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Winter 2001 Newsletter


CALENDAR OF UPCOMING EVENTS

Date Event
Wednesday, Jan 24 California's Vanishing Vernal Pools, Chapter Meeting
Wednesday, Feb 28 Wildflower Identification Workshop-The Pea & Mint Families, Chapter Meeting
Thursday, March 15 Native Plants and Native Peoples: Ethnobotany of the Sierra Nevada, Chapter Meeting
Saturday, March 31 Vernal Pool Field Trip
Saturday April 7 Canyon Creek Trail Field Trip
Sunday, April 29 South Yuba River Field Trip
Saturday, May 5 Spring Native Plant Sale and Wildflower Show, Sierra College, Rocklin
Sunday, May 13 Hell's Half Acre, Field Trip
Sunday, May 13 Traylor Ranch Field Trip
Wednesday, May 23 Famous and Not so Famous Wildflower Trails of Northern California, Chapter Meeting

For the most up-to-date calendar, check our website at www.nccn.net/cnps

Greetings!

index to 2001! Well, science fiction remains science fiction, and Hal and I are not planning any extended space travel this summer. So I guess we better enjoy and take care of the space we already have. We got the best planet anyway. As you can see from the ambitious line-up of programs and field trips already scheduled, we have been most fortunate that a number of very knowledgeable and public-spirited people have volunteered to share their expertise. Take advantage of these worthwhile and downright fun opportunities, and be sure to thank these people for donating their time and energy. They don't have to do it.

2001 also appears to be shaping up as a year in which new and reinvigorated efforts will be needed to defend the environment and to fend off a lot of spin and misinformation about environmental initiatives. We have the facts-if seldom the money-on our side. And so to arm you with information, I have included in this issue of the newsletter basic information on two very important and locally relevant undertakings: the Sierra Nevada Framework and Nevada County's Natural Heritage 2020. These are vital legacy issues that can have long-term ramifications. Don't let the short-sighted win. Get informed and get involved. Let your voice be heard.

Finally, I know that you have heard this before-and not just from CNPS and me. But we do need your help. It shouldn't be left to just a few people to do all the heavy lifting to keep our Chapter going. Today there is much lamenting about the general loss in America of the "sense of community". But community starts with each of us and is what we make it. So, volunteer and participate where you can. Your efforts will be genuinely appreciated. So enough lecturing, already. I hope to see you soon-and often.(Editor)

UPCOMING CHAPTER MEETINGS

  • CALIFORNIA'S VANISHING VERNAL POOLS


    CAROL WITHAM
    WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 24, 7 P.M.
    NEVADA COUNTY LIBRARY , NEVADA CITY

    "Those who submissively allow themselves to be packed and brined down in the seats of a stage- coach, who are hurled into Yosemite by 'favorite routes', are not aware that they are crossing a grander Yosemite than that to which they are going."
    John Muir, referring to the "great central plain of California"

    From the cracked mud and seemingly barren plains comes an eruption of color on the volcanic mudflows of the eastern edge of the Great Valley of California, and the surrounding lower foothills. A succession of rainbows of color in concentric rings around the drying vernal pools- small, rain-filled depressions with an impermeable layer of clay hardpan or volcanic material that prevents the water from percolating, and a flora and fauna found nowhere else on the face of this planet. Vernal pools were once widespread in the Central Valley, as were the wildflowers that characterize these unique habitats; 80 to 90% of the state's vernal pools are now gone. In the spring of 1869, naturalist John Muir said about the staggering numbers of wildflowers that once carpeted the great plain of the Central Valley "Sauntering in any direction, my feet would press about a hundred flowers with every step...as if I was wading in liquid gold". Golden yellow wildflowers like California goldfields, tidy-tips, blennosperma, or the azure and violet-blues of downingias, pale amethyst blooms of vernal pool brodiaea, and monkeyflowers in an array of pinks and yellows. Seas of pearl-white meadowfoam, navarretias, and the silvery-green foliage of coyote-thistle are also typical of the vernally-wet habitats of vernal pools. The extremes of summer drought and inundation during the rainy season are hostile to the invasive, non-native annual grasses and weeds that now surround the pools, providing a haven for the native wildflowers within the pools. Because the pools are fish and predator-free, they are also home to a unique fauna of small crustaceans and amphibians, like fairy shrimp, tadpole shrimp, and spadefoot toads, that weather the summer heat and drought as eggs and cysts lying dormant in the soil. The invertebrates hatch and mate as rain fills the pools again in winter. Carol Witham, editor of "Ecology, Conservation, and Management of Vernal Pool Ecosystems", will present a slide-show on the distribution, ecology, and unique flowers and other organisms of vernal pools. Many plants unique to vernal pools will be discussed. The tour includes vernal pools from around the state and a variety of geomorphic settings, e.g., hardpan vernal pools, volcanic mudflow, ashflow and basalt-flow vernal pools. The talk will also highlight one of the finest remaining examples of vernal pools in California, in eastern Merced County, that is severely threatened by the proposed University of Merced campus and community. Carol has been a leader in the conservation campaign to have UC move the campus to a site with fewer environmental consequences.

