On June 24th, 2007, the Angora fire raged through South Lake Tahoe, burning 3,100 acres and 250 houses.
The Sierra Nevada Alliance is a network of over 100 Sierra Nevada conservation groups dedicated to protecting and restoring the natural environment of the Sierra Nevada while ensuring healthy sustainable communities. The Alliance works to build the capacity of member groups and provide leadership in regional issues through their Sustainable Sierra Programs in four major areas: Sierra Watersheds Program, Sustainable Land Use Campaign, Water and Climate Change Campaign and the Sierra Nevada AmeriCorps Partnership. Through collaboration and research, the Alliance has produced several timely publications to expand understanding of regional threats, limitations, and solutions to critical environmental challenges in the Sierra.
The Sierra Nevada Alliance’s 2007 publication of “Dangerous Development” report is a serious warning to decision-makers of all levels and citizens alike. It explains how fire risk in the Sierra Nevada is increasing, why it is increasing, and what planners and residents can do about it.
The “Dangerous Development” report states that the population of the Sierra Nevada is expected to “triple by 2040” and that from 1990 to 2000 it increased 16%. As the Sierra Nevada population grows, new housing developments are channeled into unsafe and environmentally unsustainable fire hazard zones.
The predominant form of development planned is what is referred to as rural residential development, also known as “rural sprawl” or “rural ranchette.” It is one of the most inefficient kinds of land use in California, averaging approximately “ten acres per person” according to Autumn Bernstein, an author of the “Dangerous Development” report. Unfortunately, 94% of projected development in the Sierra is currently slated for regions classified as “very high” or “extreme fire hazard” by the California Department of Forestry and Fire. (1)
Rural sprawl poses numerous environmental problems such as reliance on septic tanks, inability to connect to central power grids, and longer polluting car commutes. Furthermore, it poses a direct fire risk. Wilderness Urban Interface (WUI), is an area where “houses meet or commingle with undeveloped wild land vegetation.” At WUI’s, the risk of fires greatly increases and “preventing and fighting wildfire in the wild land urban interface (WUI) is extremely difficult and resource-intensive.” (1)
Ultimately, the Alliance offers several solutions both planners and citizens should adopt. Planners in the Sierra should promote what the report defines as “cluster development” in places that are not fire-hazards, not sprawling rural development. Citizens can take part in this during local CEQA process, where any citizen can point out the environmental impacts of a proposed development. Planners should also tell developers to pay for their own fire risks, among other things.
American River Conservancy
Contact Name: Alan Ehrgott
Address: 348 Highway 49
Mailing Address: PO Box 562 Coloma CA 95613
Phone: (530) 621-1224
Website URL: www.arconservancy.org
Counties of Activity: Amador, El Dorado, Placer
Issue Focus: botanical, land use, water supply, watershed quality, wildlife and habitat
Group Type: volunteer, staffed
Public Events: Trail Fest in June, Monthly Hikes, Lecture Series, Stewardship Programs
Volunteer Opportunities: River Clean Ups, Trail Building, Conservation Monitoring
Accepts Donations: yes
Description: The American River Conservancy is a non-profit, conservation organization headquartered in Coloma, California. The Conservancy is the only local organization working within the private market system to acquire open space from willing sellers. The Conservancy has protected over 9,303 acres of fisheries, wildlife habitat, recreational lands and scenic vistas in El Dorado and Amador Counties. Since it’s beginning in 1989, the Conservancy has provided meaningful, hands-on environmental education programs to over 70,000 children and adults through outreach programs to area schools and through the operation of the American River Nature Center within the Marshall Gold State Park in Coloma. The Conservancy also coordinates stewardship programs focused on monitoring water quality in local streams and rivers and enhancing endangered species habitat. Through its focus on land and river protection, public and youth environmental education and land stewardship, the Conservancy continues to provide vital ecological services to the people who call the eastern Sacramento area “home”.
Foothills Water Network
Contact Name: Julie Leimbach
Address: PO Box 713 Lotus, CA 95651
Phone: (530) 622-8497
Website URL: www.foothillswaternetwork.org
Counties of Activity: El Dorado, Nevada, Placer
Issue Focus: botanical, global warming, land use, watershed health, watershed quality, water supply, wildlife and habitat
Group Type: volunteer, staffed, coalition
Volunteer Opportunities: Work with the Yuba-Bear or Middle Fork American Working Groups to advance restoration of watershed health through hydropower relicensing and other opportunities, attend hydropower relicensing meetings, help put together outreach materials on hydropower and the values we are restoring in the three rivers. Also, some economic, legal, and other expert advice is needed.
