Sierra Nevada Bio-region
Chapter 6: Assessing Social, Cultural, and Economic Conditions


Purpose of Assessing Social, Cultural, and Economic Conditions

Sustainability is the capability to meet the needs of the present generation, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. According to the “National Report on Sustainable Forests” (USDA Forest Service 2011), through sustainable management, forests can contribute to the resilience of ecosystems, societies, and economies, while safeguarding biological diversity and providing a broad range of goods and services for present and future generations. Land management decisions need to account for influences and interactions among the three arenas of environment, society, and economy in order to achieve sustainability. Figure I-1 from the report, presented below, shows the current model. This new model reflects the understanding that the environmental realm is the foundation of strong sustainability. The benefits of nature are irreplaceable and the entire economy is reliant on society, which in turn is entirely dependent on the environment, emphasizing the interdependence and interconnectedness between our society, our economy, and the natural environment.

Figure I-1 from the National Report on Sustainable Forests.png
Figure I-1 taken from the National Report on Sustainable Forests – 2010 (USDA Forest Service 2011).

Strong Sustainability represents an evolution in the thinking within resource management agencies. Sustainability has often been conceived as a "three-legged stool" suggesting that social and economic issues exist outside of an ecological foundation (Dawe and Ryan 2003). Weak sustainability envisioned the environmental, social and economic realms as intersecting, yet separate parts of a system. This updated model of strong sustainability, adopted by the Forest Service (USDA Forest Service 2011), reflects a more holistic and scientifically rigorous understanding of the role and need for a healthy environment to sustain human society and economies, in sink with intact ecosystems.

Nearly twenty years ago the Forest Service wrote in the RMRS-GTR-246 --An Ecological Basis for Ecosystem Management (Kaufmann et al. 1994), "ecosystem management involves a shift in focus from sustaining production of goods and services to sustaining the viability of ecological, social and economic systems now and into the future…by bringing ecosystem capabilities and social and economic needs into closer alignment."

Callicot and Mumford (1998) further refined the connection between human use of resources and the ecosystem by defining ecological sustainability "as meeting human needs without compromising the health of the ecosystem."

The need for a clear commitment to strong sustainability in forest planning for the next planning cycle has never been more urgent as we face a changing and uncertain future. In the Convention on Biodiversity (Thompson et al. 2009) found that, "the best available scientific evidence strongly supports the conclusion that the capacity of forests to resist change, or to recover from disturbance, is dependent on biodiversity at multiple scales." The protection and enhancement of biodiversity coupled with robust monitoring plans to ensure we can learn and adapt is the underpinning of a commitment to strong sustainability (USFS 2012e).

The 2012 Planning Rule for National Forest System (NFS) land management planning recognizes that social, economic, and ecological systems are interdependent, without one being a priority over the other. As such, the planning rule requires the consideration of social, economic, and ecological factors in all phases of the planning process. National forest management can influence social and economic conditions relevant to a planning area, but cannot ensure social and economic sustainability, because many factors are outside the control and authority of the responsible official. For that reason, the Planning Rule requires that plan components contribute to social and economic sustainability within Forest Service authority, and the inherent capability of the plan area. We used Forest Service proposed directives to provide some guidance for assessing social, cultural, and economic conditions in the bio-region, specifically, Forest Service Handbook 1909.12, Chapter 10, section 13.1.

The first part of this chapter describes the social, cultural, and economic context of the Sierra Nevada bio-region and how that influences National Forest System lands. The second part identifies key social, cultural, and economic conditions that national forests in the bio-region influence, as well as trends affecting these conditions. At the end of this chapter, we describe potential areas of opportunity for forest management to contribute to social, economic, and ecological sustainability.

‍‍Assessment Area‍‍

Ecological and social systems are not confined within forest boundaries. The 2012 Planning Rule requires that assessments identify and evaluate existing and potential future conditions on National Forest System lands in the context of the broader landscape. We plan to use multiple scales for each forest plan revision effort in California to capture important influences on forests, as well as effects of forest management on key social, cultural, and economic conditions. Assessing and comparing social, cultural, and economic conditions at a variety of scales is important because it allows decision making to incorporate the fact that socioeconomic conditions in one area can differ from another, and therefore the implications of management actions may differ as well. A bio-regional assessment can also identify those areas where we need consistent management strategies across forest boundaries.

This chapter primarily focuses on assessing social, cultural, and economic conditions at the scale of the Sierra Nevada bio-region.The boundary of the Sierra Nevada bio-region is the full study area boundary used in the 1996 Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project (SNEP) final report to Congress. This is different than the boundary used by the Sierra Nevada Conservancy, a California state agency that recently developed a report on socioeconomic indicators in the Sierra Nevada. Differences between the report and this chapter are further discussed at the end of this section.

Influences beyond the bio-region will also be considered and incorporated. The social, cultural, and economic conditions of the Sierra Nevada bio-region are heavily influenced by factors outside their boundaries. Management decisions can also have impacts far beyond the boundary of the bio-region. For example, a large number of visitors to the national forests come from urban areas outside the bio-region, such as Sacramento, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Reno, and Las Vegas. In fact, people come from around the world to visit these national forests. "The Sierra Nevada contains features, species, and areas with heightened social value; these present management concerns that extend well beyond local communities" (Winter et al. 2013b, p.6).The 1996 Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project (SNEP) found that most recreation in the Sierra Nevada was not by local residents, but instead by those from other areas of California. Out-of-state and foreign visitors also made up significant proportions with 15% and 10% of summer visits respectively. These non-Californian visitors tended to be primarily drawn to the unique, “world class” recreational resources in the Sierra Nevada and tied their recreation into activities in other areas of the region. Recreation numbers in more isolated areas of the Sierra Nevada were highly dependent on access to urban centers in California (Duane 1996). A layering of scales provides a more complete picture of the socioeconomic conditions in the bio-region and how they interact with individual forests. Separate chapters are available for assessing social, cultural, and economic conditions at the forest scale.

Resources in the Sierra Nevada provide significant value to geographically disparate populations, even to those not directly engaging with the region, through passive-use values including existence, option, and bequest values. These values are often found to represent the majority of economic values for a region (Richardson 2002). For example, Loomis (1989) found that the passive-use value of Mono Lake represented 94% of the total economic value of the resource. Richardson (2002) estimates that the passive-use value for the Eastern Sierra Nevada at $321 million per year for just local residents, suggesting that out-of-state and international values could be even higher.

In the first part of this chapter, we present aggregated socioeconomic data for the set of census county divisions (CCDs) that intersects the bio-region (also see table below). CCDs are county subdivisions delineated by the United States Census Bureau in cooperation with state, tribal, and local officials for statistical purposes. Many counties that intersect the bio-region have large areas that lie outside the bio-region. Using CCDs, rather than entire counties, provides a closer fit to the geographical footprint of the bio-region. However, we also present data for the set of counties that intersects the bio-region (also see table below) to compare how these two footprints may differ. In some cases, such as with the economic portions of this chapter, CCD-level information is not available and county-level data are used. Counties represent a good economic study area for examination since much of the economic activity associated with the forests occurs near the forest and in the larger cities along the Central Valley, such as Sacramento, Merced, Fresno and Bakersfield.

We also present socioeconomic data at state and national levels, and provide comparisons across different sub-regions within the Sierra Nevada. We identified eight sub-regions (also see table below) within the bio-region, adapted from the state's Sierra Nevada Conservancy sub-regions. We use the aggregate of CCDs that intersect each sub-region to describe demographic data for sub-regions. Again, due to the nature of the data, economic information will be described for the aggregate of counties that intersects each sub-region. The table below lists the 108 CCDs, 32 counties, and 8 sub-regions in California and Nevada that make up the bio-region.

List of sub-regions, counties, and CCDs.png
List of sub-regions, counties, and census county divisions in the Sierra Nevada bio-region.

In 2011, the Sierra Nevada Conservancy (SNC) published a Demographic and Economic System Indicators report for the Sierra Nevada. ‍‍While examining similar types of socioeconomic data, the data in this chapter differ from the report due to difference in geographic scope between the two analyses‍‍. The SNC’s boundary for the Sierra Nevada was established by statute, and the report either uses census block data that closely aligns with the boundary or county-level data. The SNC boundary is similar to the SNEP boundary of the Sierra Nevada used in Forest Service’s bio-regional assessment, but excludes the Tahoe Basin, a portion of Nevada, and a portion in the northwest along the boundary with Oregon. Using census block data allows for a precise definition of the Sierra Nevada as defined by the SNC boundary, with the toe of the Sierra foothills forming the western boundary. Alternatively, using CCDs that intersect the SNEP boundary, as we do in this chapter, results in the inclusion of certain Central Valley cities, such as Fresno and Bakersfield. The SNC report is more descriptive of local socioeconomic conditions in the Sierra Nevada and brings a valuable perspective to the information presented in this chapter.The SNC population base is much smaller than what is used in this chapter, and portrays a substantially different picture of the region in terms population growth, diversity, employment, and other socioeconomic measures. Please visit the report using the link above. Providing a broadened definition of the Sierra Nevada is also vital to understanding the region and potential future changes. Many of the changes occurring in the communities immediately outside the Sierra Nevada will influence national forest system management, and these communities are also areas the Forest Service is trying to better understand, outreach to, and engage with. Again, a layering of scales will help develop the fullest picture possible of Sierra Nevada forests. Forest-level assessment chapters dive more deeply into local conditions.

Governance and Information in a Multilevel World

In addition to the transition in thinking from weak sustainability to strong sustainability, there is a lower profile but also important transition towards thinking at multiple scales and multiple levels with regards to environmental management. Cash et al. (2010) provide a good overview of this trend and a conceptual framework that provides good food for thought regarding the forest assessment and plan revision process.

Sources of Information

A primary source of socioeconomic data for the bio-region, including population, age, gender, race, ethnicity, language, education, housing, poverty levels, household earnings, and employment were taken from the Economic Profile System – Human Dimension Toolkit (EPS-HDT) developed by Headwaters Economics (2012a) in partnership with the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service ( EPS-HDT is a free software application that runs in Microsoft Excel and produces detailed socioeconomic reports of communities, counties, states, and regions, including custom aggregations and comparisons. EPS-HDT uses published statistics from federal data sources, including the Bureau of Economic Analysis and Bureau of the Census, U.S. Department of Commerce; Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor; and others.

EPS-HDT develops CCD-level reports using data from the Census Bureau's American Community Survey (ACS). The ACS is a nation-wide survey conducted every year by the Census Bureau that provides current demographic, social, economic, and housing information about communities—information that until recently was only available once a decade. The ACS is not the same as the decennial census, which is conducted every ten years (the ACS has replaced the detailed, Census 2000 long-form questionnaire). One disadvantage of using this data is that smaller scale geographies are presented as multiyear estimates, and cannot be used to describe any particular year in the period, only what the average value is over the full period. Thus, 2010 ACS data presented here represent an average during the period from 2006 to 2010. In addition, because the ACS collects data from a sample of the population, it is subject to error. For details on the accuracy of the data see the document “American Community Survey Multiyear Accuracy of the Data.”

The "Science Synthesis to Support Land and Resource Management Plan Revision in the Sierra Nevada and Southern Cascades", developed by the USDA Forest Service Pacific Southwest Research Station, provided most of the scientific, peer reviewed information that we included here. This synthesis focused on peer-reviewed science that has become available since the development of existing land management plans in the Sierra Nevada. Other major sources of information that we used to describe conditions in the Sierra Nevada bio-region include: the 1996 Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project (SNEP) final report to Congress, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection’s 2010 assessment of California’s forests and rangelands, the Sierra Nevada Conservancy 2011 Strategic Plan and 2011 System Indicators Report for Demographics and the Economy, and Sierra Business Council documents. The boundary for the “Sierra Nevada” varies somewhat across these different sources.

Social, Cultural, and Economic Context of the Sierra Nevada Bio-region

The focus here is to provide the social, cultural, and economic context of the Sierra Nevada bio-region. It includes information on history and culture, population, demographics, settlement patterns and housing, human well-being, the political environment, economic health, and economic diversity. This context is important because it influences national forests and forest management in the bio-region. Thus, while national forest management can, to an extent, influence social, cultural, and economic conditions, larger socioeconomic forces may be at play that influence the agency’s management decisions and outcomes and, thereby, its ability to influence some of these conditions.

History and Culture

Historical context

The Sierra Nevada bio-region has a rich history and culture that has always been deeply connected to the land and its natural resources. Native Americans first settled the region over 10,000 years ago, sustaining themselves through hunting, fishing, gathering, quarrying, and trade (Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project Science Team 1996). They moved with the seasons to harvest Sierra oaks and wildlife, practiced agriculture, and managed the landscape through fire to promote desirable conditions for flora and fauna (Duane 1999). Settlers to the area mainly saw the massive mountain range as a barrier to migration with too harsh of a climate for settlement (Duane 1999). It was not until 1848, when John Marshall discovered gold at Sutter’s Mill that the region captured the attention of the world, starting the migration of tens of thousands of people into and throughout the Sierra Nevada, beginning a series of boom-and-bust cycles of resources use (Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project Science Team 1996).

Early mining activity led to significant timber harvesting, ranching, farming, and water diversions that laid the foundation for today’s hydrologic system (Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project Science Team 1996). Between 1848 and 1860, 150,000-175,000 people moved into the Sierra Nevada. At the same time, the Native American population sharply declined because of disease, starvation, warfare, resettlement and extermination (Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project Science Team 1996, Mittelbach and Wambem 2003). The ideologies of the Gold Rush era had long-lasting cultural effects on the Sierra Nevada as a place valued for resource production (Walker and Fortmann 2003).