    Carol Witham is a life member of CNPS and active with the Sacramento Valley Chapter as well as several statewide committees. She is a botanical and biological consultant and works throughout northern California and Nevada. Carol has specialized in rare plants and vernal pools for 15 years and much of her consulting work and research has been in these areas. She is regarded as an expert in vernal pools and their rare, threatened and endangered plants and animals.

    The library is located at 980 Helling Way, Nevada City. At the intersection of Hwy. 49 and 20 in Nevada City, turn west toward Downieville on Hwy 49. After approximately one mile, turn right at the Nevada County Government Office Buildings complex. Follow signs to Library.

  • A TOUR OF THE PEA & MINT FAMILIES


    CHET BLACKBURN
    WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 28, 7 P.M.
    ROSE ROOM, CITY OF AUBURN CIVIC CENTER
    1225 LINCOLN WAY, AUBURN

    In anticipation of spring, enhance your appreciation of California's remarkable wildflower diversity with this workshop designed to survey two of our area's most plentiful and beautiful plant families-the pea (Fabaceae) and the mint (Lamiaceae).

    Polymath Chet Blackburn, a cofounder and indispensable member of our Chapter, will describe the characteristics that define the two families and show slides of the most common plants in our area from these two families. The slide show will showcase photos taken by professional photographer Prentiss Ferguson. Mr. Ferguson's extensive photograph collection was generously donated after his recent death by his family to the Redbud Chapter for educational purposes . California favorites like lupines, clovers, and redbud are common local representatives of the pea family, as are vetches and the invasive non-native Scotch Broom. The mint family includes many fragrant and showy natives such as creeping sage, several skullcaps, monardella and mints.

    The Auburn Civic Center is on the south side of the T-intersection of Highway 49 and Lincoln Way in Auburn. From Highway 49, drive straight across the intersection to the parking lot at the back of the two- story building that was once an elementary school and is now the Civic Center. Enter the Rose Room from the back parking lot, going down a short stairway and turning left into the meeting room.

  • NATIVE PLANTS AND NATIVE PEOPLES: ETHNOBOTANY OF THE SIERRA

    NEVADA
    KATHI KEVILLE
    THURSDAY, MARCH 15, 7 P.M.
    NEVADA COUNTY LIBRARY COMMUNITY ROOM
    980 HELLING WAY, NEVADA CITY

    The traditional use of local plants for medicine, food, basketry, shelter and magic presented by herbalist Kathi Keville. The spectacular plant slides of Karen Callahan and Richard Hanes will illustrate the program. There will also be plant specimens to examine and a bibliography. This lecture will offer a new realm of understanding about the plant life around you. Signed copies of Kathi's books will be available. Kathi Keville is a local herbalist and author of 150 national magazine articles and 11 books, such as "Herbs for Health and Healing" and "Herbs, An Illustrated Encyclopedia." She teaches seminars on herbs and aromatherapy throughout the US, including a week-long course on Plant Use of Native Sierra Plants for San Francisco State University. She has conducted Wild Plant Walks around Nevada City every spring for 25 years. She is a member of the California Native Plant Society and United Plant Savers and director of the American Herb Association.

    See directions for January 24th meeting.

  • And, coming in May..

