From left: Joanne Marchetta (TRPA), Forest Schafer, Karen Mullen-Ehly, Karen Fink, and Jim Lawrence (TRPA). Not pictured: Nicole Cartwright.

Lake Tahoe, Stateline, Nevada – The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA) honored four people with Lake Spirit Awards Wednesday who have shown exceptional commitment to protecting Lake Tahoe and fostering a spirit of collaboration in their work and volunteer time.

This year’s award winners do everything from helping protect Lake Tahoe communities from wildfire and aquatic invasive species to promoting alternative transportation and sustainable lifestyles.

TRPA introduced the awards in 2011 to honor real people making real progress at the lake. The agency expanded the awards in 2012 to include categories for both citizens and agency representatives/environmental scientists. Awards are given to exemplary individuals in each category from both the North and South shores of Lake Tahoe.

This year’s winners are:

Exemplary Citizen

North Shore: Karen Mullen-Ehly retired from a career with Washoe County Parks to bring her “get-it-done” attitude to numerous projects at Lake Tahoe, according to Tahoe Fund CEO Amy Berry, who nominated Mullen-Ehly.

“In her role as a consultant to the Tahoe Transportation District, she has been instrumental in moving the Nevada Stateline-Stateline bike path forward,” Berry said in nominating Mullen-Ehly. “She has poured her heart and soul into the project, helping to complete the section to Round Hill Pines, and helping get the northern section from Incline to Sand Harbor under construction.
“Karen is a tireless advocate for the lake, going above and beyond in her efforts to ensure a project isn’t just done but done very well. She is often pointing out little ways to make a project exceptional that don’t require significant funding, just significant thought.”

South Shore: Karen Fink was a founding member of the Lake Tahoe Bicycle Coalition, and continues to work on improving transportation and biking, as well as the amount of affordable housing at Lake Tahoe. She was the inspiration behind parents’ group Small World to engage busy parents to create a more peaceful, sustainable planet for all children, according to Rebecca Bryson, who nominated Fink.

“Karen Fink was a long-time employee at TRPA. In that role, she worked tirelessly to promote a more sustainable transportation system for a better environment here in Tahoe,” Bryson said in nominating Fink. “Her warm, collaborative spirit and can-do attitude enabled her to work with a wide variety of interest groups to get things accomplished. Not only does she emulate her values in her work, she embodies her commitment to sustainable living very deeply in her personal life and everyday actions.”

Agency Representative/Environmental Scientist

North Shore: Forest Schafer has worked for the North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District since 2003, working his way up from wildland firefighter to the district’s forester. Among his many responsibilities, Schafer serves as the incident commander for the Tahoe Fire and Fuels Team, which coordinates fuel reduction, fire prevention, and community engagement for 18 local, state, and federal entities in the Lake Tahoe Basin.

“For the last nine years as forester, Forest has cultivated relationships with our cooperating agencies and partners fostering creative collaborative solutions to issues that affect not only the Lake Tahoe Basin but our regional resources as well when it comes to fuels management and mitigation,” wrote Tia Rancourt, coworker and ‎public education/information officer for North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District, in nominating Schafer. “He inspires his coworkers and peers through his forward thinking, tireless dedication, and innate leadership skills. His desire to inspire comes naturally because Forest does what he loves. His accomplishments speak for themselves and have far reaching positive impacts for our region.”

South Shore: Nicole Cartwright has been a part of Lake Tahoe’s Aquatic Invasive Species Program since it began in 2007 and has helped build it from a volunteer program into the “gold standard for prevention,” according to TRPA Aquatic Resources Program Manager Dennis Zabaglo, who nominated Cartwright.

“Nicole also oversees projects designed to remove existing AIS within the lake, highlighted by the Emerald Bay project that has resulted in Emerald Bay being weed free for the last several years,” Zabaglo said in nominating Cartwright. “In addition to her dedication to lake saving projects, Nicole is also engaged in our community. From her involvement with local theater to her volunteering with SOS Outreach – dedicated to developing life skills for at risk youth – Nicole truly serves Lake Tahoe at multiple levels and is more than deserving of this award.”

The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency leads the cooperative effort to preserve, restore, and enhance the unique natural and human environment of the Lake Tahoe Region, while improving local communities, and people’s interactions with our irreplaceable environment. For additional information contact Adam Jensen at 775-589-5251 or