The population exodus following the end of the Gold Rush was reversed in the 1920s as a result of tourism-oriented innovations (Loeffler and Steinicke 2006). By the 1950s, commercial mining had practically stopped and was followed by a growing number of exurban migrants who wanted a refuge from city life and were attracted to the natural beauty and cultural history of the Sierra Nevada (Walker and Fortmann 2003). According to the Sierra Business Council (2007), “People no longer come to the Sierra with ambitions of finding gold or hauling away large trees. In the new and changing Sierra Nevada, housing prices are rising, the economy is shifting, jobs that depend on natural resources are diminishing, new populations are arriving, air quality is declining, new investment is flooding in, and communities are in transition.”

As shown in the timeline below, various large-scale studies and management frameworks have occurred over the past couple decades in the Sierra Nevada. This history highlights the long involvement and concern stakeholders have had regarding Sierra Nevada resources and management of national forest system land. These events also speak to the complexity of management in the region and challenge of balancing across the triple bottom line.
Jun 1990
Northern spotted owl is listed as a Threatened species under the Endangered Species Act, prompting concern about the status of the California spotted owl in the Sierra Nevada range and in southern California.
Jul 1992
California Spotted Owl: A Technical Assessment of its Current Status (PSW-GTR-133; CASPO Technical Report) is released by an interagency scientific committee. The report raises concern over the effects of intensive timber harvest practices allowed in the forest plans along with the threat of loss from wildfires to the large and old trees that provide habitat for the California spotted owl. They recommend an Interim Approach that focuses on treating understory fuels while protecting large and old trees.
Jan 1993
California Spotted Owl Sierran Province Interim Guidelines (CASPO Interim Guidelines): This regional environmental assessment amended the forest plans for the 10 Sierra Nevada national forests in Region 5 to adopt interim direction similar to the CASPO Technical Report’s recommended Interim Approach. Intended to be in place for 2 years.
Herger-Feinstein Quincy Library Group (HFQLG):
  • 1993 Grassroots organization “Quincy Library Group” organizes to develop the “Community Stability Proposal”
  • 1998 Congress passes the Forest Recovery Act, with a pilot project for Northern California which includes the Lassen National Forest, the Plumas National Forest, and the Sierraville Ranger District of the Tahoe National Forest
  • 2012 The Forest Recovery Act expires
Kings River: Wild and Scenic and Special Management Area Implementation Plan (KRSMA) (Sierra and Sequoia National Forests).
California Spotted Owl (CalOwl) Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) to replace the Interim Guidelines released for public comments. Based on public comment, a Revised DEIS is prepared.
Jun 1996
Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project (SNEP): The Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project, a study commissioned by Congress, concluded that the environment had been severely degraded and stated: “The aquatic/riparian systems are the most altered and impaired habitats in the Sierra.”
CalOwl Revised DEIS released. Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) committee chartered to address concerns over integration of information from SNEP report. Chief of the Forest Service directs Regional Forester to develop a strategy to ensure ecological sustainability. Revised DEIS withdrawn. Regional Forester convenes an interdisciplinary team to develop the Sierra Nevada Framework for Conservation and Collaboration. This became known as the Framework.
Proclamation establishing the Giant Sequoia National Monument by President Clinton
Sierra Nevada Forest Plan Amendment: A Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) recommending amendments to the Forest Plans was issued. The amendments were intended, among other things, to conserve and restore aquatic and riparian ecosystems. In January, 2001, the Forest Service adopted a modified version of the preferred alternative recommended in the 2001 FEIS. This is referred to as the “2001 Framework.” To resolve the more than 200 appeals filed against the 2001 Framework, in November of 2001, the Chief of the Forest Service affirmed the decision but asked the Regional Forester to review certain elements of the 2001 Framework.
Mar 2003
Sierra Nevada Forest Plan Amendment: Management Review and Recommendations report is issued after an extensive 15-month review that included many public meetings, field trips and technical meetings with experts. This report looked at six specific areas related to the 2001 Framework. A primary consideration was to make recommendations to improve implementability of the plan direction.
Jan 2004
Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) issued, recommending changes to a few key areas (fuels management, livestock grazing, HFQLG) of the 2001 Framework. The preferred alternative was adopted in the 2004 SEIS. This is referred to as the “2004 Framework.” As a result of stakeholder campaigns, over 6,200 appeals are filed but they represent essentially 27 unique appeal letters. Appeals are dismissed and the decision affirmed. Litigation is filed by 3 parties, which is still ongoing.
Dec 2004
General Technical Report 193, Proceedings of the Sierra Nevada Science Symposium.
Dec 2007
Sierra Nevada Forests Management Indicator Species Final Environmental Impact Statement and Record of Decision amended all 10 forest plans in the Sierra Nevada
Mar 2009
General Technical Report 220: An Ecosystem Management Strategy for Sierran Mixed-Conifer Forests
Jun 2010
California’s Forests and Rangelands: 2010 Assessment and Strategy Reports, Fire and Resource Assessment Program (FRAP)
Mar 2012
General Technical Report 237, Managing Sierra Nevada Forests
Apr 2012
Final rule issued updating 36 CFR Part 219 regarding National Forest System Land Management Planning.
Sep 2012
New Giant Sequoia National Monument Management Plan, Record of Decision, and Final Environmental Impact Statement released after years of collaborative efforts with multiple agencies, the scientific community, and an engaged public to develop management direction based on public collaboration and current science. Appeals are currently being reviewed.
Jan 2013
Science Synthesis to Promote Resilience of Social-Ecological Systems in the Sierra Nevada and Southern Cascades released by the USFS Pacific Southwest Research Station to synthesize relevant peer-reviewed science that has become available since the development of the existing land and resource management plans. (Currently in a public comment period 4/23/2013).

Cultural context

Sierra Nevada residents take pride in their history and the lasting presence of that history in the region’s small towns and historic sites (Sierra Business Council 1997). In a 1995 poll of Sierra Nevada voters, 62 percent agreed that their counties should be doing more to preserve historic places and resources (Sierra Business Council 1997). These historic places play a valuable role in defining the distinct character of Sierra Nevada communities for both residents and visitors, yet are impacted by new development that detracts from the unique character of these communities (Sierra Business Council 1997).

The current cultural conditions in the Sierra Nevada are deeply tied to the region’s rich past. The values that people in the Sierra Nevada hold have been passed on through generations. However, values have also been changing over time due to new knowledge, recreation and tourism growth, migration from urban areas, and demographic shifts. Both cultural legacy and change influence how people value and use national forests, and expectations regarding how National Forest System lands in the bio-region should be managed.
Distribution of the total population of Native Americans.png
Distribution of the total population of Native Americans in the Sierra Nevada across sub-regions, 2010 (Source: EPS-HDT).

As described in Anderson and Moratto (1996), Native Americans have influenced Sierra Nevada landscapes over many generations. For thousands of years, their land-use ethic included spiritual, philosophical, and economic dimensions. In Native American culture, humans are viewed as part of the natural system, helping to ensure abundance and diversity of plant and animal life. Native Americans practiced land management though burning, irrigating, pruning, selective harvesting, sowing, and weeding. Today, while most of their ancestral lands are occupied by others, tribal groups throughout the Sierra Nevada have maintained distinct ethnic identities. The Native American population is estimated to make up 1.4% of the total population in the bio-region, compared to 0.8% at both state and national levels. As shown in the chart, the South Sierra sub-region has the greatest percentage of Native Americans in the bio-region.

For centuries, Native Americans have been gathering various plants on the slopes and in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada for medicinal, ornamental, religious, and culinary uses (Richards 1996). Today, traditional tribal communities continue to rely on the maintenance of a natural landscape and protection of key locations, plants, and animals in order to sustain their identity and traditional cultural practices (Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project Science Team 1996). Because most of the tribes in the bio-region have an insignificant land base or none at all, they have to do most of their gathering on public lands (Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project Science Team 1996). The Forest Service shares in the federal government's overall trust responsibility for federally recognized American Indian tribes and Alaska Natives. Tribes throughout California have the right to hunt, fish, and gather on tribal lands, as well as have access to water that provides adequate supplies for direct consumption, agricultural purposes, or protecting existing resources. Some tribes have rights associated with treaties, and some tribes have other reserved rights. Tribal consultation by national forests with federally recognized tribes that have rights and interests within forest boundaries is very important to determine how those rights may affect management decisions. See Chapter 12: Assessing Areas of Tribal Importance for further information.

The removal of Native American management from the landscape has also influenced and continues to influence Sierra Nevada forests. According to Anderson and Moratto (1996), resource management by Native Americans in the Sierra Nevada bio-region was long term and widespread, producing ecological and evolutionary consequences in the biota (Blackburn and Anderson 1993). Therefore, many ecosystems in the Sierra are not self-maintaining islands that require only protection to remain in a “pristine” state. There is currently an ecological “vacuum,” or disequilibrium, in the Sierra Nevada resulting from the departure of Native Americans from managing these ecosystems. The decline in biotic diversity, species extirpation and endangerment, human encroachment into fire-type plant communities (e.g., chaparral), and greatly increased risk of catastrophic fires are symptoms of this disequilibrium.

According to Richards (1996), harvesting non-timber forest products (NTFP) (also known as special forest products) has been an important cultural activity for non-tribal communities in the region as well. NTFPs are generally categorized as food, herbs, medicinals, decoratives, and specialty items. "New uses for and values toward special forest products have developed. The most frequently collected and most economically valuable products are in decline, while many “minor” products are either emerging or increasing. Some of these products may be intensely valued by particular sociocultural user groups, even disproportionately in relation to both the amounts harvested, economic value received, and ecological impacts on the landscape. Conversely, the collection of other special forest products may have unanticipated ecological or socioeconomic consequences depending on past, present, and future conditions of removal, including harvesting pressure." Ethnicity and different community traditions have played an important role in what special forest products are gathered in Sierra Nevada forests. See Chapter 8: Assessing Multiple Uses – Fish, Plants and Wildlife for further information on NTFP harvesting on NFS lands in the bio-region.

Timber harvesting is part of the bio-region’s cultural heritage and has played a lasting role in shaping community values and identities. Timber communities have a strong sense of place and value close community ties, community self-reliance, and individualism (Kusel 1996). Federal policies have resulted in reduced availability of timber production on Forest Service lands, which has led to the majority of timber production in the bio-region now coming from private lands (Sierra Business Council 2007). See Chapter 8: Assessing Multiple Uses – Timber for further information on timber harvesting on NFS lands in the bio-region.

Ranching and agricultural lands are an integral part of the region’s economy, history, cultural heritage and scenic beauty (Sierra Nevada Conservancy 2011a). Ranchers continue to depend on public land grazing to support their livelihood. The central Sierra foothills are home to many ranchers who have long practiced a system of grazing where they move their livestock seasonally, using the foothills in the winter and Forest Service montane meadows in the summer (Sulak and Huntsinger 2007, as cited in Charnley 2013). In addition, ranching and agricultural lands provide important contributions to habitat, biodiversity, water quality, air quality, carbon sequestration and open space that benefit everyone, as well as preserve the rural character of many Sierra communities (Sierra Nevada Conservancy 2011a). Ranchers gain social capital from ranching and highly value living on the ranch, environmental amenities, leaving the ranch to their children, and their autonomy in the production of livestock (Huntsinger et al. 2010). However, ranching has declined due to shifts in land management priority, societal pressures that have resulted in new policies, reduced rangeland forage production, competing land uses, family demographics, and the marginal economics of livestock grazing (Huntsinger et al. 2010). See Chapter 8: Assessing Multiple Uses – Range for further information on the use of NFS rangelands in the bio-region.

A continuous influx of migrants from urban areas has influenced the culture of many rural and traditionally resource-based communities in the Sierra Nevada. Newcomers are often less tied to natural resource production and more tied to scenic and rural qualities of the landscape, which can conflict with the views of long-time residents. As a result, long-time residents can feel a loss of social power and cultural identity (Walker and Fortmann 2003). Conflict often arises over landscapes in places where economic and cultural values are not being placed on specific natural resources, but on aesthetic and environmental values that have undefined owners and are the result of multiple landholdings across the landscape (Walker and Fortmann 2003).

‍‍Outdoor recreation‍‍ is a defining part of the culture and lifestyle in the Sierra Nevada, and one of the main ways residents and visitors connect to the land and enjoy the natural world. It also constitutes a significant part of tourism activity and relies on the condition of Sierra Nevada ecosystems (Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project Science Team 1996). Recreational trends and the mix of outdoor activities chosen by the public evolve over time, and these demands influence forest lands and consequent management decisions (USFS 2012a). Nationally, nature-based outdoor recreation between 2000 and 2009 increased in total number of participants as well as in number of activity days (Cordell 2012, as cited in Winter et al. 2013b). Based on 2005-2009 National Visitor Use Monitoring (NVUM) data, the table below lists the main activities in the bio-region that visitors participated in. It should be kept in mind that because of the small sample size of site-days, or because some user groups decline to participate in the NVUM survey, it is possible to under-represent certain user groups, particularly for activities that are quite limited in where or when they occur. Note that the results of the NVUM activity analysis DO NOT identify the types of activities visitors would like to have offered on the national forests. It also does not tell us about displaced forest visitors, those who no longer visit the forest because the activities they desire are not offered. (NVUM)

Visitor participation in activities on bio-regional forests (Source: 2005-2009 National Visitor Use Monitoring Data).
% Participation*
% Main Activity
Viewing Natural Features
Downhill Skiing
Hiking / Walking
Viewing Wildlife
Driving for Pleasure
Other Non-motorized
Developed Camping
Visiting Historic Sites
Nature Study
Motorized Water Activities
Nature Center Activities
Cross-country Skiing
Resort Use
Non-motorized Water
Some Other Activity
Gathering Forest Products
Motorized Trail Activity
Primitive Camping
Horseback Riding
Other Motorized Activity
No Activity Reported
*Survey respondents could select multiple activities so this column may total more than 100%.
Survey respondents were asked to select just one of their activities as their main reason for the forest visit. Some respondents selected more than one, so this column may total more than 100%.