    Famous and Not so Famous Wildflower Trails of Northern California


    Karen Wiese
    7 p.m.
    Nevada County Library, Nevada City

REWARDS AWAIT MAY 5 PLANT SALE VOLUNTEERS


by Carolyn Chainey Davis

The Spring Plant Sale is slated for Saturday, May 5th at Sierra College in Rocklin. Sure, these sales are chaos, utter pandemonium at times, but you have to admit they're fun. To be surrounded with unusual and hard-to-find native and drought-tolerant plants, or the rush and excitement in the morning to find the most sought-after items at any sale- and then to be rewarded for your volunteer efforts with two free one gallon-size plants of your choice. So please, take a minute to email or call our enthusiastic new organizer for this years' spring plant sale, Cathie Tritel, and volunteer for one (or more) of the many important tasks required to pull off these successful sales. We need you more than ever; our plant sales now have gross sales three to four times what they did a few years ago. The secret is out and they are a huge success-but that means many more plants, customers, displays, and of course, more volunteers. We have a terrific core of volunteers for our sales and we couldn't put on our interesting and informative programs and field trips, or fund conservation projects, without their generosity. It's up to you, you choose a task that suit's your interest, you decide when and how much time you can put in:

  • Helping with the wildflower display (planting and culturing, transporting, setting up display)
  • Pre-sale publicity-(radio interview or write an article for a newsletter or paper if you're knowledgeable about plants)
  • Picking up plants at the wholesale nurseries for delivery to the sale (need a van or truck with camper shell)
  • Cashiering, cash only or charges (your choice, training before the sale)
  • Helping nurseries unload and label their plants (a great way to find out what will be available)
  • Help customers find their way around the sale (how to buy, where the boxes and bags are, where the books and posters are, where to get their questions answered, etc., and make sure the volunteers get their free refreshments)
  • Help set-up the displays, information booth, distribute tables and chairs
  • Put up signs (the week before, or night before, and morning of the sale), or, helping make the signs
  • Answering questions about plants at the info booth or while mingling through the sale
Please call Cathie Tritel, our plant sale organizer, as soon as possible, and feel free to let her know any conditions or limitations-we're very accomodating. Cathie can be reached at 530. 878.9116, or email frenchtritel@psyber.com

UPCOMING FIELD TRIPS

Everyone is index, non-members included. If you do plan to attend, as a courtesy it is asked that you let the trip leader know so that he or she can gauge how large the group will be. Moreover, due to whims of nature and other forces, it is strongly advised that you always check with the given contact person on any changes in plans that may have occurred.

  • Vernal Pools-12 Bridges Preserve


    Saturday March 31, 10 a.m.-Noon

    Ellyn Miller, an environmental consultant that has been working on the 12 Bridges project for over 10 years, has agreed to take us on a tour of the reserve, where she has been involved in recreating 100's of vernal pools. The preserve also contains seasonal marsh, riparian and oak woodland habitats. We will see natural and created vernal pools, containing unique vernal pool species (Downingia bicolor, Blennosperma nanum, Lasthenia spp., Pogogyne zizyphoroides and possibly sensitive species such as Downingia. pusella or Legenere limosa which have been recorded on the site). Where to meet: Go east on 12 Bridges Exist off of Highway 65. Go south on Lincoln Parkway. Meet at the Firehouse, on the right side of the road. Call Monica Finn 530.887.8265 for additional information.

  • Canyon Creek Trail near Dutch Flat


    Saturday April 7, 10 a.m.

    Russell Towle, local historian & native plant enthusiast, will introduce us to this little-known historic gold miners' trail following Canyon Creek's 1,500 ft descent to the North Fork of the American River. Canyon Creek Trail offers unusual geology, scenic waterfalls, & an abundance of spring wildflowers. This is a strenuous 4 mile round trip hike. Bring food, water, & sun protection. Directions: Drive on 1-80 east past Colfax & take the Dutch Flat exit. Turn north to cross freeway & look for the Monte Vista Inn. We'll meet at the Inn's parking lot at 10 am. Rain cancels trip.

  • Common Riparian Plants of the South Yuba River


    Sunday, April 29, 9 a.m.-Noon (or later)
    Bridgeport State Park on the South Yuba River

    This joint venture of CNPS and the South Yuba River Citizen's League (SYRCL) is available to CNPS members and SYRCL "river monitors" and is geared to teach participants how to identify common riparian plants of the South Yuba River-- and to basque in the beauty of its colorful and diverse upland flora. What is riparian vegetation and why is it important? Learn the common trees and shrubs found on the Yuba River here and throughout the region-buttonwillows, wild grape, sandbar willows, arroyo willows, Fremont cottonwood, Oregon ash, white alders, rushes and sedges, native grasses, willow-herbs, and many more. Handouts on common riparian plants will be available, as well as a checklist of plants found in the Yuba River canyon. Displays of flowering upland shrubs and perennials in bloom should include the cantaloupe-colored blooms of the bush monkeyflower (Mimulus aurantiacus), azure blue to violet penstemons (Penstemon laetus), amethyst-purple spires of silver bush lupine (Lupinus albifrons), scarlet-orange flowers of canyon dudleya (Dudleya cymosa), wispy sprays of the canyon alum root (Heuchera micrantha), Pacific stonecrop (Sedum spathulifolium) and dozens more.

