The Sierra and its surrounding foothills: A model for sustainability

“Of all the mountain ranges I have climbed, I like the Sierra Nevada the best,” John Muir wrote in The Atlantic magazine in 1899. “Its marvelous beauty, displayed in striking and alluring forms, woes the admiring visitor.”

Writings by Muir and Mark Twain, and photos by Ansel Adams have introduced multiple generations to Yosemite, Lake Tahoe, the Yuba River, and other parts of the region. (Also read about Gary Snyder and Tom Killion’s artistic tributes here.)

Nowadays, we are creating a region where environmental and economic interests complement one another, creating a model of “sustainability” for the West. Examples include our efforts in recreation and geotourism, growing food locally, arts and culture, and energy (from biomass to electric cars). We honor our heritage, including the Native American cultures of the Washoe and Nisenan (here).

Our region is being recognized nationally too; the President of the United States visited twice this year. This past summer marked the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, bringing the First Family to Yosemite in June. It was the first presidential visit since John F. Kennedy in 1962. With Yosemite Falls in the background, President Obama declared: “Just look at the scene…You’ve got to come here and breathe it in for yourself.”

The President also called for increased action to preserve public land and waters. “We’ve got more work to do to preserve our lands and our culture and our history,” he said, pointing to the risks posed by global warming and other factors.

Two months later, President Obama returned to the Sierra—this time to praise and preserve Lake Tahoe and the Truckee River watershed (here). This marked the first presidential visit to Lake Tahoe since Bill Clinton in 1997.

“It’s no wonder that for thousands of years, this place has been a spiritual one,” Obama remarked. “For the Washoe people, it is the center of their world. And just as this space is sacred to Native Americans, it should be sacred to all Americans. That’s why we’re here: To protect this pristine place… Economies like this one live or die by the health of our natural resources.”

(Photo: Pete Souza/Planet Pix via ZUMA Wire)

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