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June 24, 2008
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'Keep Tahoe ...'

By Dave Frank

Appeal Staff Writer

Lahontan Reservoir sits in the middle of the desert, 50 miles east of Lake Tahoe.

There are few rules, the water is brown and the people who love the reservoir, including Nick Fain, would not be confused with wealthy homeowners around Tahoe.

"I wouldn't call (us) white trash," Fain said, "but kind of along those lines."

Lahontan's 69 miles of coastline is a place for people who want to ride jet skis, race motorcycles and build bonfires, he said, and a mix of a love for the reservoir with an acknowledgment of its comparatively physical ugliness led Fain to create a bumper sticker parodying both Lahontan and the popular "Keep Tahoe Blue" bumper stickers on many cars in the area.

"When you're in Tahoe it's clear water and everything's nice and expensive," he said. "You go out there around (Lahontan) beach, it's dirty water and you talk to anybody that goes to Tahoe, they think it's horrible."

His "Keep Lahontan Brown" sticker, however, is just one of many spin-offs that has emerged from the "Keep Tahoe Blue" merchandise created by the League to Save Lake Tahoe, a conservation group celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

The first of these spin-offs may have been parodies by people who simply cut and pasted the letters from the original sticker to make it say things such as "Tahoe Trout Bum" and "Keep a Hoe True."

The cutting and pasting has been around for some time, Russell Penn said, probably long before his brew pub came out with their sticker five years ago.

The Brewery at Lake Tahoe in South Lake Tahoe needed a catchy slogan, he said, and he came up with "Drink Tahoe Brew." The bumper sticker also has a star on the south side of the picture of the Lake Tahoe to show where the bar is.

"It's a complete parody," Penn said.

Others, from Tahoe Sailing Charter's "Sail the Tahoe Cruz" to an online clothing store's "Don't Make Tahoe Yellow," have also used the popular design and slogan to promote their business.

The "Keep Tahoe Blue" campaign seems to have become part of pop culture, said Carl Young, program director for the League to Save Lake Tahoe, but people need to be careful.

"Sometimes the greatest form of compliment is imitation," he said. "However, there are some incidents where it probably does cross the copyright infringement line."

But other groups have worked with the league's logo to promote the environment, an issue the league is more comfortable with.

Sierra Watch, a Nevada City-based conservation group, got permission from the league to imitate the "Keep Tahoe Blue" design and even use its printer for the "Save Martis Valley" campaign, said Tom Mooers, executive director of the group.

"It's officially sanctioned form of flattery," he said.

• Contact reporter Dave Frank at or 881-1212.

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The Nevada Appeal Updated Jun 29, 2008 03:10AM Published Jun 24, 2008 03:00AM Copyright 2008 The Nevada Appeal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.