Tahoe’s Martis Valley in Court December 17

Sierra Watch and our conservation allies will stand up in court next week when California’s Third District Court of Appeal hears oral arguments in our case against the proposed Martis Valley West development project, located on the rim of North Lake Tahoe.

Save Martis Valley

The hearing on December 17 is a milestone event in the 20-year effort to Save Martis Valley and commitment to Keep Tahoe Blue.

Sierra Watch, the League to Save Lake Tahoe, and Mountain Area Preservation are in a long-running legal challenge opposing Placer County’s 2016 approvals. Conservation stakeholders contend that decision-makers failed to meet state laws by downplaying impacts on fire safety, traffic, and the clarity of Lake Tahoe.

In the first round, the trial court agreed – but on narrow grounds. Now we’re working together to further that victory and defend North Tahoe from reckless development.

WHAT: Oral arguments over Martis Valley West development approvals before the Third District Court of Appeal

WHEN: Oral arguments are expected to start at 9:30 am on Friday, December 17, 2021, but could be delayed until 10:00 am, due to another case prior to Martis Valley West.

HOW: The court is conducting oral arguments by videoconference; the public is invited to observe the proceedings by telephone, or online through a web browser, or the BlueJeans Events app (about viewing via the app):


OR via phone — Dial the following number, enter the participant PIN followed by # to confirm — +1 (415) 466-7000 (US) PIN: 6226778 #

After holding one hour of oral arguments on December 17, the court will have 90 days to render its decision. We’ll keep you posted!

For more information on our 20-year commitment to Save Martis Valley, visit: https://www.sierrawatch.org/

Save Martis Valley

Save the Date/Martis Valley Day in Court: December 17

READ UPDATE: https://www.sierrawatch.org/martis-valley-in-court-december-17/

Mark your calendars for an important date in our ongoing effort to protect North Lake Tahoe from reckless development. 

The Third District Court of Appeals has tentatively scheduled oral arguments in our case against Martis Valley West development approvals for December 17, 2021 at 9:30 a.m.

Martis Valley Court Announcement

Sierra Watch, with the League to Save Lake Tahoe and Mountain Area Preservation, will be standing up to defend our mountain values, seeking to overturn approvals for sprawling subdivisions on the northern rim of the Tahoe Basin and to secure responsible planning for the region.

The hearing will likely be virtual; we’ll share further details, including how to watch online: sierrawatch.org/martis-valley-in-court-december-17/

Great news: More protection for Tahoe!

This summer Sierra Watch scored a major win for Tahoe. That victory just got better:

Sierra Watch Logo

Tahoe Truckee True Logo Small

Contact: Tom Mooers; (530) 265-2849 x200

September 30, 2021


Sacramento, Calif. – The California Third District Court of Appeals took action last week that could have major implications for new development proposed in the Tahoe Sierra. The court granted Sierra Watch’s request for partial publication of its August decisions over Alterra Mountain Company’s proposed development in North Tahoe, thereby securing the conservationists’ win as legal precedent.

Pictured: Lake Tahoe & Olympic Valley from Palisades Tahoe on Monday

“Establishing our recent victory as citable law helps protect Tahoe from harmful development proposals,” says Tom Mooers, Executive Director of Sierra Watch, “And it’s another great example of how we work to stand up for our mountain values.”

For more than ten years, Sierra Watch has led a grassroots effort to stop Alterra Mountain Company’s proposal to remake North Tahoe with a series of highrises and an indoor waterpark. Of particular importance is the future of Lake Tahoe and ongoing efforts to protect its clarity. 

For decades, development in the Tahoe Basin—as defined as the watershed of Lake Tahoe—has been highly regulated, monitored by the bi-state Tahoe Regional Planning Agency to ensure that new projects do not harm the lake’s famously blue waters.

Projects just outside the Tahoe Basin, however, do not fall under that jurisdiction—even though they can have a major impact on the lake.

In the case of Alterra Mountain Company’s proposed development in the valley formerly known as Squaw, the project is proposed for land outside the Tahoe Basin. Because snowmelt in the valley does not flow into the lake but, instead, into the Truckee River, land use decision-making authority falls exclusively to Placer County—not the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.

