake, endangering Lake Tahoe’s delicate ecology and famous blue waters. Trash also attracts and harms bears, coyotes and other wildlife.

In addition to cleaning up, Crews also educate visitors about the impacts litter has on the Tahoe environment. Their messages have hit home. Today, more than 25 percent of current Crews are from outside the Basin, showing that anyone and everyone can help Keep Tahoe Blue. The League’s ultimate goal for the program is to have every square inch of the Tahoe Basin adopted and cared for by a Blue Crew.

This is the second consecutive year the League to Save Lake Tahoe has been recognized with a Best in Basin Award. Last year, the League won for implementing a bubble curtain in the Tahoe Keys, an innovative piece of technology that helps prevent the spread of aquatic invasive weeds into the Lake.

The League to Save Lake Tahoe, also known by the slogan “Keep Tahoe Blue,” is Tahoe’s oldest and largest nonprofit environmental advocacy organization. The League is dedicated to community engagement and education and collaborating to find solutions to Tahoe’s environmental challenges. Through the League’s main campaigns, its expert staff and dedicated volunteers A.C.T. to Keep Tahoe Blue: we Advance restoration, Combat pollution, and Tackle invasive species. Learn more at keeptahoeblue.org.