EDF Wades into the Sierra Meadows: a photo tour

Whitney. Yosemite. Sequoia. Lake Tahoe. These show-stopping landscapes of the Sierra Nevada mountain range are well known and much loved. Yet nestled above the Sierra’s oak woodlands and amidst the alpine forests lie overlooked gems in the landscape—the Sierra meadows—wide open valleys with once meandering rivers. These working landscapes have the potential to provide high quality forage for the regions’ cattle industry, increased water storage for our cities, farms, and ranches, and key habitat for our state’s distinctive wildlife.

But while the Sierra meadows provide numerous benefits or “ecosystem services”, many are now damaged and degraded – approximately 40-60% or between 130,000 and 200,000 acres of meadows have altered hydrology. A new project of the Environmental Defense Fund is looking to prioritize the restoration of some of these meadows: Working Meadows on Private Lands in the Sierras.

Through a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, EDF is coordinating a partnership of Sierra and rangeland experts to provide robust incentives to revitalize the Sierra meadows. We’re officially collaborating with American Rivers, the Cosumnes, American Bear Yuba Integrated Regional Water Management Group, and county resource conservation districts. The project will be extended through outreach to the larger Sierra community and other organizations such as UC Cooperative Extension, California Rangeland Coalition, and California Cattlemen’s Association.

The goal of this project is two-fold: further the scientific and economic data to illustrate the costs and benefits of meadow restoration in the Sierra and to build a Sierra-wide community in support of this effort.

Restoration has already begun on a small scale on a few sites in the northern reaches of the Sierra. We’ve gone on a series of site visits to learn first-hand from landowners and scientists about meadow restoration. I plan to write more about these site visits in future blog posts – but to give you a sneak peak, below you’ll find a photo tour of our first trip to Perazzo Meadows, in the Tahoe National Forest, taken by my talented colleague Mathew Grimm.

I can learn about meadow restoration from talking to my ecologist colleagues and reading peer reviewed papers. But there’s nothing like pulling on some boots and walking a newly-restored meadow with the aspens showing signs of fall in the granite valleys of the Sierra.

Many thanks to Randy Westmoreland from the Forest Service and Beth Christman from the Truckee River Watershed Council for a great tour of Perazzo Meadows.

Next blog update on the Sierra Meadows? A closer look at meadow restoration and a trip to the Feather River.

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