Traffic from Alterra’s proposed development, however, would pour into the Tahoe Basin, adding more than 1,000 new daily car trips to Tahoe’s traffic—each car contributing the pollutants which, in turn, would cloud the lake and rob it of its clarity.

In its case against Alterra’s erstwhile project, Sierra Watch argued that the California Environmental Quality Act required vigorous review of potential impacts on the lake. 

“Just like what your next door neighbor does on his or her property can impact your home, development next door to Tahoe can be destructive to the lake,” says Mooers of Sierra Watch. 

Alterra countered that there was no need to review potential impacts because the project “did not propose development in the Tahoe Basin.”

The court agreed with Sierra Watch, writing in its decision, “Lake Tahoe is a unique and significant environmental resource” that merits special emphasis in environmental review; and review must “determine whether the project’s impacts on Lake Tahoe and the basin were potentially significant—not simply summarize, and then declare inapplicable, another agency’s framework for evaluating these types of issues.”

The court’s decision in favor of Sierra Watch in August was a major milestone in the ongoing, ten-year, grassroots effort to turn back Alterra’s proposed development and Keep Tahoe True. It means that Alterra can’t move forward with its proposal without addressing impacts on Tahoe. The court’s latest action—publication of the decision—extends that victory to inform future proposals as well.

“The decision against Alterra’s proposed development helps protect Tahoe now,” says Mooers. “Establishing it as precedent helps protect Tahoe in the future.”

Our 2021 Resolution to Defend our Mountain Values

What a year!

As we finally put 2020 behind and drop into the New Year, let’s not forget to appreciate our shared perseverance. 

In isolation and anxiety and through tragedy, we’ve made it to 2021.

Emerald Bay, Tahoe Truckee True, resolution

Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe – Abe Blair Gallery

Here at Sierra Watch, together, we have maintained our stalwart defense of our Tahoe values. We haven’t lost any ground to proposed subdivisions in Martis Valley, to roller coasters and indoor waterparks in Olympic Valley.

In fact we even secured some gains, celebrating the acquisition of land recently proposed for development but, now, protected forever.

Our shared commitment gives us a chance, in the year ahead, to resolve Tahoe’s two biggest development threats.

And that’s our resolution for 2021: to prove that, once again, we can work together to protect the places we love.

Onward into 2021!

Sierra Watch Donate

Reno Gazette-Journal: “North Tahoe property twice threatened by development now permanently protected”

Making sure you’ve seen the great news from North Lake Tahoe: 120 acres on Brockway Summit, recently threatened with development, now permanently protected!

This is how we do it – how we turn development threats into conservation opportunities.

In 2014, Mountainside Partners asked the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency to approve 112 ridgeline houses for the property as part of its original Martis Valley West proposal. Sierra Watch, working with our conservation allies, stood up for our mountains and turned them back.

A year later, they returned with a project they called Brockway Campground, a sprawling resort with 550 campsites and commercial and additional commercial facilities. Once again, we stood with our allies to defend Tahoe, and the project stalled.

As of last week, both projects are moot; the land is protected.

Sierra Watch thanks our allies at the League To Save Lake Tahoe and Mountain Area Preservation – we couldn’t ask for better partners in conservation. And we applaud the U.S. Forest Service, the California Tahoe Conservancy, and Sierra Pacific Industries for seeing the deal through.

Happy Holidays indeed! And we’re already looking forward to the next year continuing our campaigns with Martis Valley West and in Squaw Valley!

Read the article here: https://www.rgj.com/story/news/2020/12/15/tahoe-basin-property-owner-development-protected-forest-service/3898662001/

For our mountains. More than ever.

It’s the time of year when we reach out and ask you to support Sierra Watch.

We make it easy – just click here to donate:

Sierra Watch Donate

And it’s important; these days, we need our mountains more than ever.

The good news is that there are no new subdivisions on the Martis Valley West property in North Tahoe; there is no indoor waterpark in Squaw Valley. But these threats are not going away – and new ones continue to emerge.

For twenty years, Sierra Watch has been proving that the best path forward is to work together to protect the places we love.