According to Cordell (2012), reviewed in Winter et al. (2013b), site based activities, including camping in developed sites and family gatherings went up nationally from 2000 to 2009. Increases were also observed in viewing and photographing nature, especially wildflowers, trees, natural scenery, wildlife, and birds. Backcountry activities declined, snowmobiling declined, and off-highway vehicle use remained steady. During the previous decade, driving vehicles off-road was one of the fastest growing activities in the country, growing in participation by more than 100 percent to over 51 million people (Cordell 2005).

Outdoor recreation including Trail sports, Biking , Camping, Snow sports, Water sports, Fishing, Hunting, Wildlife watching, Motorcycle riding and Off-roading are critical to the West’s economy for more than just the opportunity to play in the great outdoors. It creates sustainable jobs and incomes for our friends and neighbors, especially in rural areas. It provides the opportunity to unplug from our busy lives, recharge our souls and live healthier lifestyles (Outdoor Industry Association et al. 2012).

‍Over 23% of Americans enjoy motorized recreation, the fastest growing form of Nature Based recreation for decades, with an increase of 44% from 1983-1995 (Journal of Leisure Research 2006 & Forest Service Visitor Number Studies).

Roberts et al. (2009) describe five trends in recreation in California:

Californians are seeking relaxation, socialization, and natural values from their outdoor recreation pursuits;
Californians pursue a wide array of activities outdoors. Projected demand in 2020 for outdoor recreation includes sightseeing, non-consumptive wildlife viewing, biking, family gatherings, hiking, horseback riding, rock climbing, walking, and camping (Cordell et al. 2004);
Californians want more amenities when they engage in outdoor recreation;
Californians differ in their outdoor recreation styles and participation patterns;
Outdoor recreation and nature-based tourism are important elements of California’s tourism portfolio.

Roberts et al. (2009) also note the growing importance of volunteerism in recreation, which enhances both people’s lives and landscapes. Community-based stewardship and public land volunteerism is not systematically tracked in the national or state outdoor recreation data sets, but some evidence suggests this form of outdoor recreation activity is on the rise. Themed days and special events (e.g., Coastal Cleanup, Public Lands Day, and National Trails Day) increase the visibility of volunteering on public lands. New organizations and communication tools are helping to support increased involvement from new and different groups.

The diversity of values that people hold in the Sierra Nevada means that there is a variety of ideas about national forests in the bio-region and how they should be managed. This creates complexity for land managers and affects forest resources. In addition, many communities outside the bio-region have an interest in Sierra Nevada forests and how they are managed, whether they directly use the forests or not (Long et al. 2013b, p.12). Many visitors to national forests come from outside the region. Based on 2005-2009 NVUM data, the table below lists the distance traveled by visitors to national forests in the bio-region. About 24 percent of visitors to the bio-region traveled 201-500 miles, and an additional 23 percent traveled over 500 miles. Examining visitation by county to bio-region national forests reveals that the largest percentage of visitors (approximately 7.2%) are coming from Washoe County in Nevada, which contains Reno and the northeast portion of Lake Tahoe. Los Angeles County provides the second highest percentage of visitors to the bio-region (approximately 5.6%). Together, counties in the San Francisco Bay Area contribute a large proportion of visitors to bio-region forests. A relatively large percentage of visitors also come from Fresno County, Sacramento County, and the central Sierra counties. Eight percent of visitors come from a state other than California or Nevada. Two percent of total national forest visitation in the bio-region is from foreign visitors, and the most come from Europe.

Distance traveled by visitors to national forests in the bio-region (Source: 2005-2009 National Visitor Use Monitoring Data).
Miles from Respondent'sHome to Interview Location*
National Forest Visits (%)
0 - 25 miles
26 - 50 miles
51 - 75 miles
76 - 100 miles
101 - 200 miles
201 - 500 miles
Over 500 miles
*Travel distance is self-reported.


According to the Sierra Business Council (2007), population growth is considered to be the driving force of change throughout the Sierra Nevada. Some population growth is seen in the foothills, becoming part of the Sacramento metropolitan area, and there is considerable growth in remote, high mountain regions (Loeffler and Steinicke 2006). As shown in the table below, the population of the Sierra Nevada bio-region grew by 14.6 percent between 2000 and 2010 to 3,261,939 people. This was greater than the approximate 8 percent population growth at state and national levels. Population growth in California has slowed over the last two decades and has had unprecedented migration of residents to other states, while international migration to the state has remained strong (Johnson 2011).

‍‍Population change in the Sierra Nevada across sub-regions, 2000-2010 (Source: EPS-HDT).‍‍

Population Change
Percent Change

North Sierra

North Central Sierra

Central Sierra


South Central Sierra

South Sierra

East Sierra


Bio-Region Counties




While growth has been strong throughout the most populated areas in the Sierra Nevada bio-region, ‍‍other places in the bio-region are not experiencing the same level of growth‍‍. The Central Sierra sub-region experienced the greatest change in population between 2000 and 2010 (24.1%), accounting for 17 percent of the total population in the bio-region in 2010. Conversely, the Tahoe sub-region experienced a major decrease in population during this time period, declining 13.9 percent from 2000 levels. The East Sierra sub-region also experienced relatively little growth (5.6%). The Tahoe and East Sierra sub-regions each account for only 1 percent of the total population in the bio-region. Forty-three percent of the population in the Sierra Nevada lives in the South Sierra sub-region, which experienced a 14.9 percent growth between 2000 and 2010. The South Sierra sub-region includes the cities of Fresno and Bakersfield, which accounted for approximately 58 percent of the sub-region’s population in 2010. Other sub-regions where certain cities account for a large proportion of the population are the North Sierra sub-region, which includes Redding, and the Nevada sub-region, which includes parts of Reno and Carson City. In these sub-regions, demographic data may more accurately describe these high population centers, rather than the sub-region as a whole. Population change across CCDs is quite variable and more fully explored in forest-level chapters.
Distribution of the total population.png
Distribution of the total population in the Sierra Nevada across sub-regions, 2010 (Source: EPS-HDT).

According to interim population projections from the California Department of Finance (2012a) by the year 2050, the population in California will have increased 37 percent from 2010 levels to over 51 million people. For those counties in California that are partially or entirely within the bio-region, total population is expected to increase by 69 percent. Growth is expected to be greatest in the South Sierra sub-region counties of Fresno, Kern, and Tulare. By 2050, the population in this three-county region is expected to increase by over 90 percent compared to 2010 levels. Population projections were only available at the county level and not at the CCD level. Therefore, these projections include areas that extend well beyond the bio-region, including much of the fast-growing Central Valley. Growth in these areas will undoubtedly affect national forests throughout the bio-region with several million people living within an hour or two of the forests (Roberts et al. 2009). Influences from outside the bio-region, including population and demographic change, as well as additional social, cultural, economic, and political changes, will continue to have impacts on the Sierra Nevada (Winter et al. 2013b, p.2).

CA DOF population projections.png
Estimated population projections 2010-2050 for the state of California, the aggregate of counties that make up the Sierra Nevada bio-region (California counties only), and the aggregates of counties that make up Sierra Nevada sub-regions (Source: California Department of Finance).

According to the Sierra Nevada Conservancy’s (SNC) Demographic and System Indicators Report (2011b), the twelve counties defined as lying entirely within the SNC boundary have, in aggregate, experienced slowing population growth since 2001 and actual declines between 2007 and 2009. Between 2000 and 2006, people moving into these counties accounted for all the growth, and in 2008 and 2009, more people moved out of these counties than into them. The graph below shows much slower growth projected in these twelve counties compared to the aggregate of all counties that contribute to the bio-region, which includes much of the fast growing Central Valley communities.

population projections-simple.png

In many ways, population growth has benefited the bio-region’s economy, giving it a more diverse and stable economic base; however, it has also strained the resources of the Sierra Nevada and diminished the natural landscape and small town appeal (Sierra Business Council 1997). In addition, internal growth has been accompanied by continued claims on the region’s resources from outside in California’s urban and agricultural areas (Mittelbach and Wambem 2003). Population growth has a major influence on National Forest System lands in the Sierra Nevada, including impacts on wildlife habitat, wildfire risk and management, the spread of invasive species, water quality and supply, and recreation. These influences are further discussed below.

Habitat fragmentation

California’s population growth has been accompanied by increased land development, resulting in a loss of forests and rangelands. Low-density development poses a threat to the integrity of remaining forests and rangelands through the effects of fragmentation (USFS 2012a), a process that impacts wildlife by breaking habitat into smaller pieces. The expansion of housing in the wildland-urban interface (WUI) and development around public lands fragments natural land covers, and often leads to additional development. Habitat loss and degradation are major causes of species endangerment (USFS 2012a). Fragmentation of California’s privately owned forests and grasslands is expected to continue into the future (Ferranto et al. 2011).


While a part of the fire-adapted landscape in California, wildfire poses a significant threat to life, public health, infrastructure, and other property and natural resources (California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection 2010). The Sierra Nevada has been subject to fire suppression for over a century, resulting in ecological and human safety problems (Heckmann et al. 2008). Fire can also impact recreation opportunities and visitor experience on National Forest System lands by affecting local scenery and air quality. The complexities of fire management have increased in part due to more development in the WUI (Winter et al. 2013c, p.7), with firefighting resources redirected toward defending homes, instead of making progress on the fireline (Hammer et al. 2007).

Over 90 percent of housing units in the Sierra Nevada and Sierra Nevada Foothills regions were located in the WUI in 2000, and the WUI captured virtually all the net growth in housing units from 2000-2010 (Hammer et al. 2007). This reflects the near-absence of urban zones far enough from wildland vegetation to not be WUI, more favorable attitudes toward growth in communities transitioning from natural resource dependence to other economic bases, and prices for buildable land in the realm of 10 thousand dollars per acre, low enough to encourage the construction of small ranches and an intermix pattern of housing development (Hammer et al. 2007).

A concentration of California’s high priority landscapes in terms of community safety, defined as high wildfire threat together with human infrastructure assets, is located in the Sierra Nevada bio-region (California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection 2010). With the migration of more urban and suburban Californians, more people are exposing themselves and their families to unnecessary personal risk, particularly to the danger of wildfire. Many newer residents are unfamiliar with the safety problems associated with building in certain locations (Sierra Business Council 1997). People living in high fire risk areas tend to be unduly optimistic about the degree of risk involved (Winter et al. 2013c, p.8). Landowners are not typically liable for their contributions to wildfire risk from fuels on their land, creating a disincentive for fuels managment (Yoder and Blatner 2004). Still, community involvement in wildfire planning is extensive in California, as evidenced by community wildfire protection plans, local and regional Fire Safe Councils, Resource Conservation Districts and community participation in Firewise Communities/USA program (California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection 2010).

Invasive species

People are a major conduit for seed movement, and the number of non-native weeds found in California has increased with population growth (California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection 2010). National forest recreation can impact the spread of invasive species, for example, through the movement of firewood and through recreation activities and equipment. Aquatic invasive species, such as quagga mussel and New Zealand mudsnails, have spread throughout California via boats, fishing equipment, and other water sports gear (California Department of Fish and Game 2008). Non-native invasive species can result in economic losses, permanent ecological changes, and public health impacts (Winter et al. 2013c, p.10). Invasive species can also affect fire regimes and have cultural impacts, including aesthetic value and tribal uses and access (Winter et al. 2013c, p.10).

While native forest pests can cause extensive problems, the ratio of exotic pests to native pests has increased over time, and currently up to one-third of the total number of significant pests are now non-native to California. Dead trees from pest outbreaks can become a major public safety hazard. The Sierra Nevada contains high priority areas, where tree mortality due to bark beetles has created a public safety issue (California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection 2010).

In addition, the growing number of people using NFS lands may create more complex situations that affect invasive species management due to the diversity of recreation values. For example, some people fishing in national forests "may value more 'pristine' lakes, stream, or river fish communities, compared to others who want the opportunity to 'catch a fish' regardless of the species origin or ecological function" (Winter et al. 2013c, p.11).


Water originating from the Sierra Nevada supplies roughly 60 percent of California’s fresh water, much of which drives the Central Valley’s agricultural economy (Sierra Business Council 2007). Water from the Sierra Nevada is also vital to urban communities. For instance, according to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s (LADWP) 2010 Urban Water Management Plan, the Los Angeles Aqueduct (LAA), which originates in the Sierra Nevada, is one of the major imported water sources to the City of Los Angeles (averaging 36% of total water supplies in recent years), delivering 39 percent of the total runoff in the eastern Sierra Nevada in an average year. Reducing water deliveries from the LAA due to environmental considerations has led to increased dependence on imported water supply from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD), which imports a portion of its water from the western Sierra Nevada. For LADWP, the most vulnerable water sources subject to climate change impacts are imported water supplies from MWD and the LAA, which depend on natural hydrology, especially mountain snowpack. For further information on water, see Chapter 8: Assessing Multiple Uses – Water.

