The Sierra Fellows Program focuses our work in rural areas throughout the Sierra Nevada and southern Cascade ranges. The reaches of our program currently extends to Plumas and Calaveras counties, with plans to expand as far south as Kern county and as far north as Modoc and Siskiyou counties in California.
Why do we work here?
The Sierra Nevada and southern Cascade ranges are home to incredible expanses of rolling mountains, cascading creeks and lush meadows, and provide important ecological habitat for local flora and fauna. These rural mountain areas were also once home to bustling communities living off the thriving natural resource sector. However, the decline in demand for natural resources that once defined these areas has devastated the local economies, with many of the community resources evaporating with the departure of major industries. Consequently, rural mountain communities are often challenged by the socioeconomic status of their members and lack of access to resources, which hinders their ability to maintain these once-vibrant areas.
The same isolation and rustic charm of the mountains that residents love and throngs of visitors are lured in by annually also creates a great challenge for building capacity. Rural areas are far removed from the modern resources of urban areas. Furthermore, there is a great disconnect between large urban centers and the rural areas and watersheds that provide many needed resources downstream. Because of this divide, rural mountain areas are often overlooked by public policy makers and program funders.
The Sierra Fellows program works with these communities to address important capacity building issues by bringing in modern resources in the form of an educated Fellow. By bringing bright, young minds to these areas, the program strengthens the abilities of the community through the skills of a Fellow. At the end of their terms, Fellows bring with them an intimate knowledge of rural mountain living, amplifying the voices and needs of these areas as they move on to new places and positions.