Map of Independence Lake.
View breathtaking photos of Independence Lake.
Mike Sweeney, executive director of The Nature Conservancy in California
On May 11, 2010, The Nature Conservancy announced that Independence Lake, one of the most pristine alpine lakes west of the Rockies, and the majestic wilderness that surrounds it will remain protected from development following the sale of the land to The Nature Conservancy by longtime owner NV Energy.
Nestled in the heart of the Sierra Nevada Mountains just north of Lake Tahoe, Independence Lake provides a critical source of fresh water for Nevada’s second largest metropolitan area.
The 2.4-mile lake also harbors one of the world’s last two wild lake populations of the Lahontan cutthroat trout.
Independence Lake is an outstanding outlet for nature enthusiasts, hikers and sportsmen alike. Protecting the lake and 2,325 acres of surrounding forestlands will also contribute greatly to the tourism industry, the mainstay economy of the Sierra Nevada.
“The protection of Independence Lake is the latest important step for safeguarding the water supply of northern Nevada,” said U.S. Senator Harry Reid. “The fact that it also provides outstanding recreation opportunities and helps protect native fish makes the purchase all the more significant.”
Protecting the lake safeguards an important source of drinking water for western Nevada and a critical watershed for California’s water supply.
“Faced with a changing climate, depleted drinking-water supplies and a tough economy, we must focus on conservation opportunities like preserving Independence Lake that have impacts beyond the acres protected,” said Mike Sweeney, executive director of The Nature Conservancy in California.
Because the lake is so widely acknowledged as a vital natural resource, this conservation project has an unusually vast and diverse list of partners, including U.S. Senator Harry Reid, who championed the project and allocated a significant portion of the funding, the states of California and Nevada, energy and water utilities, the business community, environmentalists, biologists and the recreation community.
“The Independence Lake acquisition caps Governor Schwarzenegger’s legacy in the Sierras—from creating the Sierra Nevada Conservancy after less than a year in office, to having multiple state agencies participating in such a milestone acquisition,” said Lester Snow, California Secretary for Natural Resources.
The funding for this $15 million–dollar purchase comes from a variety of federal funds, secured by Nevada’s Senator Harry Reid; three California agencies, Wildlife Conservation Board, the Resources Agency and the Sierra Nevada Conservancy; and private funders such as The David and Lucile Packard Foundation and the Northern Sierra Partnership.
NV Energy, the former owner who has stewarded the lake for nearly 75 years, will provide more than $1.3 million to help support ongoing management.
“In the west, we borrow a saying from Mark Twain that ‘whisky is for drinking and water is for fighting,’ but the success of Independence Lake serves as a model for how stakeholders with sometimes very different perspectives can work together to achieve the best possible outcome for the health of our communities and our economy,” said Chris Fichtel, conservation lead for the Independence Lake project with The Nature Conservancy in Nevada.
The lake and surrounding forests offer exceptional habitat for wildlife. Not only does the area support one of the last runs of the native Lahontan cutthroat trout, but black bears roam the shores and pine trees provide perches for bald eagles and osprey, which can also be seen from the shorelines hunting fish.
The Nature Conservancy will continue to manage Independence Lake with the help of partners like the Truckee Donner Land Trust, who will jointly provide for public access and recreation at Independence Lake. The lake and forests will be managed to sustain fish and wildlife and to provide a continuing supply of clean water to communities downstream.
Additionally, the forests will be managed to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire in the region—a threat to neighboring communities and the water supply—and will continue to serve as a key wildlife corridor, two issues vital for adapting to our changing climate.
March 07, 2013