    Meet 9am at the Bridgeport State Park on Pleasant Valley Road at the crossing of the South Fork Yuba River. Bring water and a sunhat, lunch, hand lens or magnifier, and a note pad. There is no charge for the workshop and a small donation is appreciated, but not required, for the handouts. The field trip will be lead by Carolyn Chainey-Davis and assisted by other members of CNPS. For more information, email Carolyn at bighair@jps.net, or call Karen Callahan at 530.272.5532.

  • Hell's Half Acre, Nevada County


    9 a.m.-Noon, Sunday May 13th

    Carolyn Chainey-Davis has worked tirelessly for the preservation of Hell's Half Acre, a wonderful example of volcanic mud flow wildflower habitat that is on the edge of the city of Grass Valley. She loves the area passionately and has been its greatest champion. You can enjoy some of her boundless enthusiasm on this Mother's Day wildflower walk. This easy walk is expected to be during the period of peak color of meadowfoams and madias, white hyacinth, purple butterfly weed, meadow rue, pygmy sedum, lupines and colorful clovers. Meet at the end of Gold Drive at 9 or at 8:30 a.m. at the Flour Garden Bakery on Neale Street in Grass Valley. For more detailed directions or information e-mail Carolyn at bighair@jps.net or call Karen Callahan at 530.272.5532.

  • Traylor Ranch in Penryn, Placer County


    9 a.m.-11 a.m. Sunday May 13th

    Traylor Ranch is an 88-acre reserve, located in Western Placer County, in the community of Penryn. Here, you will find valley oak-riparian,grassland, wetlands and oak woodland habitats that have been set aside for habitat preservation for birds and other wildlife. The former ranch, now a nature preserve, is rapidly transforming into a natural haven for wildlife, but is still several years from reaching its prime habitat potential.

    Deren Ross, the preserve manager, will take us on a tour and show us the restoration work he has accomplished. Deren has asked assistance from the Redbud Chapter of CNPS to compile a plant species list for the reserve. We will work on this list during the field trip. An April and late May/early June trip will also be planned to pick up additional species. If your interested in coming out again to help, call Monica Finn.

    Where to meet:Take I-80 to the Penryn exit. Turn left over the freeway. At the next stop sign, turn right onto Taylor Road. At the next intersection, just up the road, make a left on English Colony Road. Continue down English Colony for a mile or two. Turn left on Humphrey Road. Just down the on the right is the reserve and the parking area. Call Monica Finn 530.887.8265 for additional information. There is some possibility that this field trip may be changed to May 27th.

Other Field Trips under consideration for later in the year include the Empire Mine State Park in Grass Valley, Boggs Lake in Lake County, Sagehen Creek in North Lake Tahoe area, Discovery Trail in Bear Valley, Bald Mountain near the South Yuba, Sierra Valley Vernal Pools. Details will be in the April newsletter, and check the Web site.

TAKING STOCK OF THE SOUTH YUBA

What is the SYRCL River Monitoring Program?
by Sharon Bailey-Bok, CNPS member & SYRCL River Monitor

The South Yuba River Citizens League has launched a citizen-based watershed monitoring program for the greater Yuba watershed (North, Middle, South and Lower Yuba). Based on RiverKeeper programs that have worked successfully nationwide, the concept is to ensure that the Yuba watershed is healthy and safe for fish, wildlife and people by first establishing scientific, statistically significant baseline data. The aim is to gain greater knowledge of how and to what extent the crystal clear water from the high Sierra changes as it moves through hydroelectric facilities, dams, and historic mining and other land use areas that may alter sedimentation and bacteria levels.

