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The central objective of this purely volunteer youth organization, or movement, are annual Russian-American ecological expeditions to lakes Tahoe and Baikal. And if the name of the latter - this pearl of Eastern Siberia - sounds familiar to people in various counties, Lake Tahoe - a relatively small and obscure body of water in California has a very different "status". However, thanks to the efforts of this youth organization over the past ten years of its existence it has become near and dear to many in Siberia.
The coordinator of the Russian part of the program, E. Rjepka, said it all started with an initiative of the Russian-American organization Direct Link acting at government level. 1991 saw the beginning of student exchange between our two countries with the students going on expeditions in summer time (later on they were joined by young enthusiasts from Germany, Sweden, Mongolia, China, Argentine and other countries). The first organizational expedition included Academician Grigory Galaziy, an expert on Lake Baikal, deputy director of the Pribaikalsky National Park Zoya Abdrashitova, Chairman of the All-Russia Society for the Preservation of Nature Vera Shlyonova, and California's Secretary for Natural Resources D. Willar, who signed a memorandum of cooperation between the Irkutsk Region and California.
With time the organization broadened its objectives with the range of its interests also covering several other outstanding natural landmarks, including Lake Hubsugul in Mongolia and the Great Lakes in the United States*.
The program of every such expedition both in Russia and in the United States covers a period of five weeks. For example, in the summer of 1991 the joint expedition to Lake Baikal conducted an ecological seminar, examined and rehabilitated some tourist routes and held theoretical seminars on dendrology followed by biotechnical works. During that time members of the expedition to Lake Tahoe were building fences, clearing platforms and pathways for tourists, studied US laws on natural protection and became acquainted with the computer system of geographical data exchange.
All such expeditions to Lake Baikal are financed by the US side with the organizational support of the Institute of Limnology and the Institute of Geography of the RAS Siberian Branch and of the local natural preserves which help with scientific equipment, housing, transport and free consultations.
Summing up the last ten years of the movement's activities, one can say that they have been able to achieve quite a lot. In 1993 they published a booklet on the Pribaikalsky National Park, and at the same time a videofilm was made in the Dzerzhinsky Natural Preserve summing up the results of ecological studies and problems of this vast territory. With the assistance of the Institute of Geography of the RAS Siberian Branch it has been possible to conduct the first-ever toponymic studies on Olkhon Island, and topographic mapping was started in preparation of a detailed and large-scale map of the area. Interesting studies on dendrochronology (covering the composition of forests and the impact of pollutions) were carried out in conjunction with the staff members of the Baikal Natural Preserve.
Some time ago the Tahoe-Baikal movement received an invitation from Buryat State University to take part in a wildlife protection project (of cormorant populations) in the area of the Barguzinsky and Chivyrkuysky bays. Representatives of the Usolsky Region have asked for help in the conduct of ecological and educational projects.
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