Accepts Donations: Yes
Description: The overall goal of the Foothills Water Network is to provide a forum that increases the effectiveness of conservation organizations to achieve river and watershed restoration and protection benefits for the Yuba, Bear, and American. This includes negotiations at the county, state, and federal levels, with an immediate focus on the upcoming FERC relicensing processes.
The Foothills Water Network is a forum, rather than an organization in the traditional sense. This forum is convened by a Steering Committee consists of local conservation leaders. Assisted by a Network Coordinator, the Steering Committee is dedicated to providing a forum in which to address cross-basin issues with the intent of enhancing environmental water flows.
The objectives of the Foothills Water Network include:
- Facilitate a dialogue on cross-basin issues and strategies to enhance overall watershed balance with special attention to an interbasin framework with which to address the FERC relicensings.
- Identify and avoid potential conflicts among watershed groups in order to work towards a common “vision” for overall watershed health across the basins.
- Analyze the Yuba, Bear, and American (NF and MF) as the “problemshed” in order to explore constructive interbasin solutions.
- Conduct public outreach to raise awareness of water supply issues and the unique opportunities in the three interlinked watersheds. To this end, the Network will collaborate with established watershed groups to disseminate outreach materials.
League to Save Lake Tahoe (aka Keep Tahoe Blue)
Contact: Catherine Cecchi
Address: 955 Emerald Bay Road, South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150
Phone: (530) 541-5388
Counties of Activity: El Dorado, Placer, Douglas (NV), Washoe (NV)
Sub-region: Lake Tahoe Basin
Issue Focus: land use, water supply, watershed quality
Group Focus: advocacy
Group Type: staffed, volunteer
Description: The League to Save Lake Tahoe was formed in 1957 and is now the leading environmental advocacy group in the Tahoe Basin. The League is a non-profit organization with over 4,000 members from across the United States. We are dedicated to protecting and restoring the environmental quality, scenic beauty, and low-impact recreational opportunities of the Lake Tahoe Basin. Through our three program areas — Advocacy and Monitoring, Support of the Environmental Improvement Program (EIP), and Outreach and Education — we lead the effort to protect the “Jewel of the Sierra.” Additional information on our programs and current priorities can be found on our website, www.keeptahoeblue.org.
Sugar Pine Foundation
Contact Name: Maria Mircheva
Address: 2293 Oregon Ave, South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150
County of Activity: El Dorado, Placer, Douglas (NV), Washoe (NV)
Issues Focus: Forestry, invasive species, global warming
Volunteer Opportunities: Tree climbing, ground crew and planting Aug-Oct every year
Accept donations: Yes
Public Events: Forest Stewardship Day, Kirkwood Wildflower Festival, Autumn Fest
Description: The objective of The Sugar Pine Foundation (SPF) is to restore natural regeneration of sugar pines, western white pines and whitebark pines in the Lake Tahoe Basin.
White pine blister rust (WPBR) is an exotic fungal infection from Asia the kills more than 90 percent of white pines that become infected. The Sugar Pine Foundation locates healthy trees, collects cones from them and submits them to
the Forest Service testing of their resistance from the fungus. Once a tree is
confirmed resistant, we harvest its seed and plant progeny from those trees.
Contact: Bryan von Lossberg
Address: 1061 Third St.
South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 13587
South Lake Tahoe, CA 96151
Counties of Activity: El Dorado, State of Nevada, and (Russia) Lake Baikal
Issue Focus: cultural change, environmental leadership development, global warming, land use, water supply, watershed quality and management, wildlife and habitat
Group Methods: environmental education (cultural exchange)
Description: The Tahoe-Baikal Institute (TBI) is an international partnership founded in
1990, committed to enhancing sustainable economic development, cultural understanding, and the protection of unique watersheds throughout the world, particularly at Lake Tahoe in the Sierra Nevada and Lake Baikal in eastern Siberia.
TBI programs include university and professional level environmental education, research, and international exchanges of students, scholars, and practitioners in science, policy, economics, and other related disciplines. Through these programs, exchange participants explore and discuss major environmental challenges and apply scientific techniques to develop practical solutions. Participants explore the ecosystems, communities, and cultures surrounding both lakes, and meet with political, business, resource agency, and NGO leaders in both countries. Ecological fieldwork and research are key components of the TBI program, providing participants the opportunity to see how sound science can translate into practical policy and project implementation.
Since TBI’s creation in 1990, over 250 international students have graduated from TBI's two-month summer exchange, over 20 international policy-maker and student exchanges have been hosted, and over 40 projects in Russia, Mongolia, and the U.S. have been completed around environmental, economic, and cultural issues in these countries.