Southern Sierra Conservation Cooperative to Reconvene

The Southern Sierra Conservation Cooperative (SSCC) formed in 2009, moved by a recognition that climate-driven changes threatened to alter key ecosystem functions of the Southern Sierra Nevada ecoregion, including the provision of clean air and water, biodiversity, maintenance of soil fertility, flood attenuation, and sustainable provision of amenities and commodities valued by humans.

Partners, including Southern Sierra land management agencies, research organizations, and Non-Governmental Organizations, developed and signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the purpose of providing a conceptual framework within which the Members could jointly establish, manage, and meet the mission of the Cooperative, to “work in concert to make the best use of each partner’s resources and efforts to conserve the regional native biodiversity and key ecosystem functions within the Southern Sierra Nevada Ecoregion in the face of accelerated local and global agents of change.” Although the SSCC ceased formal meetings in 2013, and the MOU expired in 2015, the drivers that originally inspired the SSCC continue to hold true.

In the past few years the southern Sierra Nevada Ecoregion has been disproportionately impacted by “agents of change” in the form of insect- and drought-induced tree mortality and wildfire of an unprecedented scale and frequency. Catalyzed by these events, the Sierra Nevada Conservancy (SNC) reconvened the SSCC in April 2016 to address the implications for land management, both in terms of immediate response and long-term strategies for ecosystem resiliency under a changing climate.  Participants, primarily composed of representatives from the MOU signatory agencies, agreed that there is a need for the SSCC to exist to advance novel thinking and creative management strategies necessary to preserving southern Sierra Nevada ecosystems and associated benefits.

The SNC is currently working to formalize a Phase II of the SSCC via a renewed MOU and intends to coordinate a series of workshops in 2017 to address some of the priority issues confronting southern Sierra Nevada resource managers.  This effort is supported by the U.S. Forest Service Regional Office, Sierra National Forest, Sequoia National Forest, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, and many others.

For more information, contact:

Sarah Campe

Sierra Nevada Conservancy

Area Representative – Madera, Fresno, Tulare, Kern Counties


(559) 565-3727 – Office

(530) 217-8166 – Cell

California Law Recognizes Meadows And Forests As Water Infrastructure

Governor Brown signed AB 2480 in September. AB 2480 identifies the importance of maintaining the reliability of California’s water supply by financing the maintenance and repair of watersheds on the same basis as other water collection and treatment infrastructure. In addition, to the extent feasible, the bill ensures that the maintenance and repair activities eligible are limited to certain forest ecosystem management activities.

California Law Recognizes Meadows And Forests As Water Infrastructure




Forest Restoration Model: ACCG Master Stewardship Signing Event

Forest Restoration Model: ACCG Master Stewardship Signing Event

The Sierra Nevada region provides a wealth of benefits to California. These benefits are in jeopardy because the region desperately needs large-scale restoration. The Amador-Calaveras Consensus Group’s Master Stewardship Agreement, which targets the Upper Mokelumne River Watershed, provides a model for restoring the entire Sierra Nevada region.

Summit Video

The Sierra Nevada Watershed Improvement Program Summit: The Forest Carbon Story

This video includes welcome and opening remarks from the Summit on March 3, 2016 and a presentation by Dr. Matthew Hurteau. Sierra Nevada forests play an important role in California’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt for climate change. However, the health of Sierra Nevada forests is declining, and this once reliable greenhouse gas solution may be at risk of becoming an emissions challenge. This summit will explore the impacts that treatments to reduce high-severity wildfire risk have on long-term carbon storage in Sierra forests, and will highlight efforts by state and federal agencies to incorporate forest restoration into their greenhouse gas reduction efforts.


Read more about the connection between the Silicon Valley and the Sierra Nevada Watershed Improvement Program in this op ed by Sierra Nevada Conservancy Boardmember Bob Kirkwood. This op ed was featured in the San Jose Mercury News on February 23, 2016.

Bob Kirkwood: Sierra Nevada’s health critical to Silicon Valley

By Bob Kirkwood

Special to the Mercury News

POSTED:   02/23/2016 12:13:52 PM PST |

Many of us understand the importance of the Sierra Nevada to Silicon Valley.

It is our primary source of water. When healthy, its forests clean our air, filter our water, provide habitat for hundreds of species and remove carbon from the air and store it — a critical contribution in fighting climate change. Finally, the Sierra provides world renowned recreational and tourism opportunities readily available to all of us.

However, these benefits are under attack.

Millions of trees are dead from beetle infestation resulting from overgrown forests and drought, leaving entire water catchment areas for major California rivers with ghostly reminders of once healthy, resilient trees.

In this decade, the Sierra Nevada has suffered from an unprecedented amount of severe wildfire, also a product of overgrown forests and drought. The Rim Fire of 2013 was the largest ever in the Sierra Nevada. It left nearly 100,000 acres — the size of San Jose — almost devoid of living vegetation. Multiple fires in 2014 and 2015 have had a similar cumulative impact.

