Regional Climate Change

 

The Sierra Nevada Alliance Regional Climate Change Program engages and supports efforts to adopt exemplary, sustainable regional plans across the Sierra. Exemplary sustainable regional plans work to protect and restore Sierra waters, lands, wildlife and rural communities and incorporate climate change adaptation principles, while meeting or exceeding the most aggressive statewide or national greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction legislation. Our program was developed using a solution-strategy approach, as shown in the flowchart below, to ensure the protection and resilience of the Sierra Region.

About the RCC Program

 

The Problem

– Population Growth and Climate Change are among the most significant threats facing the Sierra Nevada, one of the fastest growing regions in California. Sprawling development is increasing vehicle miles and greenhouse gas emissions, destroying rare habitat and agricultural lands, and straining natural resources upon which our communities depend. Climate change compounds these problems and contributes a new host of concerns for snowpack levels, water management and recreation, wildlife, and the frequency and severity of fires.

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Threatening Land in the Sierra Foothills
-By 2020, there is an expected population growth of 50-100 percent in the counties along the Sierra Nevada’s western foothills.
-Placer County, located in the Sierra was the third fastest growing county in California from 2009-2010, with a growth rate of approximately 33%.
-Less than 1% of biologically-diverse Sierra foothills are protected from development, and much of the area lies near growing cities.
Population Growth

Increasing Vehicle Miles Traveled and GHG Emissions
-In the core Sierra Nevada Counties, from 1990 to 2003 there were approximately 35% more registered vehicles, and 348 new miles of city and county roads.
Leading to Sprawling Development on Sierra Nevada “Open Space”
-By 2040, almost 20 percent of the Sierra’s current private forests and range lands could be affected by projected development.
-At least 33% of the region is privately owned and therefore more vulnerable to development. Destroying Rare Wildlife Habitat
-Almost two-thirds of riparian habitat – almost 600,000 acres – is privately owned in Sierra Nevada.

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Climate Change
Increasing Fire Risk
-Between 1990 and 2000, 97% of the Sierra’s growth occurred in areas designated as extreme or very high fire threat.
-Nearly 70 percent of the Sierra Region’s forests and range lands are ecologically at risk from wildfire.
Impacting Wildlife Migration and Habitat
-More than half of Sierra species have shifted their ranges upward by as much as 1,600 feet in elevation over the past 90 years due to climate change.
-Two-thirds of more than 5,500 native plan species in California are expected to reduce their range as much as 80% by the end of the century.
-Pika, adapted to cold climates, historically they lived at about 5,700 feet above sea level but now averages higher than 8,000 feet. The extinction of several sub-populations is highly correlated to climate change and their inability to adapt to warmer temperatures.
Melting Snow and Ice
-By mid-century, spring snow pack in the Sierra Nevada is projected to decline about 25-40%. Toward the end of the century, losses could reach up to 90%.

The Solution

-Emission Reduction and Adaptation are solutions which ensure the resilience of Sierra communities, watersheds and wildlife by addressing the current climate crisis and the sprawling development threatening the region.
-Emission reduction, or mitigation, is a way to reduce the long-term risk and hazards of climate change and adaptation helps Sierra communities adjust to increasing climate variability and extremes.
-Adaption is process in which nature within it’s own confines changes it’s behavior and/or patterns in order to accustom to new environmental changes. Society can also change, by producing alternate fuel sources or creating a more proficient infanstructure.

Strategies

-Working with our member groups and local partners throughout the Sierra Nevada, we help develop and implement local and regional resource plans to serve as models for a resilient and thriving Sierra region that successfully faces economic, environmental and societal challenges, including climate change.
-To decide which kind of regional planning efforts to target, the Regional Climate Change Program staff reviewed 37 different types of resource plans in the Sierra and consulted with the Regional Planning Working Group. The Regional Planning Working Group was a gathering of twenty regional, state, and Sierra leaders which provided input on the resource plans that would help to protect, conserve, restore, and enhance the environmental and human-based resources of the Sierra Nevada for environmentally-sustainable and prudent use by current and future generations. County and regional land-use plans, climate action plans, forest plans and integrated regional water management plans are the regional planning efforts which our Program prioritized.

Action

The Regional Climate Change Program uses three main actions to achieve our Program strategy:

-Be a Voice for Sierra Region: Our Program advocates for sound statewide investment to support smart growth, sustainable resource management, climate change mitigation and adaptation policies and economic growth in the Sierra.
– Transition to Clean Energy: Learn more about making the change here.
-Develop Model Projects with Local Groups: Our Program provides in-depth assistance and leadership on targeted planning processes including County General Plans, Integrated Regional Water Management Plans and Climate Action Plans.
-Facilitate Networking and Best Management Practices: Our Program offers expert consultation, useful publications and informative events to help grassroots organizations win local campaigns.

