In November and December 2006, The California Report, a public affairs broadcast presented on National Public Radio, aired a three-part series entitled “Preserving a Rural Sierra.” The reports were produced by award-winning journalists Catherine Stifter and jesikah maria ross as part of a project entitled “Saving the Sierra: Voices of Conservation in Action.” Sierra College is a partner in this project. The three reports are compiled in this SierraCast.



The California Council for Humanities has recently granted funding to a project entitled “Saving The Sierra: Voices of Conservation in Action.” Sierra College is a partner in this multi-year project.

Community-based conservationists are champions of place; preserving not only the environment, but also the history, culture and economy of the Sierra Nevada. Saving The Sierra (STS) documents their struggles and successes in public radio reports. A mobile story booth (which will allow for onsite recording and archiving of Sierra conservation stories), listening workshops and a website create numerous opportunities for public interaction and dialogue.

This project will highlight contemporary efforts to save and renew the Sierra Nevada. The project reports will be presented on National Public Radio programs, such as The California Report.

Saving the Sierra draws upon the advice of humanities experts from the University of California, Berkeley; the University of Vermont; San Francisco State University; and Sierra College’s own Dr. David Beesley, History Professor Emeritus.

The Project Coordinators — Catherine Stifter and Jesikah Maria Ross — have decades of experience in producing radio and film documentaries. They have won numerous
awards, including two Peabody Awards; the Alfred I. DuPont Columbia University Award; and the APTRA (Associated Press Television-Radio Association) Award for Best Regularly Scheduled Radio Feature. Ms. Stifter worked for National Public Radio from 1980 -1997) until she turned to independent productions. While at NPR, she produced numerous award-winning audio documentaries and helped developed the network’s Diversity Initiative and On-Site Training Programs. In 1993, Ms. Stifter was instrumental in organizing the first integrated journalism workshops in South Africa. An additional Stifter project is the first public radio series on Asian-American history, which will air on NPR in Spring 2006. Ms. Ross teaches at UC Davis. She has produced media projects in such locales as Kentucky, New York, Holland, South Africa, and Ireland. Her most recent documentary, Paulina, was screened at the Sundance Film Festival, and won major awards at the San Antonio CineFestival, the San Francisco Film Festival, the Hamptons Film Festival, and WorldFest Houston.

Saving the Sierra’s grant partners are the Project’s Coordinators; The Sierra Fund; The Sierra Nevada Alliance; and the Sierra College Center for Sierra Nevada Studies. Also associated with the project are the UC Davis Department of Media Production, and many photographers, broadcast technicians, distributors, and other media professionals.
Through the Center for Sierra Nevada Studies, Sierra College’s role was to design and develop the companion web site and to manage the mobile story booth. The college purchased the mobile recording equipment which will then be available for any campus recording projects, such as oral histories. Sierra College students and interns were
trained to utilize these studios and traveled to regional events to provide workshops and recording opportunities. Sierra College also designed the project logo, some promotional materials, and arranged for the web hosting. In 2007, the Saving the Sierra website won the prestigious Dottie Award for the “Best Arts, Culture, and Music” website in Northern California.


In April 2006, Jim Branham, Executive Director of the Sierra Nevada Conservancy, and others, spoke to the Sierra College class named Interdisciplinary 6: The Sierra Nevada.



This Sierra Cast features a panel discussion entitled “The Sierra Nevada Bioregion: Insuring a Sustainable Future (Economics, Culture, Management, and Protection).” Representatives from the Sierra Nevada Conservancy, the Sierra Business Council, the Sierra Fund, the Sierra Nevada Alliance, and the Mariposa County Board of Supervisors participated.

Jim Branham was recently appointed Executive Officer for California’s new Sierra Nevada Conservancy (SNC).

Branham was appointed by Governor Schwarzenegger and served as Undersecretary for the California Environmental Protection Agency in 2003. He assumed his new post with the Sierra Nevada Conservancy in October 2005.

The Sierra Nevada Conservancy was established in January 2005 to allocate funding for environmental preservation while providing support for economic sustainability across 25 million acres of California’s Sierra. As California’s largest conservancy, the SNC will provide grants to local governments for environmental protection, resource conservation, recreational opportunities and economic growth. Its mission is to cooperate with local governments and interested parties to preserve and protect the environment and economies of the Sierra Nevada region. This includes 22 counties, 20 incorporated cities, 40 special districts, and 212 communities.