Water quality monitoring is done monthly at 19 sites throughout the Yuba watershed by 55 dedicated citizen volunteers, trained by a UC Davis scientist and other experts. Monitoring includes water temperature, conductivity, pH, suspended sediment, dissolved oxygen and (at specific sites) mercury, copper zinc and arsenic. The River Monitors carefully collect water samples at all sites on specific days; the samples are then returned to a central location and are submitted for scientific analysis. In addition, River Monitors note observations along the riparian corridor surrounding each site. Results will be published annually in "The State of the Yuba" report. A significant aspect of the Yuba River Monitoring Program is that it is sanctioned and supported by a collaboration of many other stakeholder organizations and agencies from the foothills to the flatlands. The official work plan was approved by the California Water Resources Board.

Help Wanted for South Yuba Plant Inventories

For the year 2001, California State Parks has minimal funding to begin conducting plant inventories within South Yuba State Park. The park consists of five different sites along the "Wild and Scenic" South Yuba River, from Bridgeport to Edwards Crossing. State park naturalist Denali Beard is seeking volunteers and/or a contractor to assist in completing the several preliminary plant lists that currently exist. If you are interested in learning more about the project, please contact Denali at 530.272-0363 by February 2.

Volunteers Needed to Patrol for TNF Plant Poachers

The Tahoe National Forest is looking for volunteers who would be willing to hike trails in the Downieville area. Several occurrences of Lewisia cantelovii (wet cliff Lewisia) have been poached two years in a row in this area. The poaching appears to be happening in August and September. If you are interested in helping, contact Kathy Van Zuuk, Tahoe National Forest, 530.478.6243

THE FACTS ABOUT NEVADA COUNTY'S NATURAL HERITAGE 2020

The work on Natural Heritage 2020 (NH2020) has barely begun and already the predictable howls of protest are being heard. But Natural Heritage 2020 is a laudable attempt to identify what natural resources are present in Nevada County so that intelligent and science-based decisions can be made in the future. Don't be confused by the misinformed. The staff of the Nevada County Planning Department has prepared the following excellent summary of the basic goals and implementation strategies of NH2020, If you have any comments or questions about the program or would like to learn more about how to become involved, please call Kateri Harrison, Senior Planner/Resource Manager 530.265.7058, or Kerri Timmer, Project Coordinator, at 530.273.7329.

  1. What is Natural Heritage 2020?
    Natural Heritage 2020 is a program approved by the Nevada County Board of Supervisors to address several General Plan policies calling for protection of natural resources in Nevada County. The goal of Natural Heritage 2020 is to develop a comprehensive strategy to identify, manage and protect natural habitats, plant and animal species diversity, and open space resources in the county.

  2. How will the project be developed?
    Natural Heritage 2020 begins with the collection of existing habitat and other scientific data. That information, along with citizen input gathered at various public meetings and workshops, will be used by the Board-appointed Community Advisory Committee (CAC) to develop recommendations for a habitat and open space management plan. The plan will contain specific implementation measures, governance mechanisms and funding options for consideration by the Board of Supervisors to protect lands that support:
    • habitat and species diversity;
    • working landscapes (forestry, farming, ranching, mining);
    • outdoor recreation;
    • and public health and safety.

    Such protection will be achieved on a willing-buyer/willing-seller basis only.

  3. How will the implementation, governance and funding recommendations be developed?
    In 2001 the Community Advisory Committee will form working groups for each of NH 2020's four program areas: habitat and species diversity, working landscapes, outdoor recreation, and public health and safety. The CAC will actively recruit people who have an interest in each of these areas to serve on the working groups and help develop recommended policies to achieve the program's main objectives-to maintain or enhance:
    • the diversity of plant and animal communities in Nevada County, with an emphasis on special status plant and animal species or species of concern;
    • Nevada County's working landscapes-those lands which support the County's forestry, farming, and ranching economy;
    • open spaces for passive outdoor recreation activities, such as walking, biking, fishing, photography, etc.;
    • watersheds, floodplains and other areas needed to protect public health and safety.

    We encourage people who are interested in a particular aspect of NH 2020 to participate in these working groups and CAC meetings.

  4. Why is the County doing this project?
    In 1995 the Board of Supervisors adopted a General Plan which included policies to protect open space and other natural values in the county. The County is required to create an implementation plan for each of these policies. To deal with this task more efficiently, the County has rolled four related policy components-biological survey work, habitat management plan, open space district formation study and vegetation ordinance-into one program called Natural Heritage 2020.

  5. How will Natural Heritage 2020 be funded?
    The County's estimated project budget is $700,000 to $800,000. The County has committed to providing at least 33% of total project costs. The County's partner on this project, the Sierra Business Council (SBC), is working to raise the remaining 67% from other sources.

