Land Conservation

Key to the environmental and social vitality of the Sierra region is conserving open spaces for the enjoyment of the region’s natural beauty, habitat preservation, climate sequestration, watershed restoration, job creation, and much more. 

Sierra Nevada forests and watersheds provide over 60% of California’s water supply, serving 25 million Californians. The region is home to over 788,000 residents, 572 distinct animal species, and the backbone of the state’s expanding $92 billion outdoor recreation economy. The increasing rate of catastrophic wildfires, combined with the paralleled threats of drought, extreme heat, and flooding threatens the Sierra’s ability to sequester carbon in its forests, protect and improve the state’s water supply and quality, provide wildlife habitat, and draw millions of tourists annually for the region’s unparalleled recreational opportunities and beauty. The Sierra’s unique landscape offers vital components to California’s overall climate resilience, including topographically complex terrain that creates varied microclimates, deep snowdrifts that allow for stable rates of runoff and recharge, valleys that harbor cold air pools and temperature inversions, cold groundwater inputs, and forests and forest canopy, provide integral components to California’s climate resilience.

To protect our communities, our people, and our natural resources, and to ensure this protection is sustained in perpetuity, voluntary and permanent protection of private land and public lands is absolutely critical. Investing in restoration, recreation, and management projects occurring on protected lands means the state and federal investments will yield benefits not just in the short-term, but for future generations. 

Sierra Business Council’s work in land conservation involves the following: 

  • Protecting wildlands and farm and ranchlands from conversion
  • Supporting landscape-scale restoration through our partnerships with land trusts
  • Promoting the benefits of the outdoor recreation and tourism economy
  • Increasing access to the public health benefits of open spaces
  • Directing funding to vulnerable or low-income communities (determined by median household income) and tribal communities to address historic land tenure inequities.

Sierra Business Council supports the work of local land trusts. These important regional entities implement land acquisition and adaptive management projects that provide direct benefits to the resilience of our local communities. 

Key among these benefits are: 

(1) continually supporting and enhancing our local and statewide economies through:

  • the protection, management, and restoration of habitat, biodiversity, working lands, food security, water quality, and equitable access to outdoor recreation
  • reducing the risk of wildfire and floods by steering residential development away from high risk/hazardous and into areas within/near existing communities 

(2) permanently reducing the threat of catastrophic wildfire and extreme climate events by working with private landowners to permanently protect and manage landscapes in the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI ) and along our waterways and managing floodplains, forests/woodlands and fuel loads – not just as a one-time or multi-year treatment, but as part of a long-term adaptive management plan that accompanies perpetual conservation easements.

Related Work:

Erika Harvey Climbing donner summit with donner lake in the background

The Evolution of Athlete to Researcher: An Introduction to Erika Harvey

I grew up climbing on granite slabs at Donner Summit, and the rock formations fascinated me. Everywhere I went in the mountains, I found myself mesmerized by the colors, textures, and stratigraphy lines that painted the landscapes. Having grown up in Northern California in an outdoors family, the concept of conservation was ingrained very early. “Respect the playground; if you want the beautiful places you love to remain intact, then do your part.” At that point in my life, I knew I wanted to do something that allowed me to be outside and in the field solving problems (or something to that extent). Naturally, I began my academic career pursuing a degree in geology. 

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2020 in the Rearview Mirror

I know I am not the only one glad to leave 2020 in the dust. At Sierra Business Council we talk a lot about turning challenges into opportunities, about implementing actionable steps that don’t just temporarily solve one-off problems but offer alternative ways of doing business, interacting with the environment, and existing in the Sierra to eradicate what causes those problems in the first place. As an organization, we’re proactive rather than reactive, and our goal is to build a region that is as well.

No one saw 2020 coming, though. Over the course of the last year, everyone has been asked to react to the unexpected, the unimaginable.

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