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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)


Air Date: Week of

During the recent Presidential forum at Lake Taho, Clinton pledged money to preserve the ecosystem of the basin. He also promised to return some land to the Washoe Indians who lay claim to the whole lake. Cheryl Colopy reports.


CURWOOD: It's Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood. Every year, thousands of tourists and seasonal residents flock to the shores of Lake Tahoe, nestled in the Sierra Nevada. Tahoe can take your breath away, with its deep, clear waters and luxuriant forests. But as more and more people come to Lake Tahoe, it has begun to change. And not everyone has agreed with the development and tourism practices. Zoning, building codes, even water skiing have been contentious issues there. The Tahoe Basin, at the border of California and Nevada, consists mainly of government lands. Recently, President Clinton held a forum at the lake. He promised to double federal assistance to the region, with 50 million more dollars over the next 2 years, to help restore the basin's ecosystem. A little-reported feature of the President's pledge, is a special land permit, for Lake Tahoe's original stewards, the Washoe. Tribal leaders there hope this is just a beginning of their return to the lake. Cheryl Colopy reports.

COLOPY: For the Washoe tribe of California and Nevada, Lake Tahoe is both a lost home and a sacred place, and for 150 years, they have dreamt of returning to it, even though all the land was held by private owners and the federal government. Brian Wallace, the Chairman of the tribe, sat in a circle at a lakeside retreat with Vice-President Gore and other government officials, to receive the promise of about 400 acres, that President Clinton announce Sunday. Wallis says the 1600-member Washoe Tribe will try to do some of the things their ancestors did on this land.

WALLACE: We don't come here as developers, and what we're interested in doing is, just be able to touch and walk with the land, once again. And the more the others work the land, the more they remember. So with this land present, comes the reintroduction of Washoe resource stewardship.

COLOPY: The US Forest Service, which now manages the federal land, will issue a 30-year permit to the tribe. The land the Washoe will manage includes a 350-acre meadow, along with smaller parcels, which give the Washoe lake access. The tribe will not be able to live on the land, but the agreement guarantees freedom to use the land during the summer months, when the tribe traditionally lived here. The land will also remain open to the public, but Chairman Wallace says, the Washoe are happy to share the land. Wallis says there are 8 other such parcels of land the tribe would like, and talks with the Forest Service will continue. President Clinton is the 6th President since 1877 the Washoe have asked to return some of their lands. President Clinton said the mail will travel faster from now on. For Living on Earth, I'm Cheryl Colopy.



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