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State Promises Support of Sierra Environment and Economy

Heavy Hitters Gather at Donner Lake for Schwarzenegger Announcement
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Governor Schwarzenegger stood on the shores of Donner Lake on October 8 in front of a gathering of local politicos, agency managers and environmental leaders to formally announce the launch of a public-private partnership between the State of California and the Northern Sierra Partnership (NSP) to fund environmental conservation and support economic growth. NSP is a unique alliance of five nonprofit organizations including two Truckee-based groups, the Sierra Business Council and the Truckee Donner Land Trust. NSP, whose other members include The Trust for Public Land, The Feather River Land Trust and the Nature Conservancy was created in 2007 by the Morgan family with the goal of preserving 100,000 acres of valuable lands and waters in the Sierra region.

In a press release Schwarzenegger described how the partnership will complement the work of the Sierra Nevada Conservancy (SNC), created in 2004 to preserve the 'environmental splendor and economic vitality of this 25 million acre treasure whose rivers provide more than 60 percent of our water and whose forests provide nearly half our state’s timber.' He went on to say, 'This public-private partnership will benefit millions of Californians by allowing us to preserve more open space, create new recreational opportunities, protect rivers and streams, address the effects of climate change, reduce the risk of wildfire and preserve the working ranches and farms of the Sierra Nevada.'

Sierra Nevada Conservancy Executive Officer Jim Branham is confident that the public-private alliances will help facilitate a more strategic and coordinated approach to conservation goals. He explained, 'The Conservancy will play a lead role directing a newly created Task Force working to coordinate other state agencies and spend time with the Northern Sierra Partnership. Together, we’ll begin to prioritize projects across multiple program areas.'

Perry Norris, Executive Director of the Truckee Donner Land Trust, is extremely enthusiastic about the possibilities. After the event Norris commented, 'Today we have an unprecedented opportunity to influence the landscape our children will inherit. The Northern Sierra Partnership is the lever to make it happen.' He went on to offer a glimpse of what’s to come. 'A lot of land trusts would hang their hat on an acquisition of the scope and scale of Waddle Ranch. With the Partnership, we now have five or six acquisitions of equal iconic stature in the works.'

Sierra Business Council’s Executive Director Steve Frisch described how the Northern Sierra Partnership, an 'amazing, lasting collaborative relationship,' was originally born when SBC and the other organizations joined together to preserve 30,000 acres of land in the Sierra Valley. The success of NSP in land conservation led to the newly announced collaboration with the State and is 'unprecedented' according to Frisch because of the 'nexus between infrastructure investments and natural resource spending' it will bring.

Specifically, Frisch is referring to infrastructure funds, which can be leveraged by the partnership from Proposition 84, the state bond fund passed by voters in 2006 with strong support from the Schwarzenegger administration. Prop 84 funds can be awarded to projects focused on major protection of natural resources at the state, local and regional level including water quality planning and control, protection of rivers, lakes and streams and sustainable communities and climate change.
'The other thing that is unprecedented is the link between landscape-level land conservation efforts and the need to adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change,' Frisch bubbles.

Jim Branham agreed. 'The climate change piece, while presenting us with difficult challenges, is also providing us with a great opportunity by forcing us to really think things through from a couple of angles. We’ll be talking about how to achieve conservation objectives through a filter of climate change…about integrating all of our efforts and considerations.'

Asked whether economic conditions might negatively impact the effort, which includes a fundraising goal of $1 million in the near term to augment $25 million already in the NSP coffers, Frisch was quick to react. 'I firmly believe that it is during an economic downturn when true innovation comes along.'

True innovation will be needed to reach the partnership’s goal of 'connected landscape, restored forests, improved water quality, and sustainable land-use from south of Lake Tahoe to Lassen Volcanic National Park.'

Read more about Northern Sierra Partnership at northernsierrapartnership.org and sbcouncil.org/northernsierrapartnership. For more about the Truckee Donner Land Trust visit tdlandtrust.org.

 
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March 14, 2019