I live in Tuolumne County, California. Much of the local region consists of public land including the Stanislaus National Forest, Wilderness areas, BLM land, and Yosemite National Park. There is also a lot of privately owned open ranch land.
Ranchers, loggers, developers, recreational interests and public agencies generally have strong points of view about how to manage all of this land. Fortunately, we have one organization in the region that advocates for the protection of the environment: The Central Sierra Environmental Resource Center (CSERC). Without CSERC’s tireless advocacy, there would likely be more ‘leap-frog’ developments into open space land; there would be less oversight of cattle grazing on public lands; there would be little if any monitoring of water quality in our mountain streams; and there would be much less camera monitoring of rare wildlife, such as the Sierra Nevada Red Fox.
I am continually amazed at the volume and quality of work done by CSERC. The staff attends countless public meetings dealing with Forest management plans, FERC relicensing plans, OHV and over-snow vehicle plans, and Yosemite management plans. Often CSERC is the only voice at these meetings advocating for water, wildlife and wild spaces. Often, too, CSERC has done the research that other organizations haven’t done. The CSERC staff is recognized as experts on tree mortality in the region and water quality issues in the forest. While CSERC represents a strong voice for the protection of the environment, its goal is to collaborate and find middle ground with loggers, ranchers and developers. For example, CSERC believes that to promote healthy forests, a mix of thinning logging and prescribed burning is necessary to open up dense forests to prevent large wildfires. Rather than oppose all development, CSERC tries to steer developers to build projects on ‘infill’ parcels rather than exploiting the open grasslands and oak woodlands.
Another wonderful aspect of CSERC’s advocacy is its practice of organizing volunteer work parties to help out the Forest Service and BLM with projects that might not otherwise get done. These projects include meadow restoration, stream bank stabilization, fencing off of sensitive meadows from cattle, and rehabilitation of illegal OHV trails. Over the years I have participated in many of these work parties. I don’t know of any other environmental group that has so many opportunities for this sort of hands-on work. In addition to doing useful work in beautiful settings, these projects are a wonderful way to share CSERC’s vision with other people.
I feel incredibly fortunate that an organization such as CSERC is thriving in our county. CSERC’s diligent ‘watch-dog’ presence gives me confidence that our precious natural resources will be protected for years to come.
Tuolumne and Calaveras Counties include an abundance of public lands, open rural areas, and small communities. The CSERC staff is a powerful local voice for the protection of this very special environment. Their level of involvement in local issues far exceeds what one might expect from a small staff. CSERC is present at public and government meetings, engages in extensive field work and research, conducts programs at area schools, and takes reasoned positions in the local media. CSERC also sponsors volunteer workdays. Priceless! Thanks John, Julia, Lindsey, and Heather, the CSERC staff.
Review from Guidestar
I recently retired from teaching high school where I was also the adviser for the Ecology Club. Looking for useful projects, I contacted CSERC and the club was able to join many of the projects that they organized, such as stream bank restoration, meadow restoration, rehabilitation of illegal OHV trails, trash cleanup, and fence building to keep cattle out of sensitive meadows. The staff at CSERC was always very friendly, helpful and encouraging. They always let the students know how much their help was appreciated, and they were careful to explain the purpose of each project. Quite a few of my students have decided to pursue degrees in Natural Resources, and it is clear to me that the CSERC staff members served as excellent role models.
Over the years I have also come to appreciate the role CSERC plays as a watch-dog agency for the oversight of development and logging projects in our area. On several occasions I have attended meetings where John Buckley, the executive director, had to face very angry, contentious people who have no patience with environmentalists and who are used to getting their way. In every case, John calmly and courteously presented the facts and environmental principles behind his reasoning, whether it be the problems with over-grazing, the effects of clear-cutting practices, or the problems with unlimited OHV access to forest lands. John always treats his opponents with respect and looks for common ground and compromise. He supports logging practices that leave a healthy forest and a vibrant ecosystem. He supports housing projects that don’t contribute to sprawling sub-developments, but rather fill in spaces between existing developments. He does not oppose OHV use, but seeks sensible regulations that don’t lead to resource degradation.
Our community is truly blessed to have CSERC working for our interests. I have seen the results of unchecked development in neighboring counties – sprawling sub-developments, unregulated OHV use, clear-cut logging practices – and I am SO grateful that CSERC is here to establish a degree of moderation and a vision of sustainability.
Review from Guidestar
CSERC is very involved in not only environmental issues but also gives educational programs to grade school children. Many of these children first experience nature through these programs. They often speak before Planning Commissions and are usually the lone voice speaking to protect the environment. Their work in the local forest to protect sensitive areas from destruction has been outstanding. To sum it up, I'm amazed at their dedication and hard work to protect and nurture the environment.
Review from Guidestar
I have been involved with CSERC for the 15 years that I have lived in Sonora. I really value the "local" aspect of its mission. In harder times I have scaled back on monetary giving but have prioritized my membership with CSERC. I highly value the watchdog role that CSERC plays with logging, grazing, and development in our area. I an very pro-forestry, and I know that CSERC is not anti-logging, but still waant to make sure that rules and environmental safeguards are being followed. I love volunteering with CSERC and highly value the opportunities that CSERC provides. They partner with various agencies and give citizens the opportunity to develop a bond with their environment by participating in hands-on projects. I often bring my entire family on these projects.
Review from Guidestar
CSERC staff takes on an amazing range of issues and threats to nature from development, to clearcuts, to pollution, to loss of habitat, to poorly maintained roads causing erosion, to threats to rare wildlife. The Center has reached more than 107,000 students with free educational slide show programs. Each year CSERC leads at least 8 volunteer workdays bringing together staff and volunteers to do restoration projects on public lands of the region. The Center reviews every proposed logging project on private and public lands of the region and submits detailed comments. CSERC reviews every proposed development project in Calaveras County and Tuolumne County. CSERC provides the media with nature's point of view on a weekly basis, often providing key facts and quotes. CSERC serves as a watchdog for projects and plans in world-famous Yosemite National Park. CSERC does hundreds of days worth of fieldwork each year in the Stanislaus National Forest. The Center takes water quality samples in forest streams to test for pollution such as fecal coliform that might make people sick. The Center does year-round wildlife surveys in the national forest and Yosemite Park and provides the results to agency biologists (free of charge) to help locate and protect rare wildlife species. CSERC writes back with pen-pal letters to hundreds of students each year from urban areas in minority community neighborhoods in Stockton, Lodi, Modesto, Turlock, and other cities of the Central Valley. CSERC constantly works to find balanced, middle ground solutions rather than pressing for extremes. CSERC shows respect for opposing points of view and builds relationships with industry leaders, developers, etc. CSERC's small staff donates over 1,000 hours of volunteer time each year above and beyond the paid full-time work.
We enjoy very much participating in CSERC's wilderness protection projects and respect highly its dedicated staff.
Review from Guidestar