As population grows throughout the state, demand for water in California grows, while the supply remains the same (California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection 2010). According to the SNEP report, manipulation of streams for water supply, irrigation, transportation, hydropower, waste disposal, mining, flood control, timber harvest, recreation, and other uses has degraded watershed in the Sierra Nevada, making aquatic and riparian systems the most altered and impaired habitats of the Sierra Nevada. The pressures from California’s agricultural and urban areas are being resisted by groups interested in preserving biodiversity and environmental quality in the Sierra Nevada and who view the continuous and rising export of water to other regions as undesirable in the long run (Mittelbach and Wambem 2003). Population growth has led to increased competition for water among various uses within the Sierra Nevada as well, including instream flows for aquatic species, water recreation, hydropower, domestic uses, and national forest and special use permit site uses. Sierra Nevada watersheds face significant threats including fire, poorly planned development, and unauthorized recreation (Sierra Nevada Conservancy 2011a).

Recreation and tourism

Population growth has had positive impacts on Sierra Nevada communities. Tourists, new residents, and new businesses increase the financial and human capital of communities and create jobs, stimulating local economic development (Charnley 2013, p.16). "Recreation and tourism have brought new economic opportunities to many communities that were formerly timber dependent" (Charnley 2013, p.16). Further discussion on the economic role of recreation and tourism can be found in the economic sections of this chapter.

Nationally, a stable public land base, a declining private natural land base, and increasing numbers of outdoor recreation enthusiasts are expected to result in increased conflicts and declines in the quality and number of per-person recreation opportunities, especially on public lands near large and growing population centers (USFS 2012a). In California, activities such as off-highway vehicle (OHV) recreation, mountain biking, boating and adventure recreation, have increased dramatically in recent years; while at the same time population growth, urbanization and alternative energy production compete for suitable lands (California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection 2010).Cordell et al. (2004) found that socioeconomic trends across the U.S. will put disproportionate pressure on public lands for recreation and raw materials, lead to increased conflict and competition for access, and lead to less of a connection between people and the land (as cited in Winter et al. 2013b). The Sequoia, Inyo, and Sierra National Forests account for 45 percent of all recreation visitor days on NFS lands in the Sierra Nevada. Together with the adjacent national parks, this portion of the Sierra Nevada probably has one of the highest recreation activity levels in the world (USFS 2012b).

Unmanaged outdoor recreation may adversely impact natural resources by causing erosion, spread of invasive weeds, compaction, plant damage, wildlife disturbance, and damage to cultural resources (California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection 2010). All recreational pursuits contribute some degree of environmental degradation (Marion and Wimpey 2007). Wilson and Seney (1994) suggested that precipitation will cause erosion even without human travel, and this factor may significantly outweigh the effects of travel. However, the Sierra Nevada has limited precipitation for most of the year (Winter et al. 2013b, p.12). "Increases in numbers of users and certain types of use may also affect the health of ‍‍recreationists" (Winter et al. 2013b, p.12).‍‍

‍‍According to the California Department of Parks and Recreation (2002) Recreational Trail Plan, good trail design, construction, and maintenance improve trails by: accommodating higher numbers and multiple uses; reducing maintenance needs; minimizing environmental impacts, especially erosion; increasing a trail's appeal; reducing the change of trail failure; making trails safer and more fun; and providing a greater variety of experiences. While supportive of all users, the plan emphasizes that because of California's finite resources, increased sharing of resources will be necessary, inevitably creating some friction among diverse user groups vying for more trail space.‍‍


Shifts in ethnic composition and age categories can influence forests in the Sierra Nevada. Different cultures and age groups may have different views, experiences, and expectations regarding forest management.

Bio-region age distribution.png
Age distribution across the eight Sierra Nevada sub-regions, bio-region, California, and U.S., 2010 (Source: EPS-HDT).

Currently, as shown in the figure, the age distribution in the bio-region is similar to state and national levels, though the population in the bio-region appears to be slightly older than the state as a whole. The South Sierra sub-region has a relatively young population. Thirty-four percent of people in this sub-region are under 20; over 60 percent are under the age of 40. In terms of visitation to forests in the bio-region, people between the ages of 40 and 49 make up the largest segment of visitors at 40 percent. About 8 percent of visitors are between the ages of 60 and 69, while 2.4 percent are 70 or older.

California’s senior cohort is one of the fastest growing segments of the population and already the largest in the U.S. (Roberts et al. 2009). The Department of Finance (2012a) projects that by 2050, 19 percent of the state’s population will be between the ages of 60 and 79 (up from 13 percent in 2010) and that 8 percent will be between over 80 years old (up from 3 percent in 2010). Roberts et al. (2009) expect that California’s senior cohort will continue to grow and settle in foothill and rural counties, contributing to anticipated increases in tourism and second-home development (as cited in Winter et al. 2013b).

Bio-region hispanic population.png
Hispanic or Latino population across the eight Sierra Nevada sub-regions, bio-region, California, and U.S., 2010 (Source: EPS-HDT).

According to Roberts et al. (2009), no demographic trend is of greater importance to national forest managers and leaders than the immense growth of cultural diversity in the state. According to data they report from the California Department of Finance, California’s youth is more culturally diverse than any previous generation, and nearly 75 percent of them are concentrated in 10 California counties. In addition, California is home to more than one-third of the entire U.S. Asian American population and about 30 percent of all U.S. Latinos and Native Hawaiians or Pacific Islanders.

In 2010, 37 percent of people in California identified as Hispanic or Latino, compared to only 16 percent of people in the U.S. as a whole. While lower than state levels, the bio-region also has a large Hispanic or Latino population (29%). Of note is the South Sierra sub-region, where 46 percent of people identified as Hispanic or Latino.

While California is generally more diverse than the U.S. as a whole, the percentage of people who identified as Black or African American in 2010 was much smaller in both the state (6%) and the bio-region (3%) compared to the U.S. (12%). In 2010, the bio-region generally had less racial diversity than the state as a whole, with the exception of the South Sierra sub-region. The East Sierra sub-region had a notably larger percentage of people who identified as American Indian (8%) compared to the bio-region, state, and U.S. (approximately 1% of total population for all). Much of the diversity in California and the South Sierra sub-region came from people who identified as “some other race.” This can likely be attributed to the selection of this category among many people in the Hispanic or Latino community. Among non-Hispanics or Latinos, the percentage of people who selected this category was below half a percent across all scales.

Bio-region race.png
Population by race across the eight Sierra Nevada sub-regions, bio-region, California, and U.S., 2010 (Source: EPS-HDT).

Shifts in culturally diverse populations will likely be reflected in recreation in the Sierra Nevada forests (Winter et al. 2013b). "Preoccupied with finding their places in a new and foreign country, many immigrants use public open spaces for relaxation, for connecting with other immigrants, and to preserve cultural traditions" (Roberts et al. 2009). A number of studies have revealed the cultural variations evident within recreation studies linked to Latino and Asian populations, including "recreation patterns and preferences for development, underrepresentation in some forested areas, and communication and information needs on and off site" (Winter et al. 2013b, p.11). Forty-two percent of Californians speak a language other than English, compared to 19.5 percent nationally. In the Sierra Nevada bio-region, 25.6 percent of people speak a language other than English.

According to Roberts et al. (2009), "more than 45 years of research continues to show that people from culturally diverse backgrounds are not using the national forests and other public lands in numbers representative of the populations within the market areas. Not all people feel comfortable and safe, have access, maintain strong and positive ties, or have knowledge about these natural areas and what to do on them." Despite demographic shifts across the state and country, "racial and ethnic group members and people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds remain underrepresented among visitors to public lands" (Roberts et al. 2009). As described in Chapter 9: Assessing Recreation Settings, Opportunities and Access, and Scenic Character, 84 percent of visitors to national forests in the bio-region are White, while only 72 percent of people in the Sierra Nevada are White. Hispanic visitation is at nearly 8%, which is much lower than their representation in the population of the bio-region (29%). However, Asian visitors are the next largest segment of visitors at 14%, which is greater than their representation in the population of the bio-region (5%).

Settlement Patterns and Housing

Human settlement in the Sierra Nevada is highly variable, ranging from the remote, inaccessible areas to highly connected areas near rapidly growing metropolitan centers (Duane 1996). The road network linking the Sierra Nevada to social and economic activity throughout California and the world determines the pattern of human settlement in the Sierra Nevada (Duane 1996). Land use patterns have shifted from open space and working landscapes to rural sprawl, ranchette housing developments, and a proliferation of second homes (Sierra Business Council 2007). Development from expanding urban areas places pressures on forest lands. The checkerboard private-public land ownership pattern from past incentives to encourage construction of the Central Pacific Railroad occurs in parts of the northern half of the Sierra Nevada, increasing the complexity of land and resource management (Duane 1999).

Population and settlement growth in the Sierra Nevada has largely been driven by a phenomenon known as amenity migration, referring to the movement of people from urban areas to Sierra Nevada forests for their amenity values, such as low crime, good schools, outdoor recreation opportunities, scenic beauty, and an overall improved quality of life (Loeffler and Steinicke 2007).

During the 1970s and after, a greater proportion of housing units were built in the bio-region (85%) than in California (66%) and the U.S. (70%). In 2010, second homes accounted for 7 percent of all housing in the bio-region, compared to 2 percent in California and 4 percent in the U.S. Second homes can often be used as an indicator of recreational and scenic amenities (Headwaters Economics 2012a). Within the bio-region, major housing growth occurred in the Tahoe and East Sierra sub-regions during the 1970s. Second homes accounted for 48 percent of all housing in the Tahoe sub-region and 38 percent of all housing in the East Sierra sub-region. More recent growth has occurred in the Central Sierra sub-region, which also saw the greatest increase in population between 2000 and 2010. In 2010, second homes accounted for 7 percent of housing in this region. Much of the growth in the Central Sierra sub-region is likely due to urban expansion from the Sacramento metropolitan area.

Bio-region housing construction.png
Percentage of houses built during different time periods across the eight Sierra Nevada sub-regions.

Amenity migration can have positive effects on communities, through increased economic capacity and the development of additional physical infrastructure. It can also have negative effects, such as increased demands on local social systems and resources and increasing housing values and the overall cost of living (Winter et al. 2013b, p.5). Dispersed patterns of human settlement make essential public services like road maintenance, fire and police protection, and education more expensive (Sierra Business Council 1997). "Amenity migration is associated with shifts in local sociodemographics, for example toward a younger, more affluent, more educated population (Winter et al. 2013b, p.5). Workers who cannot afford to live in these high amenity communities end up as commuters and the most affected are Hispanic, Asian, and some younger workers (Winter et al. 2013b, p.5).

Approximately 48 percent of people who own houses in the Sierra Nevada have monthly costs (mortgages, real estate taxes, various insurances, utilities, fuels, mobile home costs, and condominium fees) that are greater than 30 percent of their household income, which is considered a proxy for unaffordable housing (Headwaters Economics 2012a). This is higher than the national level (37%) but just under the level in California (52%). Affordability of rental units appears to be an issue at all scales, with a slightly greater proportion of unaffordable rental units in both the Sierra Nevada and California (52%) than the U.S. as a whole (47%). Little variation exists across the bio-region in terms of housing affordability; however, home ownership appears least affordable in the Tahoe sub-region and most affordable in the South Sierra and Nevada sub-regions.

Bio-region housing affordability.png
Affordability (housing costs as a percentage of household income) across the eight Sierra Nevada sub-regions, bio-region, California, and U.S., 2010 (Source: EPS-HDT).

Tourism and recreation not only contributed to the movement of people into the Sierra Nevada, but developed alongside at the same pace (Loeffler and Steinicke 2006). Amenity migration can result in different forms of recreation engagement, which can result in conflicts between residents with a longer history in the area and new residents (Winter et al. 2013b, p.12). In addition, amenity migration can result in greater development in wildlands, potentially impacting public access to adjacent outdoor recreation areas (Winter et al. 2013b, p.12).

Amenity migration can result in shifting ownership values on private lands from economic generation and family tradition to amenity and investment values (Winter et al. 2013b, p.5). In the fast-growing foothills region and high elevation meadows that adjoin urbanizing areas in the Sierra Nevada, agricultural and ranching lands have had pressure to convert to other uses, including residential development (Sierra Nevada Conservancy 2011a). Amenity migration in the Sierra Nevada has also led to an expansion of human settlements into higher elevations, which may affect ecosystems in ways that we have not seen before (Loeffler and Steinicke 2006, as cited in Winter et al. 2013b). By 2040, almost 20 percent of Sierra Nevada private forests and rangelands could be affected by projected development (Duane 1996).

Human Well-Being

This section provides information on poverty rates, educational attainment, and health in the Sierra Nevada. These conditions help tell the story of human well-being because they affect how well individuals can reach success and achievement in light of available opportunities (Kusel 2001). Well-being affects how communities respond to forest management decisions, as well as their involvement with forest management, which in turn influences well-being.

Despite the Sierra Nevada’s expanding economic prosperity, the growing number of children in poverty, declining personal incomes, and low public school enrollment indicate that entire communities and segments of the population are being left behind (Sierra Business Council 2007). The Region’s poverty rates for individuals and families, 17 and 12 percent, respectively, are higher than poverty rates in California and the U.S., which are both at 14 percent for individuals and 10 percent for families. The lowest poverty rates in the bio-region are found in the Central Sierra sub-region. The highest poverty rates occur in the South Sierra sub-region. Minorities generally account for a greater percentage of the poverty rate than their representation in the total population. In 2010, Hispanics or Latinos made up 29 percent of the population in the bio-region, yet accounted for 47 percent of people in poverty.

Poverty across the eight Sierra Nevada sub-regions, bio-region, California, and U.S., 2010 (Source: EPS-HDT).

People Below Poverty
Families Below Poverty

North Sierra

North Central Sierra

Central Sierra


South Central Sierra

South Sierra

East Sierra


Bio-Region Counties




Poverty by race and ethnicity across the eight Sierra Nevada sub-regions, bio-region, California, and U.S., 2010 (Source: EPS-HDT).