  6. Who is working on the project?
    The Board of Supervisors is committed to a public involvement process that is inclusive and open. To oversee the process the Board created a Community Advisory Committee (CAC) representing a wide range of interests, including development, conservation, business, working landscapes, neighborhoods, recreation and youth, and geographic representation from all districts in the County. In addition, each of the cities in the county (Grass Valley, Nevada City, and Truckee), the Nevada Irrigation District, and the County Board of Supervisors has appointed someone to sit on the committee. The CAC will work with project staff, consultants and the public to review information and recommend actions to the Board of Supervisors regarding implementation of the program.

    A Scientific Advisory Committee of biologists and other resource experts will work with County staff to ensure the scientific integrity of Natural Heritage 2020's work. The County has also entered into a private-public partnership with the Sierra Business Council, a regional nonprofit organization with demonstrated expertise in conservation planning, public participation strategy design and fundraising. The Council will work with project staff to ensure that all interested residents have an opportunity to be involved in Natural Heritage 2020 and will be helping to raise private donations to fund the project.

  7. Will scientists be going on private property as part of NH 2020?
    Most of the scientific data-gathering for this project involves compiling existing data from sources throughout the state. Although data will be field-checked for accuracy, no scientists or County staff will enter private property without the explicit permission of the landowner.

  8. What happens to property identified for possible protection under NH 2020?
    The Board of Supervisors has already committed that Natural Heritage 2020 is willing- buyer/willing-seller program only. That means there will be no condemnation of property to achieve NH 2020's goals.

  9. What are the final products of the program?
    Natural Heritage 2020 will produce:
    • a GIS database and mapping system for biological resources in the County that will be maintained and updated by the Planning Department and available for public use;
    • a Board of Supervisors-approved habitat and open space management plan with options for implementation, governance, and funding.

  10. By what criteria will the County measure success of this program?
    Natural Heritage 2020 will be considered a success if the final plan:
    • is scientifically sound and ensures long-term protection of natural habitats, plant and animal species diversity, and open space resources in the County;
    • is incorporated into the County General Plan and day-to-day planning decisions;
    • emerges from a process that is inclusive and accessible, with mechanisms for meaningful involvement and input by all interested citizens;
    • earns widespread public support for the final plan;
    • engenders positive working relationships between the County and other agencies, local government entities and collaborative groups in the County and Sierra Nevada region.

  11. How can I participate?
    Beginning in January 2001 the Community Advisory Committee will host public forums twice a year in various locations throughout the county to solicit ideas and to report back to the public on NH 2020's progress. We encourage anyone who's interested in the project to participate in these public forums. If you can commit additional time to project, you may also want to attend the NH 2020's quarterly briefings to the Board of Supervisors, the monthly Community Advisory Committee meetings, or the periodic meetings of the SAC.

  12. When will the project be completed?
    Most of the scientific data collection will be complete by year-end 2001. The CAC will present draft recommendations to the Board of Supervisors midway through 2002, with adoption of the final plan anticipated by year-end 2002.

SIERRA NEVADA FRAMEWORK FINALLY DEBUTS

On Friday, January 12, 2001 the U.S. Forest Service unveiled the long-awaited Sierra Nevada Framework, which has been eight years in the making. It provides unprecedented and much needed protection for the Sierra Nevada. This plan is sure to face fierce opposition from the timber industry, certain members of Congress and most likely the Bush Administration. Under federal law, the 1800 page plan will become effective 30 days after a notice is published. Public comment is allowed for 90 days after that, and the final plan can be modified.

Obviously, the health and wise stewardship of the Sierra Nevada should be a major concern of our Chapter. It is our home. We all need to be well-informed advocates for the Sierra. This very well could be the best chance in our lifetimes. You can find out more at the Sierra Nevada Framework Web site. The following summary of the Framework was prepared by conservation groups to give an overview of this very ambitious plan. Facts on the Sierra Nevada Framework

The Sierra Nevada Framework directs the management of 11 million acres of national forest lands in California's Sierra Nevada, from the Sequoia National Forest in the southern Sierra to the Modoc National Forest in northeastern California. Highlights of the new plan include:

  • designation of 4.25 million acres of the Sierra Nevada as "old forest emphasis areas" that will be managed to promote old growth forest conditions;
  • protection of all remaining old growth stands (5 acres or larger) in the Sierra Nevada;
  • protection for all large trees (20-inch diameter or greater) throughout the Sierra, with the exception of the urban-wildland interface;
  • designation of wide management buffers along rivers and streams;
  • generally limiting logging to thinning of smaller trees in areas of high wildfire risk.

