Sierra CAMP Part I: The Why

“Sierra CAMP? Is that some sort of summer camp in the mountains?”

Well, no. Not this Sierra CAMP, rather it’s the Sierra Climate Adaptation and Mitigation Partnership – a new and exciting project launched by SBC that looks at how Sierra leaders can work together to take action on climate change, prepare for its impacts, and build connections with downstream cities.

“Why do we need a Sierra CAMP?”

COMM DM Blog Image 2015 01For one, the Sierra is a resource-rich region vital to the state.

– It is the state’s principal watershed, supplying up to 2/3 of California’s developed water supply for urban areas – including San Francisco, the San Joaquin Valley, the Central Coast and Southern California – and 1/3 of California’s rich agricultural land. 

– The Sierra sustains 60% of California’s animal species and almost half of its plant species. 

– Sierra forests supply up to half of California’s annual timber yield and 15% of the state’s total power needs through hydropower generation, with the capacity to develop even more renewable energy sources (biomass, solar, wind).

– The Sierra Nevada is more than trees, water and creatures; it also sees more than 50 million recreational visits per year, generating billions in revenues, and is home to 200+ local communities – communities that depend on smart housing, transportation, energy efficiency, public health and resource conservation planning for economic sustainability, job creation, recreation, and preservation of the history and community character that are unique to the region.

Second, as a high elevation mountain range, the Sierra is especially vulnerable to decreased snowpack, continued drought, higher temperatures and more numerous and severe wildfires — all exacerbated by climate change. Just last summer you may remember the 100,000-acre King Fire in Eldorado and Placer counties. The King Fire caused weeks of “very unhealthy” to “hazardous” air quality conditions in nearby Sierra communities. Firefighting costs topped $91 million. At the same time, renowned tourist festivals, sporting events like the Ironman Triathlon, and even some schools were being cancelled or closed due to excessive smoke. And the year before that, we had the Rim Fire, the largest fire ever in Sierra recorded history (and 3rd largest in the state).

KerrisBlogPostImageBecause these climate impacts recognize no boundaries, preparing for these challenges will require an unprecedented level of collaboration and engagement by stakeholders across the Sierra.

A third reason why Sierra CAMP is such an important project at this moment in time is the monumental climate policy happening at the state level.

In 2006 California set a visionary goal for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in order to reduce potential harm to human and natural communities. The targets require a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 then 80% below 1990 levels by 2050 – the state is already on track to exceed the 2020 goal.

Governor Brown upped the ante earlier this month in the State of the State address by committing to 1) increase from one-third to 50 percent our electricity derived from renewable sources; 2) reduce today’s petroleum use in cars and trucks by up to 50 percent; and 3) double the efficiency of existing buildings and make heating fuels cleaner.

What’s more is that the state is giving out nearly a billion dollars in funding from cap and trade revenue to support these efforts!

In order for the state to achieve these ambitious goals a new broad, deep and geographically diverse statewide partnership will be necessary, with emission reduction targets shared in rural regions and implementation strategies patterned to the unique environment, human settlement patterns and land uses of rural California (ahem, Sierra).

Through Sierra CAMP, we can work together as a region – across geographic and sectoral boundaries – to position the Sierra as a leader in the state, a leader that showcases climate solutions that support vibrant communities, strong local economies, and a resilient environment. Working together will also allow the Sierra to seek and respond to funding opportunities these efforts.

Check out my next blog post coming Tuesday to learn more about Sierra CAMP and how we can achieve this vision. In the meantime, we invite your feedback on the Sierra CAMP draft governance policy. Please email any comments to me at by January 21.

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