In a year when so much has gone wrong, this – our shared commitment to conservation – is going right. And we invite you to be a part of our success.

Donner Summit, Mount Rose Wilderness, Martis Valley

Pictured: From Donner Summit looking out toward Martis Valley, Mount Rose Wilderness, & Tahoe Rim


State of Sierra Watch 2020

Each fall we take stock of another year of Sierra Watch and the work we do to defend our mountains. Of course it’s tough to look back on 2020 – when it keeps bearing down on us like a freight train.

Throughout California, we’re suffering the realities of a changing climate – the ravages of wildfire and the threat of drought.

Sierra Nevada

Pictured: California, 2020

For months, smoke in our skies has reminded us: so much of the state is burning; and the rest of us are at risk.

Smoke Tahoe, Smokey Emerald Bay

Pictured: Emerald Bay, 2020

Changing weather patterns are impacting our Sierra snowpack and remaking our watersheds.

Squaw Creek, Squaw Valley, ALterra Mountain Company, Sierra Nevada Drought

Pictured: Squaw Creek, 2020

And then there’s Covid – locking us in our homes, cratering our economy, and inflicting us with the worst health crisis in a century.

Throughout it all, the mountains provide an antidote. Maybe you’ve been able to escape to the trails and the peaks, the streams and lakes – or even just to the simple solace of the smell of pine trees from your own porch.

Five Lakes Trail

Pictured: Five Lakes Trail, 2020

Just knowing that those experiences await us can provide at least some respite in tumultuous times. And, this year more than any, we’re reminded how important it is for us to protect those timeless opportunities from reckless development.

At Sierra Watch, throughout the year, our challenge has been clear: to not lose any of the ground we’ve been fighting for, and to maintain our strength for the times ahead.

Thanks to you – to the hundreds of supporters who have stayed with us and our work to Save Martis Valley and Keep Squaw True, we’re doing it. In a year when so much is going wrong, this – our shared commitment to conservation – is going right.

Alterra Mountain Company, Squaw Valley, Sierra Watch, Keep Squaw True

Pictured: Olympic Valley & Squaw Valley, 2020

There are no new subdivisions on the Martis Valley West property; there is no indoor waterpark in Squaw Valley.

These threats are not going away. But neither is Sierra Watch.

We look forward to the coming year, pivoting out of our quarantine, our recession, and our collective withdrawal and getting back into our communities, our work and, most of all, back into the adventures that await us in our mountains.

Thanks for helping make sure they’ll be ready when we are.

Sierra Watch: Our Mission & Role in Protecting the Sierra Nevada


Sierra Watch’s mission is to protect the Sierra Nevada by turning development threats into conservation victories.

Inspired by the Sierra’s mountain ridgelines, deep pine forests, rich meadows, and crystal clear waters, we provide innovative strategic leadership to defend the places we love.


Our own expertise includes campaign strategy, land use law, media relations, and grassroots organizing.  We leverage these skills with direct access to the best experts in public interest litigation, habitat conservation, and land-use planning.  And we follow through with integrity and discipline to ensure conservation success.

squaw valley community

Pictured: Keep Squaw True supporters at Tahoe City SnowFest


Our unique brand of strategic leadership secures conservation outcomes for Sierra landscapes.  The lasting result is preservation of irreplaceable Sierra values, permanently protected for generations to come.

Sierra Watch fills a critical need for targeted leadership in Sierra conservation.  Region-wide groups help shape broad policies for land use decision-making; Sierra Watch applies a focused approach to landscape-level development decisions.  Local grassroots groups often lack the full toolkit necessary to wage effective campaigns; Sierra Watch provides proven, disciplined direction for local efforts.  Land trusts can help broker real estate deals and shepherd land into permanent protection; Sierra Watch stands up to irresponsible development projects to protect land and communities.


For 20 years, Sierra Watch has built an impressive track record stopping damaging development proposals, generating funds to acquire lands of high value, and redirecting development to more appropriate areas. 

