John Muir said it best, “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.” The same can be said for California’s connection to the Sierra Nevada. Our past, present, and future are inextricably linked to the resources provided by the Sierra Nevada Region. The rush for gold in the Sierra foothills lured people from all over the world to California, and the outstanding recreational opportunities offered by the Sierra Nevada Region draw millions of visitors today. California’s reservoir and aqueduct system, fed by Sierra rain and snow, fuel the world’s sixth largest economy by providing more than 60 percent of the drinking and irrigation water Californians use. In addition, the forests of the Sierra Nevada are one of California’s most productive climate regulators, and are a key player in California’s cutting edge efforts to combat climate change.
However, these critical resources are at risk. Many Sierra forests are overcrowded and unhealthy, and have become weakened by insects, disease, warmer temperatures, and a cycle of drought then flood. More acres have burned across the west slope of the Sierra Nevada in the current decade than in any other decade on record, and an uncharacteristic proportion of these acres are burning at high severity, leaving little to no vegetation behind. As a result, our forests are rapidly shifting from a stable, productive carbon sink to a volatile carbon source, and the steady flow of clean water from Sierra snow and streams is being replaced by a drip one year, and a flood the next. Without a significant push to restore the Sierra Nevada Region, the range of benefits we have all come to rely on may be severely diminished.
Since our inception, the SNC has been working to preserve, protect, and improve Sierra benefits for all of California. Our efforts have included awarding over $60 million in bond funds for projects that protect and enhance the health of California’s watersheds, and creating the Sierra Nevada Watershed Improvement Program – a coordinated, integrated, collaborative program to restore the health of California’s primary watershed through increased investment and needed policy changes. By improving forest health, protecting critical natural resources, supporting local economies, and reducing the risk of large, damaging wildfires, we are working on behalf of California to protect and restore the Range of Light. To learn more about these projects and other efforts the SNC is undertaking, I encourage you to review our FY 16-17 Annual Report.
Pursuant to Public Resources Code, Section 33350, the SNC submitted to the Secretary of the California Natural Resources Agency and to the legislature. To view previous reports, please visit our Annual Report Archive page.
Forests are identified as California’s largest carbon sink by the California Air Resources Board. However, today many Sierra Nevada forests are overgrown and are suffering from insect attacks, drought, and large, damaging wildfires. They are no longer the reliable carbon sink that California has depended on, but with help, they can become our climate heroes once again. Learn more. . .
The SNC in collaboration with Department of Conservation, University of California, Davis, and members of the CA AML Agency Group developed Phase 1 of the PrioritizationTool. Visit the AML page to learn more.
The current conditions and the resulting impacts to California are significant, and this update to the State of the Sierra Nevada’s Forests report revisits the variety of critical benefits that are being lost. Learn more…