Flowchart
A flowchart depicting the problems and solutions to pollution, population, green house gases, and the effects it has on climate change

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Resources
1) Summary of the Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project Report, University of California, Davis, Centers for Water and Wildland Resources, 1996, p.15. 2) US Census Report 2010, US Census Bureau, 2010, http://2010.census.gov/2010census/
3) Planning for the Future: Sierra Land Use Index, Sierra Nevada Alliance, 2005, p. ii.
4) Planning for the Future: Sierra Land Use Index, Sierra Nevada Alliance, 2005, p. 5.
5) Fire and Resource Assessment, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, 2010, p. 89.
6) Fire and Resource Assessment, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, 2010, Chapter 3, p.12.
7) Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States, U.S. Global Change Research Program, 2009, available from: http://downloads.globalchange.gov/usimpacts/pdfs/climate-impacts-report.pdf

8) A Brief History of Great Basin Pikas, Donald Grayson, Journal of Biogeography, 2005,vol. 32,p. 12: 2103-2111.
9) Measured Black Carbon Deposition on the Sierra Nevada Snow Pack and Implication for Snow Pack Retreat, O.Hadley et al., Atmos. Chem. Phys., 2010, vol. 10:7505-7513, available from: http://www.atmos-chem-phys.org/10/7505/2010/acp-10-7505-2010.pdf

Projects

 

 

General Plans

 

The Regional Climate Change Program has worked with local groups to compel selected counties in the Sierra to adopt general plans that, when implemented, would help achieve the conservation outcomes such as compact town centers; preserving permanent open space; enhancing and restoring streams, wetlands, and lakes; and maintaining the economic productivity of the region’s farmlands, ranch lands and forests. County general plans were chosen as a vehicle for influence and change for two major reasons:
1) County general plans provide the constitution guiding all new development in the unincorporated areas of every county, the same areas where most major growth and development are taking place.
2) Many county general plans in the Sierra were due for an update, providing the opportunity for the integration of conservation ideals.
Threatening Land in the Sierra Foothills
-By 2020, there is an expected population growth of 50-100 percent in the counties along the Sierra Nevada’s western foothills.

Goose“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees.” – John Muir
-Placer County, located in the Sierra was the third fastest growing county in California from 2009-2010, with a growth rate of approximately 33%.
-Less than 1% of biologically-diverse Sierra foothills are protected from development, and much of the area lies near growing cities.
Integrated Regional Water Management Plans

The California Department of Water Resources sees Integrated Regional Water Management Planning (IRWMP) as the primary tool for managing California’s water. In the Sierra, the Regional Climate Change Program has led efforts to address water management issues such as water supply and quality, habitat and environment, environmental justice, recreation, and land use. In 2011-2012, the Alliance selected the Inyo-Mono and Southern Sierra IRWMs as priority areas due to their large geographical size and our role in building their collaborative processes with strong conservation leadership.

Forest Plans

The US Forest Service manages 10 National Forest Units in the Sierra Nevada (Modoc, Lassen, Plumas, Tahoe, El Dorado, Lake Tahoe Basin, Stanislaus, Sierra, Sequoia, and Inyo). The non-profit Sierra Forest Legacy actively engages with the US Forest Service to watchdog their planning and management of National Forests. Sierra Forest Legacy has formed a coalition of Sierra conservation organizations to aid in their work and to show the Forest Service unified support from the environmental community on Sierra forest issues. The Sierra Nevada Alliance has participated as staff time has allowed by participating in this coalition, attending meetings, and contributing to materials produced by Sierra Forest Legacy and their forest planning coalition.

Tahoe Sustainability Collaborative

The objective of the Sierra Nevada Alliance is to collaborate with partners in Lake Tahoe to implement a Tahoe Basin-wide strategy and action plan that results in significant measurable carbon emission reduction consistent with the most aggressive statewide standards, that incorporates climate change adaptation principles into local resource management, and that builds the community involvement and stakeholder participation required for success. To accomplish this goal the Alliance will continue to participate as a core member of the Tahoe Sustainability Collaborative (TSC), a group of federal, state, regional and local decision makers and NGOs responsible for overseeing the development and implementation of collaborative climate efforts for the Tahoe region, including implementation of a regional Climate Action Plan.

Sierra Water Trust

The Sierra Water Trust Project is aimed at bringing trust water to the Sierra and includes multiple partners – American Rivers, Natural Heritage Institute, Nevada Irrigation District, Sierra Nevada Alliance, and University of California at Davis. The overall goal of the Sierra Water Trust is to
improve water quality and increase the aquatic function and biodiversity of Sierra river ecosystems.
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Click Here to sign up for the bi-weekly Sierra Resource E-Newsletter.

