Humboldt State University

People on the Ground: Alumni Profiles

Alums form backbone of Tahoe Regional Planning Agency

Students create a true Humboldt community on campus, and that carries over to future careers as well. Multiple HSU graduates have gone on to jobs with the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, working on water quality issues and keeping up ties with their fellow alums.

The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA) has been home to many HSU alums over the years, and three remain at the core of what they do. This environmentally conscious business is charged with protecting Lake Tahoe and its surrounding areas to preserve, restore and enhance the lake's unique environment. At least 10 HSU alums have worked at TRPA over the years, and three HSU graduates have, after years of hard work, become the backbone for the agency.

Steve Chilton, a 1976 graduate of HSU's Natural Resource Management program, is partially responsible for the infusion of HSU graduates into TRPA in the 1980s; He hired many of them into the program.

"From my experience at Humboldt, I knew that natural resources grads were well schooled in the sciences and carried a connection to the outside and the earth that we needed. The folks I hired have made significant contributions to protecting and restoring Lake Tahoe," Chilton says.

After working for TRPA for 27 years, Chilton retired in 2008 to work as the Aquatic Nuisance Species Coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) at Lake Tahoe and is the USFWS Coordinator for the state of Nevada. As the only USFWS employee stationed in Lake Tahoe, he loves the opportunity to work in the area he is so passionate about.

Similarly, Ethan Casaday found his passion for environmental restoration at HSU and works at TRPA to put that passion into practice. Casady works on TRPA's Environmental Compliance Team, which means he patrols Lake Tahoe, ensuring that every construction project installs and maintains environmental protection measures.

Casady earned his B.S. in Natural Resources Planning and Interpretation with an Option in Watershed Restoration in 1998 and a Masters in Environmental Systems in 2006. He says, "During my undergraduate years, I got a job planting willows along eroding stream banks and building check dams for gully control on a Forest Service crew. I returned to Humboldt with a new desire to absorb as much as possible from my professors on the subject of geology, soils, hydrology, fish, forestry and anything else that offered an insight into erosion control and watershed restoration."

In 2002, Barnett founded Saint Joseph Community Land Trust, Inc., a nonprofit housing corporation that tackles the shortage of affordable housing in the Lake Tahoe region. Since its inception, St. Joseph has acquired or built 77 units of affordable and moderate-income homes at Lake Tahoe.

When asked why so many HSU alums head to TRPA after graduation, Barnett says, "TRPA is an environmental leader in the United States and only hires the best environmental experts, and that leads right back to HSU."