Mammoth Lakes, Calif. – At its December 9 quarterly meeting in Mariposa, the Sierra Nevada Conservancy Governing Board approved more nearly $10 million in Watershed Improvement Program (WIP) grants to vibrant recreation and tourism and strategic land conservation projects. The funds were awarded to 20 different projects throughout the Sierra Nevada and California’s Cascades.

“The projects our board funded today will create more opportunities for people to enjoy California’s Sierra Nevada and Cascades and protect productive habitats and critical working lands,” said Angela Avery, Executive Officer at the SNC. “It’s always an honor to connect state funds with the innovative work our regional partners are doing, and I’m particularly excited about these projects that enhance economic opportunities in local communities and restore tribal ownership of culturally significant lands.”

The Sierra Nevada Conservancy’s Watershed Improvement Program is a large-scale, holistic effort to restore resilience to forested landscapes and communities throughout the Sierra Nevada and California Cascades. Funding for the Vibrant Recreation and Tourism and Strategic Land Conservation grant rounds is from the state’s historic $15 billion investment focused on protecting Californians from the effects of climate change, including wildfires, drought, and extreme heat.

Conservation grants return tribal land, protect agricultural and riparian areas

The SNC’s board made 9 grants distributing just over $5 million to strategic land conservation projects in 9 counties within the Conservancy’s service area: Butte, El Dorado, Kern, Tuolumne, Mariposa, Sierra, Plumas, Lassen, Madera, and Calaveras.

The largest land conservation project was funded by a $1 million grant to the Western Rivers Conservancy in Kern County to purchase 2,274 acres of Fay Creek Ranch. Western Rivers Conservancy will transfer more than half of the Ranch to the Tubatulabal Tribe for long-term stewardship as a working ranch, the first time a culturally significant land has been returned to the Tribe. The area is known as Kolo kam’ap, or Duck Place, to the Tubatulabal Tribe for its significance as a wetland stop for migratory birds. The balance of the property will be transferred to the Kern River Valley Heritage Foundation allowing public access and reopening several trailheads connecting communities near Lake Isabella to the Sequoia National Forest.

Other large grants include $1.4 million dollars to expand the Butte Creek Canyon Preserve near Paradise, CA, and a $1 million grant to help acquire over 1,000 acres on the Consumnes River in El Dorado County.

A full list of strategic land conservation grants and more details about each project is available in the board materials on the SNC website.

Recreation and tourism grants plan trails, improve public access

The Sierra Nevada Conservancy board awarded an additional nearly $5 million to 11 different recreation and tourism projects focused on trail and trailhead planning and improvements in Lassen, Mariposa, Modoc, Mono, Nevada, Plumas, Shasta, and Siskiyou counties.

Nearly $800,000 was awarded to the Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship for the Sierra Valley Recreation Project in Sierra County, which is a large-scale trail planning project in the Tahoe and Humboldt-Toiyabe national forests. It will advance the larger Connected Communities project to revitalize Lost Sierra towns through trail network development.[updated amount awarded]

Other recreation and tourism grants included nearly $540,000 to expand facilities in the Sierra Valley Preserve in Plumas County, home to the largest complex of wetlands and an abundance of birds in the Sierra Nevada, and a $470,000 grant for the development of a trail system connecting parts of southern Siskiyou County and Shasta County communities. The Eastern Sierra will benefit from two grants awarded to Mammoth Lakes Recreation totaling $1.45 million to expand the popular Sherwins Trailhead outside the town of Mammoth Lakes in Mono County.

A full list of recreation and tourism grant awards and more details about each project is available in the board materials on the SNC website.