Our ongoing success is creating a lasting legacy of permanent protection in important places like Martis Valley and Donner Summit and of community involvement in development decision-making in Squaw Valley

Our campaigns develop and inspire local leadership at our project sites and beyond, ensuring that important, lasting land-use decisions are made for the right reasons, with the best information, and with the timeless values of the Sierra at heart.


Everything we do here at Sierra Watch – from legal briefs to bumper stickers – depends on the hundreds of individuals and families who stand with us to protect our favorite mountain places. Become a part of the proud history of conservation in the Sierra by supporting Sierra Watch’s mission:


New report: Lake Tahoe further losing its clarity

The UC Davis Environmental Research Center released its annual report on Lake Tahoe’s clarity yesterday, and the news is not good.

Emerald Bay, UC Davis, Keep Squaw True

Tahoe’s Emerald Bay/UC Davis

“Tahoe is suffering a staggering loss of clarity in our own generation,” says Tom Mooers of Sierra Watch.  “And if reckless developers in the Tahoe Sierra get their way, the news will go from bad to worse.”

Each year the center releases the results of its ongoing research.  Lake clarity is measured by dropping a Secchi disk, about the size of a dinner plate, and checking how deep it remains visible to the naked eye. 

According to UC Davis, scientists took 28 individual readings in 2019 and measured a decrease in clarity of nearly eight feet.  The average depth at which the disk could be seen was 62.7 feet.  In 1968, the depth was 102 feet – a stunning loss of clarity over the past five decades.

Lake Tahoe Clarity, Keep Tahoe Blue, Keep Squaw True, UC Davis

Pictured: Secchi Disc depth over time/UC Davis

Researchers point to the impacts of climate change as a growing contributor to the loss of lake clarity. 

Traffic is also an ongoing concern.  Cars in the Tahoe Basin kick up and produce the pollution that feeds nutrients and, in turn, cloud the lake.

Alterra Mountain Company’s proposed development in Squaw Valley, just outside the Tahoe Basin, would make both worse. 

Alterra’s highrise condos and massive indoor waterpark would pump more than 40,000 tons of carbon into our atmosphere every year.

And traffic generated from the new development would clog Tahoe’s roads, adding more than 1,300 cars – and their pollution – into the basin every day, threatening ongoing efforts to Keep Tahoe Blue.

Clearly, Tahoe deserves better. 

To learn more about Sierra Watch and to stream The Movie to Keep Squaw True, visit sierrawatch.org.

You can read more about the impacts of Squaw development on Tahoe traffic in our report: “Prepare to Stop: Tahoe Traffic and Squaw Valley Development

And to read the new report on lake clarity by UC Davis’ Tahoe Environmental Research Center, visit https://tahoe.ucdavis.edu/secchi.

Stand with Sierra Watch – Every Month of the Year

Thanks for being a part of Sierra Watch and our ongoing work to defend our favorite mountain places.

Everything we do depends on the hundreds of individuals and families who stand with us to protect our Sierra. And we’re asking you to consider making a monthly contribution to our shared commitment.

Simply put, Sierra Watch focuses our love of places like Martis Valley, Donner Summit, and Squaw Valley into strategic, disciplined, and effective campaigns.

Keep Squaw True, Squaw Valley, KSL Capital Partners

It’s a little bit like David standing up to Goliath. Except that there is more than one Goliath – behemoths of private equity and speculative real estate, hell-bent on reckless development. 

But, most important, we are thousands of Davids. And, together, we are an unstoppable force for conservation.

You can invest in our shared effort by clicking here and making a monthly contribution to Sierra Watch:

One of our supporters tells me, “Every month, I get an email saying I’ve made another contribution of $20, and I feel like I’m doing my part.”

That kind of individual commitment is what it takes to stand up to the Goliaths – and defend our mountains.

Placer County Board of Supervisors, Squaw Valley, Alterra Mountain Company

So whether you are a first time donor, a monthly donor, or an annual donor, you’re a part of the proud history of conservation in the Sierra. And we appreciate your support.

As always, please don’t hesitate to contact me directly with any questions or comments. You can reach me by phone at (530) 265-2849 ext. 200 or by email at tmooers@sierrawatch.org.


Tom Mooers, Executive Director