2012-2013 Member Group Directory(Adobe Acrobat PDF Format)
Updated in September of 2012 for the Alliance’s Annual Conference, this is a directory of Alliance Member Groups on conservation issues in the Sierra Nevada. The Sierra Nevada Alliance prepared this directory to assist Sierra conservation organizations, agencies, interested public and the media with locating and contacting conservation organizations in the region. It should also be used as an informational resource for those interested in learning more about the kind of conservation work being undertaken throughout the Sierra Nevada.

2012-2013 Sustainability Inventory (Adobe Acrobat PDF Format)
The Sustainability inventory is a directory of non-profit organizations that are working on sustainability issues within the Sierra Nevada. We hope this inventory will be utilized as a tool to showcase a wide range of sustainability efforts categorized by issues such as local food, smart growth, transportation, etc. to assist individuals, organizations, local agencies and governmental organization in locating and collaborating on sustainable community initiatives within their area.2013-2014

 

Sierra Sustainability and Conservation Group Directory (Adobe Acrobat PDF Format)
Updated in August of 2011 for the Alliance’s Annual Conference, this is a directory of organizations that work on conservation issues in the Sierra Nevada. The Sierra Nevada Alliance prepared this directory to assist Sierra conservation organizations, agencies, interested public and the media with locating and contacting conservation organizations in the region. It should also be used as an informational resource for those interested in learning more about the kind of conservation work being undertaken throughout the Sierra Nevada.

 

Case Study: Transition Towns(Adobe Acrobat PDF Format)
In its first-ever case study publication, the Sierra Nevada Alliance highlights Nevada City, California and North Hampton, Massachusetts in their quests to create sustainable communities. Read on to learn about North Hampton’s development of a Sustainability Plan that ultimately led to increased pedestrian trails, green building codes, and enhanced community dialogue. The case study also highlights Nevada City’s community-wide effort to divest from fossil fuels. The case study features the city’s creation of a sustainability hub made successful through grassroots efforts and inspired volunteers.

 

Sierra Friendly Landscaping Cookbook(Adobe Acrobat PDF Format)
This Sierra Friendly Landscaping Cookbook is a resource designed to help organizations, agencies or local governments start and coordinate Sierra Friendly Landscaping Programs. This “Cookbook” outlines steps and “ingredients” for designing a Sierra Friendly Landscaping outreach program. This reference includes the necessary resources to launch and implement a program, from tactics for inspiring homeowners to sign up and participate, to providing valuable resources to homeowners enabling them to implement Sierra Friendly Landscaping. Programs can offer free site evaluations, site plans, incentives and assistance in implementing landscapes that are Sierra Friendly.

 

3rd edition Sierra Climate Change Toolkit 2011 (Adobe Acrobat PDF Format)
The Sierra Climate Change Toolkit, 3rd Edition is the newest publication from the Sierra Nevada Alliance. This one-of-a-kind resource is designed specifically for Sierra resource managers, local governments, planners, non-profits, activists, and concerned citizens looking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change in order to save money, enhance local economies, and protect our unique rural communities. As the only Sierra-specific climate change resource, the cutting-edge Sierra Climate Change Toolkit, 3rd Edition is a comprehensive starting point for those interested in addressing climate change in Sierra watersheds and communities. It is greatly expanded from previous editions, with more detail, new resources, and an expanded focus on both reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to climate change within existing planning processes throughout the Sierra. The Toolkit covers a wide range of topics, including: the science of climate change and impacts at the global, national, state, and regional levels; the national, state, and regional context in which climate change emission reduction and adaptation efforts are occurring; frameworks, specific strategies, and case studies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to climate change impacts through existing planning processes in the Sierra; tools to help communicate climate change and build support for local action; additional resources to help specific planning processes or projects address climate change.

 

Planning for Water-Wise Development in the Sierra. A Water and Land Use Policy Guide(Adobe Acrobat PDF Format)
Poorly planned development has become a chief threat to the region’s waters. But what is good growth, from a watershed perspective? This guide provides local conservation groups, local government and the public useful information about the connection between development and water – water quality, water supplies and the health of the Sierra’s watersheds.

 

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Program Staff

We hire volunteer interns on a rolling basis, as needed. Interns work side-by-side with our dedicated staff to learn about the conservation issues affecting John Muir’s famed ‘Range of Light,’ while gaining valuable work experience in the non-profit sector.

Click Here to read the Climate Change Intern description for position and application details.

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