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Winter updates from the Sierra Institute!


Happy winter from all of us at Sierra Institute for Community and Environment! We are excited to see snow atop many of the mountains surrounding Indian Valley here in Taylorsville, and hope that you are enjoying the close of the year wherever you are.

Sierra Institute had a busy year in 2015, from launching new programs, to developing plans and building capacity for small-scale biomass utilization in Plumas County and throughout California, to facilitating collaborative forest groups in the Sierra Nevada. We have also been integral in advancing One California at the policy level. We hope that you'll read a bit about what we've been up to, and consider supporting our work in 2016!

Happy holidays and may you all stay warm and bright,

Your peers at Sierra Institute

Sierra Fellows Program Launch
The Sierra Fellows Program successfully launched its first cohort of Fellows this fall. This program aims to promote rural community development in mountain communities while building leaders who gain an intimate understanding of the challenges of rural living. Fellows spend 1-2 years living in a community and providing expertise to advance a community driven project that benefit residents and advance community initiatives.

Sierra Institute is excited to announce the placement of Vincent Rogers, Mary Sketch and Robert Zellers in rural communities in the Sierra Nevada as of October 2015. Fellows are working on diverse projects associated with rural community development, ranging from ecological assessments to community recovery after a massive wildfire, and have been blogging about their experiences so far.

Learn more about the Sierra Fellows Program
PCREW summer program: Year 1
P-CREW brings rural and urban youth together for a five-week summer program that involves hands-on restoration and conservation projects on burned national forest land. Two P-CREW sessions are offered per summer, each involving a mix of 12 high school students from Oakland, Richmond and Berkeley, along with Plumas and Butte Counties. Through this program we help build a strong community of rural and urban youth participants inspired to join the next generation of stewards of the environment. 

P-CREW was launched in Summer 2015 with 22 interns, and was highlighted in the local paper. After a summer of hard work and place-based learning, many of our program participants expressed interest and desire to continue in the field of protecting and conserving our natural resources, and all participants expressed their gratitude for participation in the program. 

Learn more about the P-CREW program
Rural Economic Development
Our current Rural Community Development Initiative (RCDI) project, funded by USDA Rural Development, builds the organizational and technical capacity of organizations throughout the state working to advance small scale biomass utilization projects. In 2015, Sierra Institute and various policy, legal, and financial experts offered three peer networking web conferences, a two-day workshop, and five technical training webinars. These trainings are catalogued online

RCDI also publishes a bi-monthly newsletter that provides the most recent news on woody renewables projects. Although nine communities throughout California are formal recipients of the RCDI program, non-recipients regularly participate in the program’s offerings. Their participation is a both a testament to the value of the program as well as a rich addition to the conversations and collective action advanced.
Small-scale woody biomass utilization
Sierra Institute continues to build out the vision of increased woody biomass utilization for Plumas County. A small-scale, woody biomass-powered combined heat and power (CHP) facility at the Plumas Health and Human Services building and the Feather River College dormitories is anticipated to go online by fall or winter of next year (funded by the California Energy Commission).

Master plan development of an integrated wood utilization campus in Crescent Mills is also moving along, with support from the U.S. Forest Service and the Sierra Nevada Conservancy. This site will include a woody biomass-powered 3 MW CHP that will sell power to PG&E, a chip processing facility that will produce fuel for biomass boilers around the county, and other co-located wood products businesses or heat users. We are continuing to share project overviews and lessons learned with state agencies and policy-makers to call to the importance of biomass utilization in rural forested California. Learn more here
Collaborative Forestry and Triple Bottom Line Restoration
Sierra Cascades All-Lands Enhancement (SCALE) is the mechanism for collaboration between seven USFS Collaborative Forestry initiatives in California. 2015 was another productive year for SCALE; it has continued to identify and advance issues that USFS Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration (CFLR) projects and other USFS Collaboratives face. In years past, SCALE has worked with the USFS Region 5 to cultivate budget transparency as well as support for administrative and facilitation services.

Many USFS Collaboratives aim to restore forest ecosystems in manners that also generate positive local socioeconomic benefit. This year, SCALE has focused on defining local in the context of USFS Collaboratives; unpacking federal acquisitions processes to explore how to best provide preference, but not guarantee, to local contractors; and documenting how CFLRs nationwide are monitoring socioeconomic well-being. Three white papers on these topics will be available online in the new year. Sierra Institute is also providing facilitation and socioeconomic monitoring support to individual USFS Collaboratives. You may read more about SCALE as well as our facilitation and socioeconomic monitoring work online. 
One California

Executive Director Jonathan Kusel met with leaders in the Brown Administration and the Secretary of U.S. Department of Agriculture and others to advance, ONE California, a vision and call to action to restore California’s forests and upper watersheds.

One California recognizes that restoration of California’s headwater forests for habitat and diversity requires not only massive investment in the land, but also investment in markets and infrastructure to utilize restoration products to be successful. The goals of this vision and action plan will be advanced through Sierra Institute programs and policy work in the coming year. Read the brief here.

Best wishes in the new year!

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