Total Population
(all races)
in Poverty
White alone
Black or
African Amer.
Amer. Indian
Asian alone
Some other
Two or more
or Latino
(of any race)
Not Hispanic
or Latino
(of any race)

North Sierra

North Central Sierra

Central Sierra


South Central Sierra

South Sierra

East Sierra


Bio-Region Counties



Note: The percent of people in poverty who identified as Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Island alone were not included in this table because percentages were so small that they rounded to zero across all spatial scales.

As described in Winter et al. (2013c, p.3), various linkages exist between poverty and well-being and ecological quality.Rural youth living in poverty experience more day to day stressors than their middle-income counterparts (Evans et al. 2009, as cited in Winter et al. 2013c). Poverty can have generational impacts, affecting cognitive and socioemotional processes that impact life-long development and outcomes in adulthood (Evans and Rosenbaum 2008, as cited in Winter et al. 2013c). Because environmental quality is linked to childhood development, ecological health plays an important role in the proper development of future generations. (Evans 2005, as cited in Winter et al. 2013c). "Environmental condition affects development, environmental quality and opportunity is linked to community and economic resilience, and poor conditions both environmentally and economically have costs that are demonstrated to have immediate and long-term impacts on generations of youth" (Winter et al. 2013c, p.3).

In 2010, about 82 percent of people over 25 in the Sierra had a high school degree, which is slightly higher than California as a whole and lower than the U.S. Most of the sub-regions had a greater percentage of people with a high school degree compared to the state and U.S. However, the South Sierra sub-region had a much lower percentage of people with a high school degree (74%). A greater proportion of people have a Bachelor’s degree or higher at state and national levels compared to the bio-region. The Central Sierra sub-region appears highly educated. In 2010, 43 percent of people over 25 had a post-high school degree, and 93 percent had a high school degree. The Tahoe and Nevada sub-regions also appear to have a relatively high percentage of people with a post-high school education.

Bio-region high school education.png
Percentage of people over 25 years old who have a high school degree across the eight Sierra Nevada sub-regions, bio-region, California, and U.S., 2010 (Source: EPS-HDT).

Bio-region post high school education.png
Percentage of people over 25 years old who have a post-high school degree across the eight Sierra Nevada sub-regions, bio-region, California, and U.S., 2010 (Source: EPS-HDT).

Human activity both inside and outside the Sierra Nevada influences the well-being of communities and ecosystems in the bio-region. Air pollution is a problem, particularly in the foothills and the Southern Sierra, from increased industrial pollution and automobile use in the Central Valley. Pollution from the Central Valley goes up the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada, creating hazy, unhealthy conditions for people in foothill communities up to elevations of over 6,000 feet (Cahill et al. 1996). As described in Winter et al. (2013c), multiple locations in the Sierra Nevada, especially the western slopes adjacent to the highly polluted California Central Valley, have elevated ozone levels that exceed public health standards. Residents and visitors in these areas are exposed to elevated ozone concentration. In particular, the elderly, young, and people with respiratory conditions are at greater risk from degraded air quality. Air pollution in many high Sierra communities is a result of wood fires in towns like Truckee and Mammoth Lakes during winter months, which push particulate levels into an unhealthy range (Sierra Business Council 1997). More information regarding air quality in the bio-region can be found in Chapter 2: Air, Soil, Riparian Areas, and Water Resources.

As mentioned above, water from the Sierra Nevada hugely contributes to the well-being of people not only in the bio-region, but to millions of downstream users. The most common beneficial uses of water from National Forest System lands in the bio-region are municipal and agricultural consumption, hydropower generation, recreation, and fish and wildlife habitat. See Chapter 8: Multiple Uses – Water for an in-depth assessment of how Sierra Nevada water is used. Water pollution is a major concern throughout the Sierra Nevada, where urban run-off from streets and highways and run-off from construction sites, logged areas, and agriculture are reducing water quality (Sierra Business Council 1997). In addition, inadequate sewer and septic systems are polluting both surface water and groundwater in many Sierra counties (Sierra Business Council 1997). Again, Chapter 8: Multiple Uses – Water discusses water quality in the Sierra Nevada.

High levels of pesticides in parts of the Sierra Nevada are thought to be due to pesticide drift from the Central Valley (Winter et al. 2013b). These areas have also witnessed the greatest declines in amphibians (Fellers et al. 2007, as cited in Winter et al. 2013b, p.7). In addition, heavy metals in the Sierra Nevada are also a concern. As described in Winter et al. (2013c), large wildfires can increase the release of heavy metals in soils (Long et al. 2013c), metals have likely built up over time through atmospheric deposition (Bytnerowicz et al. 2013), and mining activity likely introduced heavy metals into the ecosystem as well (Hunsaker et al. 2013).

County-level health data are available through the California Health Interview Survey (CHIS) (, the nation's largest state health survey and a critical source of data on Californians. The CHIS is conducted by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research in collaboration with the California Department of Public Health and the Department of Health Care Services. Some counties are automatically grouped together. Thus, health data for the bio-region include four additional counties: Del Norte, Trinity, Glenn, and Colusa. According to the 2009 CHIS, people in the bio-region reported similar levels of health compared to the state, with roughly 85 percent of people reporting good to excellent general health. A slightly higher percentage of people reported a physical, mental, or emotional disability in the bio-region (30%) compared to the state (27.4%). The occurrence of violence by a partner is greater in the bio-region (18.4%) than the state (14.8%).

Political Environment

As stated in Winter et al. (2013b, p.7), "the sociopolitical environment in California, which includes high levels of regional diversity, racial and ethnic diversity, political distrust, and a trend toward civic disengagement, portends more rather than less difficulty in reaching public consensus on policy issues. These trends are not constrained to California, and in some cases, they reflect a detachment, disconnection, and mistrust of anything 'governmental' by a segment of the public best described as angry or 'fed up'."

"Institutional, political, and social constraints impinge on managers’ decisions and should be accounted for in modeling of socioecological resilience, supporting tools, and suggested applications" (Winter et al. 2013c, p.11). Forest Service district rangers have cited concern over "lack of agency support (through limited budgets and the risk of personal liability) in decisions surrounding wildland fire use. Air quality regulations were also cited as an impediment. Areas of public concern, including smoke, risks to threatened and endangered species habitat, and resource damage were also cited as influencing decisions about fire use. Thus, recommended approaches need to incorporate contextual factors, not only in the recommendations offered for management, but also in the selected indicators for monitoring. Contextual factors need to be realistically examined in discussions of management of threats, and they need to include a feedback loop to account for changes over time" (Winter et al. 2013c, p.11).

The ability to work across agencies and governments to address resources issues, such as endangered species, or recreation demand can influence the effectiveness of management across all jurisdictions, particularly in light of future uncertainties and change. A good example of this is invasive species management. Areas with high land use diversity and subdivision of lands between management agencies make it difficult to effectively control invasive species without collective action (Winter et al. 2013c, p.11).

One of the recent developments in society more generally, and government more specifically, has been the use of the internet to facilitate mass collaboration, teamwork, and participation. The phenomena in government has been termed "open government" and is marked by transparency, participation, and two-way exchange of information, knowledge, and values. This wiki is an example of this trend. USDA has an open government plan and a website dedicated to the initiative. In general, the Federal government is working to make information and data more open and easily accessible to the public. Just recently (May 9, 2013), President Obama signed an Executive Order requiring that as we go forward, data generated by the government be made available to entrepreneurs, researchers, and others who can use it to generate new products and services, build businesses, and create jobs.

Limited agency budgets, resources, and time; changes in administration and priorities; and ongoing litigation can all influence forest management in the bio-region.

There has been tremendous outreach to encourage public involvement by the agency in Forest Plan planning. The online WIKI 15 Chapter Living Assessment being the most recent innovation for public involvement, however to date only 172 people including agency staff have utilized the WIKI for the ten Sierra National Forests and Bioregion where hundreds of millions of people recreate. All of whom most likely were already involved in the planning process anyway.

At most public meetings there are about an equal number of public participants as forest staff. Meetings are often held at night and may require overtime pay for staff as well as travel and even overnight accommodations.

The current push at greater and greater cost for more public involvement via the WIKI, public meetings, dialogs and other forums for comment caters to a small segment of the public mostly paid environmental staff and NGO staff who are already engaged in Forest Planning. The current focus on public comment has resulted in an over representation from those few with axes to grind. As a result the desires of the majority for things like more recreation opportunity often end up being marginalized.

Public involvement is required as well as posting notices in the Federal Register and local Newspapers; however it may be advisable to focus limited resources on actual planning instead of greater costly outreach. Considering the extremely limited public response the return of comments per dollar spent may not be justifiable. It seems likely those with a specific interest in a planning process and willingness to comment will be involved without the need for the agency to go to such lengths to encourage public involvement, especially when it does not seem to be engaging many new commenter’s from the public.

It is evident from the extremely limited results of huge public outreach that the majority of the public do not want to attend meetings or read hundred page documents or file comments. It can be understood since millions of people recreate in the Sequoia Forest where they enjoy campgrounds, dispersed camping, trails and roads that they wish to see these opportunities remain or even expanded. The public has an expectation that the forest managers paid with their tax dollars will make preserving and expanding these recreation opportunities a priority without the public having to lobby for it or submit comments.

Sue and Settle Regulating Behind Closed Doors report by the US Chamber of Commerce (Kovacs et al 2013) found that many of its members complain they are being entirely shut out of regulatory decisions by key federal agencies like the Forest Service, Fish & Wildlife, EPA and others.

Instead of agencies being able to use their discretion on how best to utilize their limited resources, they are forced to shift these resources away from critical duties in order to satisfy the narrow demands of outside groups.

Because a settlement agreement directs the structure (and sometimes even the actual substance) of the agency rulemaking that follows, interested parties have a very limited ability to alter the subsequent rulemaking through comments.

The regulatory process should not be radically altered simply because of a consent decree or settlement agreement. There should not be a two-track system that allows the public to meaningfully participate in rulemakings, but excludes the public from sue and settle negotiations which result in rulemakings designed to benefit a specific interest group. There should not be one system where agencies can use their discretion to develop rules and another system where advocacy groups use lawsuits to legally bind agencies and improperly hand over their discretion.

Sue and settle circumvents the required NEPA public involvement. The Forest Service may want to seek ways to avoid sue and settle tactics.

Economic Health

Recreation and tourism economies are the mainstay for rural counties with high percentages of public land. Actions by public agencies to reduce or limit access to for recreation have a direct impact on local pocket books. Limiting access by closing roads, campgrounds, RV parking, and trails for all or one special interests group will impact surrounding communities. (Hurniston, Glenda 2010)

The overall health, or prosperity, of an economy influences its ability to adapt to change. An economy already facing job loss and lower incomes is likely to be less able to adapt to forest management changes that affect key economic sectors. Three key statistics are presented as indicators of this economic well-being, the annual unemployment rate, average earnings per job, and per capita income.

  • The annual unemployment rate is the number of people actively seeking but not finding work as a percent of the labor force. This figure can go up during national recessions and/or when more localized economies are affected by area downturns.
  • Average earnings per job is an indicator of the quality of local employment. A higher average earning per job indicates that there are relatively more high-wage occupations.
  • Per capita income is considered one of the most important measures of economic well-being. However, this measure can be misleading. Per capita income is total personal income divided by population. Because total personal income includes non-labor income sources (dividends, interest, rent, and transfer payments), it is possible for per capita income to be relatively high due to the presence of retirees and people with investment income. To account for this, the sources of household earnings are examined below.

The table below provides these indicators for the State of California, the bio-region and the sub-areas of the bio-region. As can be seen, the bio-region has an average annual higher unemployment rate, lower average earnings per job, and lower per capita income than the state as a whole. Across the bio-region values for these indicators are similar. Some exceptions to this similarity are the lower than average unemployment in the Central Sierra/Tahoe and East Sierra sub-regions, the higher than average earnings in the Central/Sierra Tahoe sub-region, the lower than average earnings in the North Sierra, North Central Sierra and East Sierra sub-regions, the higher than average per-capita income in Central Sierra/Tahoe and Nevada sub-regions and the lower than average per capita income in the South Central Sierra and South Sierra sub-regions. Comparing these measures reveals that the economy in the Central Sierra/Tahoe sub-region is healthier overall than the economy of the bio-region as a whole.

Unemployment, Earnings and Income in the State and Bio-region.

Counties of the Bio-region
Counties of the Bio-region – North Sierra
Counties of the Bio-region – North Central Sierra
Counties of the Bio-region – Central Sierra/Tahoe
Counties of the Bio-region – South Central Sierra
Counties of the Bio-region – South Sierra
Counties of the Bio-region – East Sierra
Counties of the Bio-region – Nevada
Unemployment rate, 2011
Average earnings per job, 2010 (2011 $s)
Per capita income, 2010 (2011 $s)
Source: Calculated using data from U.S. Department of Commerce. 2012a. Bureau of Economic Analysis, Regional Economic Information System, Washington, D.C. Tables CA05N & CA30; U.S. Department of Labor. 2012. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Local Area Unemployment Statistics, Washington, D.C. obtained from HD Toolkit County Summary Profile Report.

As indicated above, earnings are not the only source of income, and for many families and communities a significant portion of income can be in the form of additional sources, such as retirement and Social Security. While some payments may be an indication of an aging population or an influx of retirees (retirement payments), other measures (for example, SSI, cash public assistance and Food Stamps) are an indication of economic hardship. The table below provides a breakdown of earnings for the state and the bio-region. As can be seen, the bio-region has a lower percentage of households with labor earnings and higher percentages of SSI, cash public assistance and food stamps than does the state as a whole. Across the bio-region, the North Sierra and North Central Sierra have a lower than average percentage of earnings from labor and higher than average percentages of earnings from retirement income, social security and supplemental security income. The South Central Sierra and South Sierra have higher than average percentages of earnings from cash public assistance and food stamps (SNAP).

