SNC visits SC 090510

The Sierra Nevada Conservancy  090510

Locally, many have become sensitive to groups with the words “Sierra” and “Conservancy” in their names, but the Sierra Nevada Conservancy shouldn’t be a cause for agita.   The group was in Sierra County this week, and held their board meeting in Sierra City.

The SNC is a state organization, a non-regulatory, nonprofit which is overseen by the California State Resources Agency.

Unlike some “Sierra” groups, the Sierra Nevada Conservancy doesn’t routinely sue local people.  Instead, it functions to protect the environment, but also protect the social and economic life of those in the 22 counties within its area of interest. The SNC’s mission statement reads:
The Sierra Nevada Conservancy initiates, encourages, and supports efforts that improve the environmental, economic and social well being of the Sierra Nevada Region, its communities and the citizens of California.

Many local residents understand first hand that goals like “keeping roadless areas roadless” and “fixing the Sacramento Delta” are code words for closing down traditional wild land roads and stealing local water.  
The State Resources Agency can do rural people a lot of harm.  By now we in the Sierra know that such words can mean almost anything. These goals have become the basis for bashing rural people, devaluing their way of living, supplanting local culture, restraining livelihoods, and generally imposing urban values on the sparsely populated lands of the Sierra.  There are those locally who make a fist when they hear such words.  When groups want to “protect” the Sierra, we’ve come to understand they mean protect it from us.  

However, the Prospect trailed SNC staff and board members for two days and, except for occasionally entertaining some scoundrels, the group showed no signs of mischief, and seems bent on local communication and empowerment.

 The governing Board is made up of 16 members; 13 voting and 3 non-voting members. The voting members include 5 Governor's appointments, 2 legislative appointments, and 6 Local Government representatives. The non-voting members are as follows: 1 representative of the National Park Service, designated by the United States Secretary of the Interior; 1 representative of the United States Forest Service, designated by the United States Secretary of Agriculture; and 1 representative of the United States Bureau of Land Management, designated by the United States Secretary of the Interior; they serve as liaison advisors.
Learn more HERE

We observed the board and staff of SNC talking with local people, listening first hand to the problems we have, both containing the growing menace of excess biomass, and creating the jobs we need to allow common people to be able to afford to live in the county.   Fortunately, our own Bill Nunes, County Supervisor, is on the board and spoke for local needs at several points.  

We also saw a lot of local people, shaking hands, explaining problems, describing impediments.  That’s because the Sierra Nevada Conservancy has a small amount of money to give out.  Money, manna.  

The event was essentially sponsored by the County through the efforts and coordination of Tim Beals and his staff, and a host of concerned people and county supporters.  A good reporter would have captured those names when Tim Beals thanked them at the reception on Wednesday evening, but the Prospect sent only me, and I was having too good a time to write stuff down.  But, I digress.

The event began when SNC board and staff gathered at Herrington’s in Sierra City to prepare to tour portions of the county.  The weather was perfect, and the beauty of the Canyon was stunning; about seventy-five people chatted, pressed the flesh, and soaked the sunshine. 

The group then formed a caravan to meet at the Visa Point overlooking the Sierra Valley.  The group paused there while several people took un-necessary chances by standing on the rock wall to regale the followers with how much we all love and value the Sierra Valley, and how much we appreciate anyone who might give us money.  The event was distracted slightly by graffiti on one of the benches, story HERE.  Being sober gentlemen, at least at this point in the event, no one tumbled backward off the wall to have their brains dashed on the granite boulders below, and so six additional participants were not killed or injured in the rush to see their remains.  However, the Prospect urges people NOT to stand on the rock wall with your back the valley, gesturing and blah-blahing until you’re intoxicated on your own gas.  Just because the Lord watches a few doesn’t mean you can get away with it. 

No!  Don't stand on the rock wall!

This local boy is a little smarter than that, he's standing on the ground
while he BSes; Supervisor Dave Goicoechea provides some local color.

Then, on to Calpine, where the group drove a little ways into a section that has recently been treated for hazard fuel.  It was the perfect spot for such a demonstration; the land near Calpine is mostly flat, mostly dry, mostly similar aged pine.  The treatment was perfect, and in that location the benefits will last for several years.  It looked like a park.  Unfortunately, as was explained by several participants and speakers, most of the problem isn’t like that.  It’s as steep as the back of God’s head, damp, filled with stubborn brush, some of which is invasive and burns like gasoline.  Over and over the SNC group, together and separately, heard about our desperate needs, first to remove the biomass and encourage proper forest health, and then to revive our flagging timber-based economy. 

Jim Turner, one of the county's most knowledgeable about biomass, manages the
SPI Cogen plant.

