The Sierra Institute (then Forest Community Research) began in 1993, working out of a small office in a winery in Westwood, California. In 1996, the organization relocated to the rural Northern Sierra Nevada town of Taylorsville, California (population 154), where it remains today.
In 1997, the organization became a non-profit. In 2005, Forest Community Research changed its name to the Sierra Institute for Community and Environment to reflect the diversity of its work.
From the beginning, the Sierra Institute has been bringing rural people’s voices into national research and policy discussions about natural resource management and how it relates to community well-being. In 1999, the Sierra Institute convened a series of intimate dialogues with some of the “giants” of urban and land-based environmentalism to explore how to sustain the relationships of urban, suburban, and rural people to working and wild landscapes. This conversation included:
Wendell Berry: Kentucky farmer, essayist, poet and conservationist
Wes Jackson: sustainable agricultural pioneer, co-founder of the Land Institute
The results of these conversations continue to shape the Sierra Institute’s research, education, and community work to this day. These dialogues began to give voice to rural people and organizations, but where were the many people working in the forest – Southeast Asian mushroom harvesters, immigrant Latino forest and forest product workers, Native American communities – whose voices weren’t being heard?
Since 2004, the Sierra Institute has been bringing our research, education, and community collaboration skills home to Plumas County and to a growing diversity of challenges rural communities face. Whether it’s coordinating the citizen-based Almanor Basin Watershed Advisory Committee, leading educational tours of cutting-edge watershed and forest restoration projects, helping teachers develop natural resources curriculum, building capacity to improve healthcare access with the county’s growing Latino community and to strengthen the viability of the local healthcare system, the Sierra Institute practices our mission at home.