Branham provides an overview of the SNC and joins a variety of representatives from government and private organizations in discussing plans for securing sustainable interests in the Sierra while simultaneously protecting its natural resources, environmental quality, and economic security.

The panel also included Steve Frisch, Vice-President, Programs, Sierra Business Council; Lee Stetson, Mariposa County Board of Supervisors; Izzy Martin, Chief Executive Officer, The Sierra Fund; and Julie Leimbach, Community Group Coordinator, The Sierra Nevada Alliance.

In March 2006, Steve Eubanks, Supervisor of the Tahoe National Forest, spoke on the history of the United States Forest Service and forest sustainability to the Sierra College class named Interdisciplinary 6: The Sierra Nevada.



Tahoe National Forest Supervisor Steve Eubanks is responsible for oversight and direction of the Tahoe National Forest which includes 800,000 acres of public land and stretches from Nevada City to Truckee and from Foresthill on the south to north of Downieville. He supervises approximately 500 employees.

Steve arrived in the Tahoe National Forest in 1998 from the Chippewa National Forest in Minnesota where he was Forest Supervisor. While in the Tahoe National Forest, Steve has continued his efforts in international forestry, working with the Russian Forest Service to promote sustainable forestry in central Siberia. He began his Forest Service career almost 40 years ago.

This SierraCast also includes a partial showing of the documentary “The Greatest Good,” which chronicles the history of the United States Forest Service. Charles Osgood of CBS News narrates the movie, “The Greatest Good,” and the Skywalker Symphony, part of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, performs the original score. This movie chronicles the social, environmental and political history of the Forest Service in connection to natural resource policies. It follows the history of the agency from its formation through the current day, with the guiding principles of Gifford Pinchot, the first Chief of the Forest Service who stated, “…. Where conflicting interests must be reconciled, the question will always be decided from the standpoint of the greatest good of the greatest number in the long run.” Spectacular scenery of National Forests, in concert with historical footage from the National Archives, makes this a memorable documentary.

In April 2006, Robert Hanna, the great-great-grandson of the famous environmentalist John Muir, spoke to the Sierra College class named Interdisciplinary 6: The Sierra Nevada.



Robert Hanna is the great-great-grandson of the famous environmentalist John Muir

John Muir was called “John of the Mountains,” a wild-haired, eccentric Scotsman fired with enthusiasm for the Sierra Nevada. Some saw him as saint, others viewed him as irritating crank, but none could doubt his passion and commitment to his beliefs. He was John Muir.

Born in Dunbar, Scotland, in 1838, Muir emigrated to Wisconsin in 1849. A budding inventor, John Muir won a prize for his clever devices at the 1860 Wisconsin State Fair. Soon afterward, he entered the University of Wisconsin. Muir attended the college for four years, but did not receive a degree. Leaving the state, Muir walked to the Gulf of Mexico and then headed west to California. Arriving in 1868, Muir spent six years in and near Yosemite Valley. There he built a cabin which had running water — a mountain stream ran through it.

Enthralled by the natural beauty, John Muir hiked throughout the region, jotting down notes in pencil in a remarkably disorganized fashion. Muir simply opened his notebook and on whatever page appeared he started writing. He became an expert on residual glaciers, discovering sixty-five in the Yosemite area alone. His theories on the formation of Yosemite Valley by glaciers ran counter to the prevailing notion that the valley was the result of a sudden collapse of the earth’s crust. Critics branded him a kook, but Muir was proven correct.

Muir’s notebooks contain many memorable passages. For instance he recounts an evening spent high in a pine tree during an intense Sierra thunderstorm. Muir wrote more than sixty journals and hundreds of notes during this period of his life. His notebooks were bulging with natural observations and often lyrical praise for the entrancing merits of Yosemite.

And then, he stopped. For awhile.

In 1880, Muir married and devoted a decade to fruit farming in Martinez, a community near the San Francisco Bay. He became financially independent and headed back to the mountains. John Muir devoted the rest of his life to conservation and preservation causes. In the years that followed, Muir traveled the world promoting his environmental vision. He explored Nevada, Utah, the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, Siberia, Manchuria, Japan, Egypt, Australia, and New Zealand. Muir wrote dozens of articles in support of natural issues, strengthening of the National Park system, and in opposition to destructive exploitation of natural resources.

In 1892, Muir founded the Sierra Club and remained its president until 1914. He fought to make Yosemite a national park and unsuccessfully battled against the damming of Hetch Hetchy Valley within the park’s boundaries. While Muir penned numerous articles and editorials for years, his first book The Mountains of California did not appear until 1894. His unpublished journals and notes were not collected and published until 1938.