Like a park: the group meeting in the Calpine fuel treatment area.

Tim Holabird, (light blue shirt) local representative for Tom McClintock, curses the sky over NV Energy for their lowering of rates to the SPI cogen plant.  Left rear, local map holder Mike Freschi.

At work in the woods, maps showing Plumas and Sierra hazard fuel removal projects.

One note: Loyalton was not part of the tour, but was never out of the conversation.  The hardships our largest town is facing, especially with the closure, once again, of the SPI cogen plant, and the decline of property values which has hit Loyalton harder than most places, were constant subjects of conversation.

The group then drove through the Lakes Basin back to Big Springs Garden for the reception.

Pond, Big Springs Garden

Big Springs Garden Pond towards the manse.

 Early September on the Pond.

Waterfall at outdoor dining area.


Big Springs Garden is without question one of the rare jewels of Sierra County.  From the terraced, wooded parking area to the outside dining patio to the exquisite pond, bridge, and stunning main lodge, it is an esthetically remarkable place.  The outdoor kitchen was a beehive of movement and a swirl of the soft late summer evening was perfect, the setting was fairytale; the crowd mellowed quickly as old friends and enemies rushed to buy each other drinks.  This reporter no longer drinks the demon rum, but got a great contact high and was reminded of the luscious numbness of lips and gush of bonhomie which precedes weightless joy, and then later the grit of morning headache and the flood of nausea and unbelievable stories.  Ah, bittersweet memories.

Undercover FBI agent
(Don Russell, Editor, Mountain Messenger News)

Local dignitaries from Plumas and Sierra Counties.

Tim Beals thanks Will Clark for his help with a bottle of the red stuff.  Will runs 49 Wines in D'ville.

Beals handing out flowers. 

The group broke up for the night and more or less pulled themselves together the next morning in Sierra City for a very efficient and dignified meeting of the Sierra Nevada Conservancy Board.
This reporter has attended so many board meetings he is automatically exempt from a certain number of days in purgatory.  This meeting was remarkable for its order and efficiency, and much respect is due SNC staff, who presented a great deal of material on complex subjects in a relatively short amount of time.  

The board heard, under public comment, from the Friends of Independence Lake, that one of the recipients of their grants, The Nature Conservancy, who got a million bucks from SNC, isn’t playing fair.  The FIL had done their homework, read the conditions of the grant and picked out some key areas where TNC isn’t playing by the agreement.  The Friends were told that, yes, SNC is aware that there was a problem at IL, and they are looking to see if the agreements have been violated.
The Board entertained other speakers, including Robert Eschelman, who informed the board on local issues, including abuse of CEQA.

Among the reports the Board heard was one regarding the needs of the rural people of the “North Central Subregion” which includes Sierra County.  Our needs were highlighted, including the need for more extensive high speed internet and diversification of our income producing projects.  

The Board heard about their finances.  In short, California is keeping all it can, but there is still a trickle of money from Prop 84 which can be used for water supply and purity, parks, and natural resource protection.  The latter could mean hazard fuel removal.  SNC staff are suffering the same furloughs as other state workers.

Of interest to Sierra County and neighbors is the Sierra Nevada Forest and Community Initiative.  The initiative is an effort on the part of the Sierra Nevada Conservancy to bring different players together for the benefit of the environment, and rural communities.  This reporter is not so jaded he can’t hope this effort might pan out.  Read more about it HERE 

The Board also heard about the Great Sierra River Cleanup, ON SEPTEMBER 25TH, an effort to enlist thousands of volunteers to scour the rivers of the Sierra to haul out trash bags, aluminum cans, tires, abandoned fishing line, missing persons, designer jeans, rejected CD mixes and other garbage which finds its way into the environment, and is carried by spring run off to the river.  We were unable to make the website work to find a meet up, but you might have better luck HERE  or contact Brittany Juergenson, 530-823-4686

It was a great opportunity to have the SNC board here, because they have a little tiny bit of money to spend, and Lord knows we need help. It was a good opportunity for the Board to see first hand what our challenges are.  It was a great chance for people who work distantly together on broad projects to meet for awhile face to face.  It was a good opportunity to showcase Big Springs Gardens, which of itself is worth a drive up 49.  

All in all, we owe great thanks to Tim Beals and many other local businesses and minor officials who made the visit pleasant, informative, and perfectly Sierra County.  

More Great Photos permission from Carol Iman!

If you know all five of these ladies, you know what's going down in Sierra County.

County Supe and SNC Boardmember Bill Nunes

Lovely Big Springs Gardens.

More local color.

A thorn among the roses: County Sheriff John Evans.
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