Percentage of Total Households Receiving Earnings by Source in the State and Bioregion, 2010.

Counties of the Bioregion
Counties of the Bioregion – North Sierra
Counties of the Bioregion – North Central Sierra
Counties of the Bioregion – Central Sierra/Tahoe
Counties of the Bioregion – South Central Sierra
Counties of the Bioregion – South Sierra
Counties of the Bioregion – East Sierra
Counties of the Bioregion – Nevada
Labor earnings
Social Security
Retirement income
Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
Cash public assistance income
Food Stamps (SNAP)a
Source: Calculated using data from the U.S. Department of Commerce. 2012a. Census Bureau, American Community Survey Office, Washington, D.C. obtained from HD Toolkit County Demographics Profile Report.
Note: Totals for columns may add to more than 100% due to households receiving income from more than one source.
a The food stamp program was recently renamed the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Economic Diversity

When we determine the economic context of forest management decision making, it is important to identify the key sectors that drive the economy, and the extent to which the economy is dependent on forest land activities. These determinations provide a good indicator of the potential effects of forest management decisions. A more diversified economy that is supported by many different sectors is better able to withstand changes to forest management than an economy dependent mostly on forest based commodity extraction and tourism.

A diversified economy is defined as an economy that has an industrial mix similar to the nation and to California as a whole. A specialized economy is heavily focused in particular industries. Such specialization may lead to greater variation and economic cycles (i.e. booms and busts) if the economy is dependent on businesses within the same major industry group that are all expanding and contracting at the same time.

A common way to measure this level of specialization is the Herfindahl-Hirschman Index (Hirschman 1964, Department of Justice 2012). Using employment levels across all economic sectors, this index was calculated for the U.S., California, the bio-region and each individual county within the bio-region. The results show that the economy of the bio-region has a diversification similar to California and the country as a whole, and is not considered to be specialized in any particular economic sectors. Individual counties within the bio-region are slightly more specialized, but given that these counties include larger urban areas located away from the immediate forest areas, it is not surprising that their specialization is similar to the state and nation.

Smaller economies in rural areas are more likely to be specialized in a few key sectors, as they are often more dependent on the activities, workforce and resources available in their immediate area. Therefore, in addition to the county and bio-regional analysis above, it is important to examine the level of specialization in the local economies adjacent to forest boundaries. The Herfindahl-Hirschman Index was calculated for the CCDs that intersect the bio-region. Sub-county data more closely approximates the bio-regional boundary than county boundaries, and therefore, allows for a closer examination of these local economies. The results show that some CCDs are much more specialized than the bio-region. The table below provides the results for the most specialized CCDs, including identifying the key economic sector in the CCD (also, see map showing locations of these CCDs throughout the bio-region). Specialization occurs mostly in sectors heavily influenced by forest policy (timber, mining, and agriculture, as well as recreation and tourism). Note that the higher the index number, the more specialized the economy. An index value between 1500 and 2500 is considered moderately specialized, while a value over 2500 is considered highly specialized. The index values for the bio-region, California, and the U.S. are also provided as reference. The highest concentration of these specialized economies occurs for natural resource sectors (agriculture, forestry and mining) in the northern area of the bio-region. Specialization is more scattered in the central and southern areas. Outside the Central Valley agricultural CCDs along the western edge of the bio-region, specialization focuses more on the travel and tourism sectors.

CCDs in the bio-region with specialized economies and the key economic sector(s).

Herfindahl-Hirschman Index
Key Economic Sectors
Highly Specialized Sub-County Areas
Madeline Plains CCD, CA
Agriculture, forestry, fishing & hunting, mining
Yosemite Valley CCD, CA
Arts, entertain., rec., accommodation, & food
Feather River Canyon CCD, CA
Transportation, warehousing, and utilities
Moderately Specialized Sub-County Areas
Orosi-Cutler CCD, CA
Agriculture, forestry, fishing & hunting, mining
Arvin-Lamont CCD, CA
Agriculture, forestry, fishing & hunting, mining
Terra Bella CCD, CA
Agriculture, forestry, fishing & hunting, mining
Adin-Lookout CCD, CA
Agriculture, forestry, fishing & hunting, mining and Education, health care, & social assistance
Silverpeak CCD, NV
Agriculture, forestry, fishing & hunting, mining
South Lake Tahoe CCD, CA
Arts, entertain., rec., accommodation, & food
Snelling CCD, CA
Agriculture, forestry, fishing & hunting, mining
Honey Lake CCD, CA
Public administration
North Mono CCD, CA
Arts, entertain., rec., accommodation, & food and Public administration
Zephyr Cove CCD, NV
Arts, entertain., rec., accommodation, & food
Paradise CCD, CA
Education, health care, & social assistance
Lake Tahoe CCD, CA
Arts, entertain., rec., accommodation, & food
Big Valley CCD, CA
Agriculture, forestry, fishing & hunting, mining



Source: Index calculated using U.S. Department of Commerce. 2012a. Census Bureau, American Community Survey data obtained from EPS-HD Toolkit

The diversity of these economies will be impacted by future trends and changes in employment levels across economic sectors. Employment projections by occupation show that the greatest increases in the bio-region over this decade are expected in the business, computer, social service, healthcare, personal care, and service sectors. The key forest activity sectors identified above (farming, fishing and forestry and arts and entertainment) are expected to grow at 1.03% and 6.82% respectively (CDOF 2012). These increases are below the average for all occupations in the bio-region as a whole and suggest that future trends will not lead to an increased concentration of employment in these sectors.
Percentage change in employment by occupation for the bio-region, 2010-2020.
Percentage Change2010-2020
Management Occupations
Business and Financial Operations Occupations
Computer and Mathematical Occupations
Architecture and Engineering Occupations
Life, Physical, and Social Science Occupations
Community and Social Service Occupations
Legal Occupations
Education, Training, and Library Occupations
Arts, Design, Entertainment, Sports, and Media Occupations
Healthcare Practitioners and Technical Occupations
Healthcare Support Occupations
Protective Service Occupations
Food Preparation and Serving Related Occupations
Building and Grounds Cleaning and Maintenance Occupations
Personal Care and Service Occupations
Sales and Related Occupations
Office and Administrative Support Occupations
Farming, Fishing, and Forestry Occupations
Construction and Extraction Occupations
Installation, Maintenance, and Repair Occupations
Production Occupations
Transportation and Material Moving Occupations
Bioregional Average All Sectors
Source: California Department of Finance Occupation Employment Projections 2012b

In terms of future employment growth across sectors, a recent report found that the most "popular" national parks, monuments, wilderness areas and other public lands offer a competitive advantage for attracting high-tech and services industries. It proposes that as the economy as a whole shifts toward a knowledge-based economy, protected federal public lands will support faster rates of job growth in these sectors and are correlated with higher levels of per capita income (Headwaters Economics 2012c). Such an effect would contribute to increased diversity in these rural economies as
high-tech and services industries expand. People are not coming to these area only because of their designation or that they are have increased restrictions, rather they are drawn to the most "popular" lands due to their special intrinsic scenic character and the wide variety of amenities these areas provide. One contributor to the wiki has stated that, "Merely designating another wilderness area or national park will not draw a crowd. This can be seen in the recently created Giant Sequoia National Monument where visitation is down due to the new restrictions on many of the historically popular forms of recreation PLEASE PROVIDE REFERENCE FOR THIS STATEMENT". However, the Headwaters report is not advocating for more or less designated wilderness. These designated areas are identified and evaluated on their own merits. Rather the study identifies that public lands are a competitive advantage to attracting businesses in these sectors to rural communities that are adjacent to these amenities, which is a potential benefit to diversification in these economies.

In addition, future employment in key timber and biomass forest sectors will be dependent on maintaining the presence and developing new infrastructure as well as providing training to support a labor force to work in thus industry. Without key infrastructure and labor force assets in place, the timber and biomass resulting from restoration activities will need to be transported great distances outside of the bioregion, making budgeting for restoration more difficult and as a result, potentially limiting the amount of restoration that can be accomplished in any given year. As discussed in the Science Synthesis created for this assessment process,

"The presence of wood products industry infrastructure has been found to enhance the development or expansion of biomass utilization, which is difficult to develop as a stand-alone enterprise (Becker et al. 2011). Companies that use biomass often include sawmill residues produced as by-products from primary wood product manufacturing as an inexpensive part of their feedstock, making their operations more financially viable. The presence of timber industry infrastructure also helps maintain the capacity of the local workforce needed to carry out biomass harvesting and utilization (Becker et al. 2011). Furthermore, in places having a local market for sawlogs, harvesting timber as a component of hazardous fuels reduction treatments can help pay for the cost of biomass removal, making it economically feasible to treat larger areas for fire hazard reduction (Barbour et al. 2008, Skog et al. 2006). Furthermore, in some contexts, it may be necessary to remove sawlog-sized trees in intermediate or mid-canopy layers to reduce crown fire potential to acceptable levels (for an example from the synthesis area, see Schmidt et al. 2008). Lack of wood products industry infrastructure has been found to be a major barrier to forest restoration and associated biomass utilization in many parts of the west, though the reasons for this lack are variable (Becker et al. 2009a, Hjerpe et al. 2009). Supporting remaining wood products industry infrastructure in order to prevent its further loss can help provide opportunities for biomass removal and utilization." (Charnley and Long 2013)

Forest Service Influence on Key Social, Cultural, and Economic Conditions

This section identifies key social, cultural, and economic conditions influenced by management of National Forest System lands in the bio-region. Many of the conditions previously identified provide useful context, but may not be substantially influenced by the management of the plan area to be included here. Where information is available, we identify trends affecting these conditions. At the end of this section, we discuss potential opportunities that may exist for the national forests in the bio-region to contribute to social, economic, and ecological sustainability.

Key Social Conditions

Connecting with the land

Many people in the Sierra Nevada feel a deep connection to the land and its history. As described in the Winter et al. (2013c, p.2), "attachment to the natural environment, influenced by natural landscapes and views, presence of wildlife, and opportunities for outdoor recreation is component of community attachment and well-being." Furthermore, outdoor locations offer a "chance to develop connections to natural spaces, thus offering a place for stewardship and caring that further protect the physical environment and contribute to resilience" (Winter et al. 2013c, p.2). National forests in the Sierra Nevada play a major role in fostering people’s connection to nature, particularly through recreation, education, and interpretation. As described in Chapter 9: Assessing Recreation Settings, Opportunities and Access, and Scenic Character, the most popular outdoor recreation activity in the bio-region is viewing natural features, followed by hiking and walking, downhill skiing, relaxing, and viewing wildlife. A large portion of the top ten national forest recreation activities occur in undeveloped areas. The Forest Service also authorizes a variety of recreation special uses,[1] such as private cabins, outfitting, and guiding, that help people connect with the land. Numerous conservation and interpretive services programs also take place on the forests that are further discussed in Chapter 9.

Visitor satisfaction from the National Visitor Use Monitoring Survey (see Chapter 9) can provide some sense of people’s ability to connect to the land through the quality of their experiences. The majority of visitors to the bio-region’s National Forests are satisfied with the elements most important to them for undeveloped areas, day-use sites, and overnight-use sights, including things like condition of the environment and scenery. However, increasing demand for recreation opportunities in the Sierra Nevada and conflict among different user groups may impact people’s ability to have high quality experiences on NFS lands. Reducing or limiting access to recreation on public lands by closing roads, campgrounds, RV parking, and trails can impact surrounding communities (Hurniston 2010). Changing recreation demands, due to demographic shifts, can also impact visitor satisfaction. Cultural diversity will continue to increase in California, particularly within Latino and Asian populations, and this trend will influence outdoor recreation planning and management (Winter et al. 2013b, p.11). While visitor satisfaction data provide useful information about people who are already using the forest, it does not provide insight into those people who do not use the NFS and their level of connectedness with nature. Current forest management can create barriers to use and enjoyment (e.g. language and lack of information) by the growing population of ethnic minorities in California and U.S. as a whole (Roberts et al. 2009).

In 2010, President Obama launched the America’s Great Outdoors (AGO) initiative to develop a 21st century conservation and recreation agenda.Over half the Top Forty Ideas voted for by the public in the American Great Outdoor Initiative were about more mountain bike and motorized trails for family recreation and more multiple use active management to promote forest health. According to the 2011 AGO report, Americans today have become increasingly disconnected from our great outdoors and find ourselves cut off from the natural and cultural inheritance that has shaped our lives and history. The nearly 80 percent of Americans who live in urban areas find it particularly difficult to connect with the outdoors. Children today spend less than half as much time outside as their parents did, and are “plugged in” to electronic devices for more than seven hours a day. This disconnect also weakens the commitment to stewardship of our shared natural legacy. As discussed in Müller et al. 2009, an emotional affinity toward nature is linked to the willingness of people to protect the environment, and positive emotional experiences with nature play an important role in developing that affinity, especially if they share those experiences with significant others. In addition, a positive connection to nature develops earlier in life and remains a stable trait throughout adulthood (Berk 2006).

According to the USDA Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station report “Understanding Concepts of Place in Recreation Research and Management” (Kruger et al. 2008a), people not only feel connected to the land through the activities they are engaged in, but form varied and complex relationships with specific places that often hold emotional, symbolic, and spiritual meanings. Places help shape a person's identity, support important social relationships, are influenced by the larger sociopolitical context, and can form a web of meaning in a person’s life. Because place meanings are cloaked in stories that require some effort to uncover, and because people have competing stories or senses of a given place, forest management decisions can easily influence an individual’s or community’s sense of place.