These events do more than leave an ugly landscape. They destroy property and take animal and human life. They produce massive amounts of air pollution and greenhouse gases while fouling our water and destroying important habitat. The erosion that occurs with subsequent rainstorms ends up in lakes and reservoirs, reducing critical water storage capacity.

These events may seem far away from the Bay Area, but they will affect us in a variety of ways.

What can be done? Plenty.

Last year, California’s Sierra Nevada Conservancy joined with the U.S. Forest Service in launching the Sierra Nevada Watershed Improvement Program (“WIP,”www.sierranevada.ca.gov/whip). It will increase the pace and scale of watershed restoration to address the dire situation faced by our Sierra forests.

The program is supported by most relevant local, state and federal agencies, land managers and a diverse group of nonprofit and activist groups. It will increase investment and change policies that are slowing restoration. Without the WIP, the water, clean air, and the beautiful landscape that we take for granted will get scorched.

In the Sierra, increasing the pace and scale of restoration means identifying and prioritizing action on key public and private land segments to improve their health.

In meadows that means raising the water table to increase their natural storage capacity for release of water later in the year.

In forests it means planning and sequencing: thinning of smaller trees, preserving and encouraging carbon storage and growth in larger trees, reducing ladder fuels and thus crown fires in large trees, improving habitat, reducing erosion from poor roads, increasing openings for snow to reach the ground while shading the snow pack so it will melt later in the year, and improving visibility through the forest for animals and people. In some watersheds, segments needing critical work are a priority now. We are about to begin watershed-wide assessments, including cooperating private lands, to guide future work and secure funding to carry out healthy short- and long-term management of Sierra Nevada forests.

Silicon Valley’s well-being is directly linked to the Sierra’s well-being. We and our leaders should support efforts at the state, federal and local levels to restore the Sierra Nevada watersheds.

The Watershed Improvement Program can succeed, but it needs legislative support for funding and more action from the agencies that say they support the plan.

Please encourage the leaders and groups you support to become part of this solution.

Bob Kirkwood of Palo Alto is a board member of the Sierra Nevada Conservancy and was a longtime member of the Peninsula Open Space Trust board. He wrote this for this newspaper.

CapRadio Interview

Sierra Nevada Conservancy Executive Officer, Jim Branham, and U.S. Forest Service scientist, Don Yasuda, gearing up to talk about the Sierra Nevada Watershed Improvement Program on Capitol Public Radio's Insight program.

Sierra Nevada Conservancy Executive Officer, Jim Branham, and U.S. Forest Service scientist, Don Yasuda, gearing up to talk about the Sierra Nevada Watershed Improvement Program on Capital Public Radio’s Insight program.

On March 1, 2016, Sierra Nevada Conservancy Executive Officer, Jim Branham, and U.S. Forest Service scientist, Don Yasuda, sat down with the host of Capital Public Radio’s Insight, Beth Ruyak, to talk about the Sierra Nevada Watershed Improvement Program.

Below is a summary of the interview from Capital Public Radio. Listen to the entire interview here.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016 | Sacramento, CA

As California manages the current drought, scientists and policymakers at the US Forest Service and Sierra Nevada Conservancy are looking ahead.

We spoke with Sierra Nevada Conservancy executive director Jim Branham and USFS scientist Don Yasuda about how the joint Watershed Improvement Program can improve the health of California’s forests and water supply. They’re hosting a summit on March 3 to talk about role, positive or negative, that Sierra Nevada forests can play in California’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Branham told Beth Ruyak he’s particularly worried about the Sierra National Forest.

“They’re estimating that half of their trees are dead or dying on their forest landscape, that’s hard to really even fathom because it’s such a significant challenge, and unfortunately we see that tree mortality creeping in a northerly direction,” says Branham. 

Increasing investment

Increasing investment for needed restoration:

California voters passed Proposition 1, The Water Quality, Supply, and Infrastructure Improvement Bond Act of 2014, on November 4, 2014. $25 million dollars of this fund was allocated to the Sierra Nevada Conservancy and the Conservancy has already begun investing these needed funds in to projects that support the goals of the WIP. To learn more about projects that have been funded through Proposition 1, visit the Sierra Nevada Conservancy’s web page.

Prescribed Fire MOU

Prescribed Fire MOU

Several Federal and State agency officials, along with conservation and community fire protection groups, have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to promote the careful and expanded use of fire as a restoration tool. A careful and expanded prescribed fire program will lower the likelihood of large, uncontrollable fires by reducing the amount of fuel available to burn and will limit pollution from larger wildfire events. Because of steep terrain, limited roads, and other factors, fire use is an increasingly important and low cost tool for protecting rural communities and the many benefits flowing from these watersheds.

Expanding restoration

Expanding restoration activities by addressing needed policy changes

Good Neighbor Authority: In order to encourage restoration at a larger landscape scale, the U.S. Forest Service and the California Natural Resources Agency signed a Good Neighbor Authority master agreement, facilitating expanded federal-state partnerships to increase and streamline vital restoration work across all lands. This agreement allows agencies within the California Natural Resources Agency to complement work on U.S. Forest Service lands over the next ten years, providing a larger-scale, more holistic restoration outcome.