  • Wildfire and Fuels

    The Framework also represents the Forest Service's first comprehensive plan to manage the public forest lands in the Sierra Nevada to reduce the threat of wildfire. Key components of the plan's wildfire and fuels management strategy include intensive fuels management of the more than 1 million acres of forest surrounding communities and residential areas; retention of large fire resistant trees throughout the Sierra; thinning of small trees and brush and prescribed burns in approximately 5 million acres of general forest; and prescribed burns in the 4.25 million acres of old growth forest emphasis areas.

  • Economics

    Economic impacts of reductions in logging will be minimal. Logging accounts for less than three percent of the economy of the Sierra overall,while tourism and recreation are the main economic engines. Further, if appropriations for fuels management continue to rise as they did for fiscal year 2001, these activities may well provide a more than adequate substitute for traditional logging on the national forests.

  • Need for Plan

    A 1996 report by the Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project (SNEP) found that old growth forests in the Sierra Nevada have been significantly reduced. The SNEP report estimated that 55 percent or more of the Sierra's mixed conifer forests were historically in an old growth forest condition; by comparison, according to SNEP, only 13 percent of the national forest lands in the Sierra currently remain as old growth. SNEP also concluded that aquatic and riparian ecosystems "are the most altered and impaired habitats of the Sierra." Endangered Species

    The loss and degradation of old growth forests and rivers and streams threatens numerous species of fish and wildlife in the Sierra Nevada. Forest Service research on the California spotted owl indicates that the species is declining at an annual rate of 7-10 percent. In October 2000, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, responding to listing petitions filed by environmental groups, initiated the process for designating the California spotted owl, Yosemite toad, and mountain yellow-legged frog as threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). In November 2000, environmental groups petitioned the Fish and Wildlife Service to list the Pacific fisher as an endangered species.

  • Aquatic Habitat Conservation

    The Framework establishes for the first time a comprehensive aquatic and riparian habitat conservation strategy for all of the national forest lands in the Sierra Nevada. Key components of this strategy include riparian buffer zones, critical refuges for threatened and endangered aquatic species, special management for large meadows, and a watershed analysis process. Unfortunately, the strategy does not strictly prohibit logging along streams and the riparian buffer zones are not as wide as those recommended by aquatic scientists in the SNEP report. In addition, the plan does not adequately address grazing and off-road vehicle use impacts on threatened and at-risk aquatic species, such as the Lahontan cutthroat trout, Modoc sucker, and Yosemite toad.

  • Plan Development

    The Framework represents the culmination of eight years of planning by the Forest Service. In 1993, the Forest Service adopted interim guidelines to protect habitat for the California spotted owl and agreed to complete a long-term plan within 1-2 years. Two subsequent draft plans were withdrawn by the agency based upon environmental concerns; a review by a federal advisory committee in 1997 concluded that the agency's draft plan had "critical shortcomings," including "inadequate protection for the spotted owl" and "a high probability of extirpation" for the Pacific fisher.

  • Other Actions Needed

    The Sierra Nevada Framework would significantly increase protection for old growth forests in the Sierra Nevada, but the plan only directs management of public lands. Recent increases in logging on private timberlands, including accelerated use of the clearcut logging method, pose a serious risk to the Sierra's forests and wildlife. In addition, the Framework includes a loophole that could allow more intensive logging on national forest lands within the Quincy Library Group pilot project area in the northern Sierra Nevada. Thus, adoption of the Framework plan does not obviate the need for ESA protection for imperiled species in the Sierra Nevada.

The Sierra Nevada Forest Protection Campaign is a coalition of more than two dozen conservation groups, scientists, individual activists and spiritual leaders fighting for the protection of the public wildlands and watersheds of the Sierra Nevada.

For more information about the Sierra Nevada Framework plan, contact the following people:
Barbara Boyle - Sierra Club: (916) 557-1100 x105
Jay Watson - The Wilderness Society: (415) 518-2604
Steve Evans - Friends of the River: (916) 442-3155 x221
Paul Spitler - California Wilderness Coalition: (530) 758-0380




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Last updated
Jan 30 2001