Maggie Flaherty: Cultivating Community Stewardship with the Bishop Paiute Tribe

Written by Maggie Flaherty, Sierra Nevada AmeriCorps Partnership (SNAP) Member, May 2024

On the Bishop Paiute Reservation, there is a 25-acre wetland known as the Conservation Open Space Area or COSA. This wetland is a gorgeous community space that serves as an educational, ecological, and cultural resource for the community. The Natural Resource program of the Environmental Management Office (EMO) manages the space and there is always lots of work to be done including invasive species removal, fuels reduction, infrastructure improvements, and revegetation with culturally significant plant species.

While many community members are out in the COSA walking the 1+ mile path or observing the plethora of bird species, some community members don’t even know this incredible space exists! The Friends of the COSA program, started by SNAP member Maggie Flaherty, has several goals. One is to introduce people to the COSA as a community space. Another is to get those community members involved in stewardship work in the COSA. Lastly, the program hopes to incentivize Tribal members to participate by offering them assistance with solid waste removal from their own properties.

Each month, Maggie hosts a Friends of the COSA stewardship event. Volunteers show up and help out with anything from removing invasive weeds with hand tools to helping to install new benches and information kiosks. As volunteers work, Maggie and other Natural Resource program staff talk about how the work being done at the event fits into the overall management and conservation plan for the wetland. At the end of the event, participants who are Tribal members let Maggie know if they are interested in earning assistance with solid waste removal from their own property.

Once a Tribal member puts in 4 hours of work at Friends of the COSA events, they are eligible for assistance with solid waste removal. Natural Resource staff set up a time to drop off a trailer at their house, participants load the trailer with any solid waste or yard waste they need help removing, and then the trailer is brought to the dump by Natural Resource staff. The gate fee at the dump is paid for by the EMO. This incentive portion of the Friends of the COSA program contributes to another overall goal of the Natural Resource program which is to reduce the amount of solid waste on the Reservation that can enter and pollute waterways and/or negatively affect the health and safety of Tribal members. The Friends of the COSA program works to create a positive cycle of stewardship, reciprocity and environmental health on the Bishop Paiute Reservation.

Funding for SNAP is supported by Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation’s Nature Fund and Martis Fund – a collaborative project of Martis Camp landowners, DMB/Highlands Group (the developers of Martis Camp), Mountain Area Preservation Foundation (MAP), and Sierra Watch. Sierra Nevada Alliance is a proud grantee of AmeriCorps and California Volunteers, Office of the Governor.

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