John Muir’s writings are unique among the journals of the 19th century American West. Unlike other narratives that emphasize “getting there” and triumph over physical hardship, Muir celebrated what he called the “spiritual affinities” of the natural experience. Mountains were not obstacles to overcome, but cathedrals. Storms were not terrifying occurrences, but delightful evidence of a supernatural plan. Muir’s journals reflect this transcendentalism and are powerfully evocative and poetic.

John Muir continued to write and proselytize until his death in 1914 at age 76.

In February 2006, Gary Noy, history instructor at Sierra College, spoke on the environmental history of the Sierra Nevada to the Sierra College class named Interdisciplinary 6: The Sierra Nevada.



Gary Noy teaches history at Sierra College. He is the Founder and Director of the Sierra College Center for Sierra Nevada Studies and Coordinator of the Sierra Nevada Virtual Museum. Gary received his BA in History at the University of California, Berkeley; and has graduate degrees from UC Berkeley and California State University, Sacramento. Gary has published more than a dozen major magazine articles; three books, including the best-selling Distant Horizon: Documents from the 19th Century American West (University of Nebraska Press, 1999); served as an editor on the award-winning Standing Guard: Telling Our Stories, a publication of the Sierra College Press; and writes a monthly newspaper column on Sierra Nevada History for the Grass Valley Union. Additionally, Gary has served as the Executive Director of the Sierra College Foundation. Gary was named Sierra College Part-Time Instructor of the Year for 2004 – 2005. In 2006, Gary was named the “Outstanding Educator of the Year” for the post-secondary level by the Oregon-California Trails Association.

The presentation focuses on the Sierra Nevada as inspiration and as historical touchstone. The lecture examines the role of artists, writers, Native Americans, logging, agriculture, mining, transportation, and other activities on the development and perception of the region. The talk also considers the historical origins of conservation and preservation programs and some current issues facing the Sierra Nevada.

In March 2006, Ed Pandolfino, Conservation Chairperson for the Sierra Foothills Audubon Society, spoke on Sierra Nevada birds to the Sierra College class named Interdisciplinary 6: The Sierra Nevada.



Ed Pandolfino is Conservation Chairperson for the Sierra Foothills Audubon Society, Recently, he has also been involved in the search for the elusive (and, until recently, believed extinct) Ivory-Billed Woodpecker.

While more than 200 species of birds can be observed in the Sierra, about 100 of these are considered residents, breeders, or local birds. Bird expert Ed Pandolfino reviews the Sierra avifauna, or bird species, from goldfinches to woodpeckers, to hawks and owls. His presentation discusses how Sierra birds respond to habitat conversion, climate change, sprawl, pesticides, logging, fire suppression, dams, and even household cats. Pandolfino describes how human activity influences migration, ecology, populations, distribution, and behavior of many Sierra species. Also provided are recommendations on books, field guides, and even tips for how to shop for binoculars when developing an interest in the growing sport of bird-watching.

In March 2006, Tom Philp, Pulitzer Prize winning editorial writer for the Sacramento Bee spoke on efforts to restore Hetch Hetchy Valley and other water issues to the Sierra College class named Interdisciplinary 6: The Sierra Nevada.



Tom Philp has been an editorial board member at The Sacramento Bee since 1997. An associate editor, he writes editorials, columns and Sunday Forum section articles about regional planning, water use issues, agriculture, forestry, energy, health care and telecommunications. Before joining the editorial board, Philp was a staff writer in The Bee newsroom for five years, covering a variety of subjects, including medicine. He has won a number of awards, including the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing for his series entitled “Hetch Hetchy Reclaimed.”

The Hetch Hetchy Valley is on the Tuolumne River, downstream from Tuolumne Meadows. The valley is within Yosemite National Park. It is fifteen miles north of Yosemite Valley. Hetch Hetchy was dammed by San Francisco in 1913 to provide the primary water and power source for the city.

John Muir called Hetch Hetchy “a grand landscape garden, one of Nature’s rarest and most precious mountain temples.” Hetch Hetchy Valley is a virtual twin of Yosemite Valley, complete with huge waterfalls and massive granite cliffs nearly 2,000 feet high.

The damming of Hetch Hetchy was controversial at the time and remains an issue of contention today. Efforts to restore the natural state of the valley have been promoted for decades. Philp’s Pulitzer Prize winning series of editorials discussed these efforts and the accompanying economic and political controversies.