The Sierra Nevada Mountain Range encompasses around 400 miles in California, housing an extensive network of rivers and streams that converge and flow through the Central Valley into the Pacific Ocean. The Sierra is also rich in natural resources, producing 60% of California’s water supply and supplying the state with 50% of its hydroelectric energy. Habitat for plants and wildlife is abundant with 3500 plant, 572 animal, and 321 aquatic species. And yet, in the midst of all this beauty and abundance, human activities have created a pressing environmental issue – waste and litter which flow into waterways, pollute rivers and ultimately oceans, and endanger wildlife and communities.
As the South Yuba River Citizens League (SYRCL) approaches its 26th Annual Yuba River Cleanup on September 23rd, understanding the significance of preventing trash from reaching the Sierra Nevada’s waterways becomes paramount to protecting our ecosystems from the headwaters to the coasts.
Unfortunately, along the journey from the headwaters to the ocean, waterways accumulate waste and litter generated by human activity, including plastics, packaging, and pollutants, leading to harmful debris reaching the marine ecosystem. The consequences of this trash flow are severe and far-reaching. Riverine and marine ecosystems are highly sensitive, and even minor disruptions can cause harmful effects. Wildlife may mistake plastic debris and other trash for food, leading to ingestion, entanglement, or death. Additionally, plastic debris serves as a means of transporting invasive species across vast distances, disrupting ecological balances.
The California Coastal Commission emphasizes the urgency of preventing trash from reaching the ocean via the Sierra Nevada’s waterways. It reports that 80% of marine debris comes from land-based sources. Rain carries plastic litter of all sizes into the ocean through rivers, creeks, and storm drains. Taking action at the Sierra Nevada headwaters is one way to stop the flow of waste into our oceans.
SYRCL’s annual Yuba River Cleanup offers hope amidst these concerning statistics. In coordination with the Great Sierra River Cleanup and the California Coastal Commission, SYRCL’s annual event harnesses community engagement and collective responsibility to stop trash flow from the Sierra Nevada’s waterways to the ocean. Over the past 25 years, SYRCL has kept more than 135 tons of garbage and recycling out of the Yuba and Bear Rivers.
As one of the largest cleanups in Northern California, the hundreds of volunteers who participate in the event play a crucial role in ridding the Yuba River Watershed of harmful waste while raising awareness about the impact of human actions on watershed ecosystems. Through efforts like the Yuba River Cleanup, we can protect riverine and marine ecosystems, preserve biodiversity, and ensure a cleaner, healthier planet for future generations.
Keep up to date about participating in SYRCL’s annual Yuba River Cleanup by heading over to their website at yubariver.org and signing up for their newsletter.
This cleanup effort is not only made possible by the dedication of SYRCL’s volunteers but also by the support of our individual donors and local business community. As SYRCL prepares for the cleanup set for September 23, 2023, they ask that you consider joining in these efforts with a sponsorship donation. Your support will help them identify cleanup sites, organize landowners and partners, enlist local schools in cleanup efforts, and recruit and support volunteers. In short, your contribution will have an enormous impact on the Yuba and Bear Rivers and the health of our communities.
To sponsor the 2023 Annual Yuba River Cleanup, contact Julie Pokrandt, SYRCL’s Development Director, at (530) 265-5961 ext. 214