As described in the Winter et al. (2013b, p.9):

"Those whose connections or impressions of a place are intertwined with their sense of self are likely to hold much stronger attachments and may consider discussions of place as equal to discussions of self-determination and personal identity (Clayton and Myers 2009, Huntsinger et al. 2010, Knez 2005). Ranges of relationships, varying from contained or individualistic parts of association to those described as strong relationality, or embedded as the foundation of identity and existence (Wiggins et al. 2012). Management actions may be of significant concern when viewed as a threat to one’s self, or a personal attack (Cheng et al. 2003). Likewise, group identities may be attached to a particular place, where meanings and management preferences for areas are intertwined with social identity (Cheng et al. 2003, Huntsinger et al. 2010, Opotow and Brook 2003, Schneider and Winter 1998). Debates over place and attached meanings may then also be interpreted as discrimination against a particular group; for example, debates over impacts of grazing may be viewed as embedded in discrimination against ranchers and ranching as a way of life (Huntsinger et al. 2010), a fear of loss of community (Miller and Sinclair 2012), and a request of a majority to have a minority (ranchers) bear the burden of protection (Opotow and Brook 2003)."

Native Americans have a deep sense of place meaning and attachment to areas in national forests that have been traditionally used by their people, and gathering and recreation activities continue to tie them to these special places (McAvoy et al. 2004).

As described in Chapter 9, scenic character is a combination of the physical, biological, and cultural images that gives an area its scenic identity and contributes to its sense of place. Scenic character provides a frame of reference from which to determine scenic attractiveness and to measure scenic integrity (36 CFR 219.19). In addition, as pointed out in Chapter 12: Assessing Areas of Tribal Importance, the Native American community feels a close association with cultural and historic landscapes, and any activity that alters or degrades scenic integrity from the more natural settings or those associated with cultural resources may affect potential cultural or historic landscapes or traditional cultural properties. Based upon the Existing Visual Conditions surveys one can estimate that over 80% of recreation settings have a high scenic integrity level. Departures from natural-appearing conditions are largely a result of past vegetation management practices that left geometric patterns and unnatural lines in the landscape; energy-related infrastructure; and large-scale wildfire that eliminated valued attributes.

Wildfire and forest pests threaten large acreages of landscapes in the Sierra Nevada that have recreation value (California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection 2010). Scientific findings seem to point to more impact from fire on the recreation visitor experience than anticipated by managers (see Bricker et al. 2008, as cited in Winter et al. 2013c). Winter et al. (2013c) describe how some studies found long-term effects of visitation (Englin et al. 2008), while others found minimal impact on visitor experience (Thapa et al. 2008, Winter and Knap 2008). Variable effects were also found depending on fire intensity and recreation activity (Loomis et al. 2001). Safety and health concerns, when great enough, were found to cause people to change travel plans (Thapa et al. 2008, Winter and Knap 2008).

Social interactions

According to the report “Serving Culturally Diverse Visitors to Forests in California: A Resource Guide by Roberts et al. (2009), being with friends and family is one of the main motivations for why Californians pursue outdoor recreation opportunities. Socializing and spending time with family plays a major role in how and why California’s Latino population recreate on federal lands. Studies have shown that Latino outdoor recreationists: enjoy all-day, extended-family social outings; are interested in an outdoor experience with a strong social recreation component; and identify having a good family experience as one of the most important features of a satisfying outdoor recreation excursion. The report also summarizes key findings on immigrants and outdoor recreation. Immigrants often look to recreation and leisure time to help maintain cultural traditions and to connect with other immigrants for mutual support and information sharing. While recent immigrants tend to recreate with family groups, second and later generations often pursue recreation with friends. The Latino emphasis on family and family values is maintained across generations and does not seem to diminish with increased time in the U.S.

In November 2012, the Forest Service through its Central California Consortium (CCC) program held a youth workshop at the Sierra National Forest Supervisor’s Office in Clovis, California. The purpose of this workshop was to have a discussion with youth and underserved communities about forest planning, why it matters to them, and ways to get young people and their families involved. A reoccurring response was that being with friends and family made them happy, and forests provide opportunities for spending time with friends and family.

Natural areas can help establish community identity, social activity, and social participation (Karjalainen et al. 2010). Social interaction with friends and family and experiences with features of a place define people's sense of place, attachment to place, and the feeling that a community attributes to a specific landscape (Eisenhauer et al. 2000, Kruger and Jakes 2003). Places help shape the identity of social groups who share common experiences and develop positive interpersonal relationships relative to a place; they can also inspire people to take collective action (Cheng et al. 2003). Natural resource management can also bring together diverse individuals and groups who may be able to discover common, place-based group identities, which can transform and sustain communities that have direct effects on natural resources (Cheng et al. 2003).

The Forest Service plays a key role in bringing people together to participate in forest planning and management. As laid out in Charnley et al.(2013, p.8), there are many social benefits of collaborative natural resources management. Collaboration on national forest management issues often takes place through community-based collaborative groups. They describe the following benefits from relevant literature:
  • Creating a sense of shared ownership over large and complex environmental problems (Bryan 2004);
  • Combining different forms of ecological knowledge and promoting better and shared understanding of natural resource management issues (Ballard et al. 2008a, Bryan 2004);
  • Integrating economic and social concerns with ecological concerns so that they can be addressed together;
  • Enhancing opportunities to pool resources and assets in addressing resource management issues (Cheng and Sturtevant 2012);
  • Improving working relationships between agencies, members of the public, and other stakeholders;
  • Increasing community understanding of and support for land management (Firehock 2011).
  • Facilitating the development of trust, leadership, and social networks, building capacity to work together to solve problems, increasing knowledge, skills, and learning among participants, deepening the connections between people and places to build a stronger sense of place; and engaged governance (Berkes and Ross 2012, Walker and Salt 2006).

However, Chanley et al. (2013, p.5) also points to barriers to collaboration that have been shown to exist in eastern Oregon based on a study by Bergmann and Bliss (2004). These may also be applicable to communities in the Sierra Nevada, and many may be beyond the ability of the agency to control. These include: short tenures and high turnover of federal staff; concerns about accountability of managers when rural people believe that their livelihoods are at risk; strong ideological differences among stakeholders; concern about administrative burdens and regulatory limitations imposed by NEPA and other federal environmental laws; skepticism among environmental groups about local collaboratives; and differential risks to landowners and managers due to scale.

An important trend in society that is relavent to section is the rise in people communicating and interacting online. What follows, and what we are seeing (this wiki is an example) is an increasing trend for using internet tools and norms for collaborative natural resource management(and open government more ‍‍generally).‍‍

Health, safety, and education

National forests contribute to the well-being of human populations in the Sierra Nevada in a variety of ways.

Forests offer physical and mental health benefits (Karjalainen et al. 2010). People who feel connected to nature are not only more likely to protect nature, but also more likely to feel satisfied with their lives (Mayer and Frantz 2004). "The connections between human health and forests hold great potential for improvement of well-being (Karjalainen et al. 2010)" (Winter et al. 2013c, p.2).

Forests provide the basic necessities of life, including clean air and water. Forests have a positive impact on air quality through deposition of pollutants to the vegetation canopy, reduction of summertime air temperatures, and decrease of ultraviolet radiation (Karjalainen et al. 2010). Forested watersheds in California provide an abundant supply of clean water that supports a broad range of downstream uses (California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection 2010). For approximately 23 million Californians, their drinking water begins its journey in the Sierra Nevada. The controlled release of snowmelt throughout the spring and summer helps to control winter flooding in the valleys and provides irrigation for food crops and water to keep recreation and other businesses and industries thriving through the summer. Sierra water also provides hydropower to light homes, and quality drinking water to meet the needs of residents throughout California (Sierra Nevada Conservancy 2011a). As described in Jardine and Long (2013, p.5), climate change is expected to impact water flow and timing in the Sierra Nevada. "Watersheds in the northern Sierra Nevada may be most vulnerable to decreased mean annual flowsouth-central watersheds to changes in runoff timing, and the central Sierra Nevada to longer periods of low flow. Although the Kern River may be the most resilient watershed, the anticipated shifts in the hydrologic cycle will impact spring and summer water-based recreation and tourism and, more importantly, the California communities that depend heavily on Sierra Nevada water supplies."

As discussed in McCool et al. (2007), wildland fires can have impacts from the individual to the the community level, including death, increased stress, health issues related to smoke, psychological impacts, emotional impacts, increased community tension and conflict, and decreased opportunities for recreation. They discuss the importance of understanding how agency strategies influence impacts on communities through efforts to manage and recover from fires and to help communities prepare for and understand wildland fires. Collaborative approaches to fire management and risk reduction are helpful toward effective risk management (Winter et al. 2013c, p.8).

Human actions have contributed to shifts in fire regimes in the Sierra Nevada, which have left forests with uncharacteristically large accumulations of living and dead fuel (Long et al. 2013b, p.4). Compounded with climate change, species invasions, population growth, and increased development in the WUI, these uncharacteristically large and severe fires can have serious negative consequences on human well-being. "Intense, large, and long-lasting wildfires are likely to result in air quality that exceeds levels instituted to protect human health. It is much more difficult to control air quality and other impacts from these types of wildfires, than it is from prescribed fires" (Long et al. 2013b, p.5). Uncharacteristically large and severe fires may also cause "erosion and reorganization that can eliminate vulnerable aquatic population, degrade water quality, reduce capacity of downstream reservoirs, and increase the risk of flood" (Long et al. 2013b, p.5).

However, while fire can be catastrophic in terms of its impacts to humans and human structures, fire (including high-severity fire) plays a beneficial role in an ecological sense. (See Chapter 1: Terrestrial Ecosystems, Bio-region, Complex Early Seral Fores,t and Chapter 3: Assessing System Drivers and Stressors, Fire (from a wildlife perspective); citing, e.g., Bond et al. 2009, 2012, Buchalski et al. 2013, Burnett et al. 2010, 2011, 2012, Fontaine et al. 2009, Hanson and North 2008, Hutto 1995, 2008, Saab et al. 2009, Seavey et al. 2012, Siegel et al. 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, Swanson et al. 2010.) For instance, moderate/high-severity burned forest provides critically important, and unique, wildlife habitat. (Id.) Currently, (for instance,in recent scoping notices and EAs regarding potential salvage logging operations), the Forest Service often does not describe the positive impacts of fire which inhibits fair and informed education and decision-making regarding fire. (See Notices and EAs for Chips Fire [Poker Chip Project, Chip-Munk Project] and Reading Fire.) Education about the ecological role of fire (including high-severity fire) is also important in the sense that people may be more accepting of fire, as well as the smoke that comes with the fire, once they are aware of the importance of such fires (including large fires). In other words, it may be that many people's distaste for fire and smoke stems from a belief that wildfire only has negative outcomes when in reality fire can also have extremely beneficial outcomes.

As described in Winter et al. (2013c, p.3), there is increased attention on poverty in rural communities in the Sierra Nevada, and connections between well-being and ecological quality. The impacts of poverty can be longstanding and affect cognitive and socioemotional processes influencing life-long development and outcomes in adulthood (Evans and Rosenbaum 2008, as cited in Winter et al. 2013c). National forests can provide educational and skill-building opportunities. For example, since 1970, the Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) has operated as a summer employment program for a diverse group of young people aged 15 through 18 who work, learn, and earn together by doing projects on public land. The program is administered by the Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Park Service. Another example is the California Conservation Corps, which has crews that work with the Forest Service to receive training and work experience in forestry and firefighting. Finally, the Forest Service Central California Consortium is a program focused on environmental education, minority outreach, and recruitment. It serves the greater San Joaquin Valley, and its purpose is to educate underserved rural communities on natural resources and to encourage them to use public lands. The program has established Hispanic and Asian components with African-American and Native-American programs being established in the near ‍future.

Key Cultural Conditions

Community values

Many Sierra Nevada residents share values around the rural and environmental qualities of the region to which National Forest System lands contribute. Maintaining the rural character of the region is important to its residents. Eighty percent of Sierra Nevada voters surveyed in 1995 identified three primary reasons for living where they do: the beauty and charm of communities, to get away from city life, and to live in a rural area (Sierra Business Council 1997). In addition, the study found that Sierra residents strongly support expanded efforts to preserve the region’s natural resources: 65 percent of Sierra voters want to see their counties put more effort into conserving the natural environment, 60 percent felt their counties should be doing more to permanently preserve open space and agricultural lands, and 72 percent felt that Sierra Nevada counties should do more to steer new development into existing towns instead of allowing it to spread all over the landscape and destroy the rural quality of life.

While open space, wildlife habitat, culture, history, and rural character are highly valued by residents and visitors in the Sierra Nevada (Sierra Nevada Conservancy 2011a), how people prioritize those values and how they relate to other values varies, affecting the decisions they make and activities they choose to engage in (Jones et al. 2003). Management of NFS lands can influence community values by the opportunities provided on the land, and by contributions to environmental and aesthetic qualities of the region. National forests in the Sierra Nevada not only impact the values of communities in the bio-region, but also far beyond the bio-region. Research shows that "people living far from the Sierra Nevada hold substantial values for the region’s ecosystems, and especially for their charismatic fish and wildlife" (Long et al. 2013b, p.12).

For thousands of years, Native American communities have used forests to connect with their family and culture, passing down traditions and values to their children (McAvoy et al. 2004). The section below “Traditional Uses” as well as Chapter 12: Assessing Areas of Tribal Importance discuss the influence of NFS management on traditional tribal uses of the land.

