Tahoe Yellow Cress surveys underway in the Lake Tahoe Basin

Release Date: Sep 14, 2023

Contact(s): California Tahoe Conservancy, Chris Carney, 530-307-0447, USDA Forest Service, Lisa Herron 530-721-3898


LAKE TAHOE, Calif./Nev., Sep. 14, 2023 – In early September, the Tahoe Yellow Cress Adaptive Management Working Group began their annual lake-wide monitoring surveys of Tahoe Yellow Cress (TYC) in the Lake Tahoe Basin. These surveys will continue throughout September across numerous land ownerships, and on every beach where this rare plant is known to occur. The success of the monitoring program depends on a partnership between California Department of Fish and Wildlife, California State Parks, California Tahoe Conservancy, Nevada Division of Natural Heritage, Tahoe Lakefront Owners Association, Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, USDA Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit (LTBMU), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California and private landowners.

“Protecting rare plant species like the Tahoe Yellow Cress requires effective collaboration by Tahoe partners,” said Jason Vasques, executive director for the California Tahoe Conservancy. “Only by working together have we been able to bring this special part of the lakeshore ecosystem back from the brink of being lost forever.”

The Lake Tahoe Basin is a remarkable ecosystem where unique vegetation, such as TYC, can be found. TYC (Rorippa subumbellata) is a small native plant that grows on the shoreline of Lake Tahoe and nowhere else in the world! It belongs to the mustard family and is exclusive to the sandy shores of Lake Tahoe and along creeks and streams that flow into the lake. TYC grows low to the ground and has pinnate leaves and small yellow flowers.

Two decades ago, this distinct species was in danger of extinction. TYC had vanished from beaches in Nevada and could only be found at a few sites on the California side of the lake. Because of this critical situation, TYC was listed as endangered by the State of California and critically endangered in the State of Nevada. In 1999, TYC was identified as a candidate for federal listing under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Over the years, TYC numbers have increased thanks to the collaborative effort of numerous partners and implementation of the TYC Conservation Strategy. Since 2002, this strategy helped identify and reduce threats to TYC through scientific research, community outreach, and protective measures.

In October 2015, the USFWS removed TYC as a candidate for federal listing under the ESA, referencing the success of the TYC Conservation Strategy and the long-term, proactive, conservation demonstrated by the partners to significantly reduce threats to TYC.

While the recovery of TYC is promising, the factors leading to the near extinction of TYC still exist today, emphasizing a continued need for monitoring and protection. Current threats include high water levels, lake-front development, and heavy public beach use.

Next time you are on the shores of Lake Tahoe, you may notice fences surrounding some areas of sandy beach. These areas are prime TYC habitat, and the fences help protect these delicate plants from being trampled. By staying out of these enclosures, avoiding vegetated areas on beaches especially near the mouths of streams and creeks, maintaining control of pets and launching and beaching watercraft away from TYC, beachgoers can help ensure its survival.

The recovery of TYC was made possible by cooperation between land management agencies, conservation groups, private landowners, and the public. If we all continue to work together to protect this unique Tahoe species, TYC will thrive and be present at Lake Tahoe for future generations to enjoy.

For more information on TYC, visit Tahoe Yellow Cress.org, the Lake Tahoe Info Monitoring Program and the LTBMU Tahoe Yellow Cress Conservation webpages.

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California Tahoe Conservancy staff survey for Tahoe Yellow Cress at the Upper Truckee Marsh.
Photo caption: California Tahoe Conservancy staff survey for Tahoe Yellow Cress at the Upper Truckee Marsh along the South Shore of Lake Tahoe. The waterfront at the marsh is home to the largest population of TYC in the Basin. Photo credit: California Tahoe Conservancy.

California Tahoe Conservancy staff survey for Tahoe Yellow Cress at the Upper Truckee Marsh.
Photo caption: California Tahoe Conservancy staff survey for Tahoe Yellow Cress at the Upper Truckee Marsh along the South Shore of Lake Tahoe. The waterfront at the marsh is home to the largest population of TYC in the Basin. Photo credit: California Tahoe Conservancy.

Tahoe Yellow Cress is a rare native plant that is found only on the sandy beaches of Lake Tahoe.
Photo caption: Tahoe Yellow Cress is a rare native plant that is found only on the sandy beaches of Lake Tahoe. Photo credit: Nevada Division of Natural Heritage.

Adaptive Management Working Group member surveys for Tahoe Yellow Cress.
Photo caption: California Tahoe Conservancy staff survey for Tahoe Yellow Cress at the Upper Truckee Marsh along the South Shore of Lake Tahoe. The waterfront at the marsh is home to the largest population of TYC in the Basin. Photo credit: California Tahoe Conservancy.

The Tahoe Yellow Cress Adaptive Management Working Group has been meeting quarterly since 2002 under the oversight of the Tahoe Yellow Cress Executive Committee. Members include: California Department of Fish and Wildlife, California State Lands Commission, California State Parks, California Tahoe Conservancy, League to Save Lake Tahoe, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Nevada Division of Forestry, Nevada Division of State Lands, Nevada Division of State Parks, Nevada Division of Natural Heritage, Nevada Tahoe Conservation District, Tahoe Lakefront Owner’s Association, Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, Tahoe Resource Conservation District, USDA Forest Service, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California.