Many long-time residents in the Sierra Nevada maintain cultural ties to the traditional, resource-based economy of the region, and continue to view the local landscape as a source of production and livelihoods (Walker and Fortmann 2003). According to Huntsinger et al. (2010), as reviewed in Charnley and Long (2013), ranchers who move their livestock seasonally have a long history in the Sierra Nevada and strong commitment to and affection for the lifestyle. Ranchland contributes to the rural qualities of the bio-region that many people value. Ranchers depend on Forest Service summer range as well as lowland public range in many cases. Management of these lands directly influences ranchers, affecting range vegetation and forage production and availability of land for range versus other uses. Ranchers who are negatively impacted by management decisions may choose to sell their land, which can lead to increased development in the WUI.

Timber harvest has long been an important part of the bio-region’s cultural heritage and legacy that many forest communities want to retain. As described in the Charnley and Long (2013), since the late 1980s, timber harvest from National Forest System lands in the bio-region steadily declined because of policy and legal constraints related to the protection of old growth forests and threatened and endangered species, restrictions on harvesting in unroaded areas, and timber sale appeals and litigation. In 2010, timber harvest volume from Sierra Nevada national forests was 86 percent lower than in 1988. This decline led to job losses, mill closures, reduced payments in lieu of taxes to counties to fund schools and roads, and declines in Forest Service budget and staff. While the majority of timber production in the Sierra Nevada now comes from private harvest, opportunities for new sustainable natural resource economies through restoration and biomass energy production do exist (Sierra Business Council 2007), which could be influenced by management of NFS lands.

According to the Sierra Nevada Conservancy (2011a), recreation and tourism have a long history in the Sierra. The scenic lands and cultural and historic resources of the Sierra not only provide enjoyment to local residents, they support a multi-billion-dollar tourism industry, which is the single most important economic activity for a number of Sierra Nevada counties. Being outdoors is an important part of the California lifestyle, and national forests are part of an expansive network of local, state, and federal parks, forests, trails, and open space systems (Roberts et al. 2009). Eighty-four percent of the Californians polled in the most recent Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (CORP) statewide survey said outdoor recreation was an “important” or “very important” contributor to their quality of life (Roberts et al. 2009).

"Protecting scenery, outdoor recreation opportunities, and environmental quality will likely continue to encourage amenity migration" (Winter et al. 2013b, p. 5). While "amenity migration has both positive and negative impacts, positive outcomes of amenity migration are reliant on local adaptive capacity to manage change in both social and physical attributes of community (Winter et al. 2013b, p.5).Increasing diversity, both in and outside the bio-region, will continue to influence community values.

National forests in the bio-region clearly play a role in contributing to the open space, wildlife habitat, culture, history, and rural character that is highly valued by Sierra Nevada communities. National Forest System lands support a wide range of services that people both in and outside the bio-region benefit from, which are further discussed in Chapter 7: Assessing Benefits People Obtain. The provision of these ecosystem services support the diversity of values that people and communities hold. However, the provision of these ecosystem services is not limitless; in addition, ecosystem services interact with and impact each other such that tradeoffs are a necessary part of the equation. Therefore, one of the responsibilities of the Forest Service is to work directly with communities to provide balance across various values and uses. Additionally, this balancing act is influenced by ecological constraints, external drivers and stressors, policies and laws, and agency resource limitations. Many of these concepts are further discussed in Patterson (2013).More information on people’s values and how NFS management influences those values, as well as information on people’s understanding of the social, economic and ecological constraints and tradeoffs to managing for multiple uses would be beneficial.

Cultural connections

Sierra Nevada national forests provide opportunities for people to connect with the history and culture of the region, and to create new contributions to the region’s culture and future legacy.

In 2009, the Sierra Business Council initiated a National Geographic Geotourism Project for the Sierra Nevada region. The Geotourism Project creates and publishes an internet-based map, called a WebMap, which features businesses, landmarks, events, and other sites that represent the destination’s local culture. It is managed locally and aims to sustain and enhance the region’s identity, stewardship, and economic growth. One of the main goals of this project is to relieve pressure on nearby major tourist attractions like Yosemite National Park and Lake Tahoe by attracting visitors to stay and explore surrounding communities (Brouwer et al. 2012). This project highlights some of the cultural connections that people in the Sierra Nevada hold with over 500 historic and cultural places, events, museums, galleries, and points of interest.

Artists have long been inspired by Sierra Nevada landscapes. John Muir is perhaps the most well-known for capturing the spirit and grandeur of the region in his writings, and Mark Twain, Jack London, Bret Harte, Mary Austin, and John Burroughs contributed significantly to describing the Sierra Nevada in prose and poetry (Duane 1999). The lives, stories, and poems of Beat Generation writers, including Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and Gary Snyder, were also greatly influenced by the Sierra Nevada. In his world famous photographs, Ansel Adams captured the beauty and spirit of Sierra Nevada landscapes. Art galleries and studios, music venues, and theaters are found throughout the Sierra Nevada, many of which are closely tied to the bio-region's natural and cultural history (National Geographic Society 2009). National forests provide opportunities for artists to experience and draw from nature, history, and culture as they develop their work.

Forests provide residents and visitors in the Sierra Nevada various opportunities to connect with and learn about its history and culture. According to 2005-2009 NVUM data, 6.4 percent of visitors to forests in the bio-region visited historic sites, though only 0.1 percent cited this activity as the main reason for visiting a forest. Details on specific places, opportunities, and events on national forests that connect people with the history and culture of the Sierra Nevada bio-region will be more fully discussed in forest-level chapters. Further understanding how forests in the bio-region contribute to people’s cultural and historical connections would provide useful insight into the agency’s role in fostering these connections as well as any barriers that may exist in making these connections.

Traditional uses

In the Native American community, subsistence use of forests denotes a lifestyle involving a deep connection to nature and cultural traditions (USFS 2011). Many Native Americans participate in traditional activities, such as hunting, fishing, trapping, and gathering berries, and do not differentiate these activities into distinct categories, such as work, leisure, family, culture, and tradition (McAvoy et al. 2004). These activities carry on family and tribal traditions, provide sustenance for families, and continue a spiritual connection to the land and to animal and plant resources (McAvoy et al. 2004). These activities, and the places connected to them, have cultural, symbolic, and spiritual meanings as well as functional meanings (McAvoy et al. 2004). However, the ability to continue these activities can be influenced by forest management decisions, the lack of understanding by visitors and managers toward Native American values and traditions, and the lack of understanding of treaty rights that give Native Americans unique use rights on NFS lands (McAvoy et al. 2004).

As described in Chapter 12: Assessing Areas of Tribal Importance, every national forest is carved out of ancestral Native American land, and Native American historical and spiritual connection to the land has not been extinguished or diminished despite these changes in title. Therefore, tribes in California are interested in and affected by all forest management in the bio-region. Forest Service actions can easily affect tribes or Native American sacred sites if line officers do not consult with federally recognized tribes in advance. Native American sacred sites are locations considered sacred by: Indigenous Americans, the citizens of the 110 California federally recognized tribes, the more than 50 non-federally recognized tribes petitioning for recognition, and a multitude of other Native Americans who may or may not be associated with a specific federally recognized tribe. Sacred sites are not identified or defined by the agency. Only the tribes and traditional practitioners can describe and tell us what is sacred on the landscape. The Forest Service is responsible for consulting with tribes, as required by federal law and reinforced by court decisions, executive orders, and the policies of the United States Department of Agriculture and Forest Service. While California’s indigenous people trace their ancestry back 9,000 to 14,000 years or more and are sovereign governments, California Native Americans and their cultures are almost non-existent in the eyes of the American people and in terms of history and recognition by the federal government. For a more complete discussion on this topic, please visit Chapter 12.

Other non-tribal groups use Sierra Nevada forests for traditional and cultural purposes. Although non-timber forest products (NTFP) are not as abundant in the Sierra Nevada as they are in moister bio-regions of California, they are relatively abundant compared with other bio-regions in the state (Christensen et al. 2008, as cited in Charnley and Long 2013).Little information about non-tribal NTFP harvesting in California, and in the Sierra Nevada specifically, exists in the published literature (Charnley and Long 2013, p.19). No monitoring or studies have been conducted or published by the Forest Service in California on ethnobotany. According to 2005-2009 NVUM data for the bio-region, 2.1 percent of visitors participated in gathering forest products, though only 0.2 percent of visitors reported it as the main reason for visiting a forest. While information is not available at this time, it may be possible to look at Forest Service permit data to help get a better sense of NTFP gathering on Sierra Nevada forests. However, these data would not reveal whether or not any barriers exist regarding NTFP harvesting and the ability of people to participate in traditional or cultural activities. In addition, it would be useful to understand the role National Forest System lands play versus other lands in the bio-region in providing opportunities for harvesting NTFPs.

Environmental justice

According to the 1994 Executive Order 12898, “Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Population,” each federal agency shall make achieving environmental justice part of its mission by identifying and addressing, as appropriate, disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects of its programs, policies, and activities on minority populations and low-income populations (Council on Environmental Quality 1997). In addition, environmental justice at the U.S. Department of Agriculture means that, to the greatest extent practicable and permitted by law, all populations are provided the opportunity to comment before decisions are rendered on, are allowed to share in the benefits of, are not excluded from, and are not affected in a disproportionately high and adverse manner by government programs and activities affecting the environment and its impact on human health (U.S. Department of Agriculture 2012).

For each forest going through forest plan revision in Region 5, we will identify and address environmental justice concerns. The “2012 Giant Sequoia National Monument Final Environmental Impact Statement, vol. I” provides an example of the environmental justice analysis that will be done for forests going through the plan revision process. In addition, we recognize the need to engage a full range of interests and individuals in the planning process. We have developed communication and collaboration strategies to help us encourage a wide-range of participation, especially from traditionally underrepresented groups like youth, low-income populations, and minority populations.

Key Economic Conditions

Contributing to community well-being by providing a broad range of economic opportunities for forest communities is consistent with current Forest Service direction from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to generate jobs through recreation and natural resource conservation, restoration, and management in rural areas (USDA 2010), and from the Forest Service 2012 Planning Rule to contribute to social and economic sustainability, thereby supporting vibrant communities and rural job opportunities. Given that rural communities everywhere are subject to social, economic, and ecological change, their ability to take advantage of job opportunities associated with national forests and their management can help strengthen their resilience. "Creating economic opportunities in forest communities promotes and sustains a more diverse employment base, leaves future opportunities for participating in forest-based livelihoods open, encourages innovative ways to invest in communities, and helps communities adapt to change—all features that contribute to resilience (Walker and Salt 2006). It also maintains a local workforce with the capacity to carry out forest management work that is needed to improve and restore ecological integrity and resilience in forest ecosystems (Kelly and Bliss 2009)." (Charnley 2013 p.6)

"The notion that federal forest management alone can ensure community stability is flawed for several reasons (Charnley et al. 2008a, Nadeau et al. 2003, Power 2006, Sturtevant and Donoghue 2008). As Power (2006) notes, jobs in the forest products industry are not simply a function of timber supply; demand for wood fiber and wood products plays an important role in influencing harvest and production levels and associated jobs. In addition, changes in harvesting and wood processing technology increase productivity and reduce labor demands, displacing workers. The 1970s and 1980s saw many such changes in the wood products industry. Furthermore, trees harvested in one location do not always get processed in nearby communities. Federal managers must generally sell to the highest bidder, who may not be local. Mills typically obtain logs from a variety of sources, including private forest lands over which federal managers have no control (Power 2006). Finally, a number of variables influence social and economic conditions in forest communities; federal forest management is only one of these (Charnley et al. 2008a, Nadeau et al. 2003). For these reasons, national forest managers cannot expect to ensure community economic stability through their management actions alone, although timber production on national forest lands continues to make an important contribution to community economies in some parts of the Sierra Nevada." (Charnley 2013 p.4)

Key economic sectors dependent on forest management

When determining the economic context of forest management decision making, we identify the key sectors that drive the economy, and the extent the economy is dependent on forest land activities. Determining this level of diversification and the economy’s dependence on these forest land activities provides a good indicator of the potential effects that may result from forest management decisions that impact these activities. That is, a more diversified economy supported by many different sectors is better able to withstand changes to forest management than an economy dependent mostly on forest-based commodity extraction and tourism. As previously noted, there are county sub-areas in the bio-region where specialization occurs in sectors that are heavily influenced by forest policy (timber, mining, and agriculture as well as recreation and tourism). Across the bio-region, timber production is most prevalent in the northern Sierra Nevada counties; grazing is found mainly in the eastern Sierra Nevada and in the oak woodland ecosystems of the western Sierra Nevada; agriculture occurs largely on the west side, in the central and southern portions of the synthesis area; and recreation and tourism dominate the economies of the greater Lake Tahoe Basin and the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada.

‍‍Timber and mining‍‍

To understand the potential impact of proposed land management practices, it is important to grasp the relative size of the timber and mining industries and its components, how these have changed over time, and how trends in the bio-region compare to trends in in the state as a whole. As of 2010, timber and mining sector jobs in the counties of the bio-region made up a small percentage of total private sector employment in both California and the bio-region as a whole. Timber and mining employment accounted for 0.4% and 0.2% of all private sector jobs respectively in the state. These totals are slightly higher in the bio-region with around 0.7% of employment in timber and 0.5% in mining. Within the timber sector in the bio-region, wood products manufacturing accounts for the most employment (0.5%) followed by sawmills and paper mills (0.2%) and then growing and harvesting employment (less than 0.1%).

While slightly higher in percentage, the bio-region has a similar composition and reliance on these industries as the state as a whole. In terms of total job numbers, the bio-region comprises about 25% of all state timber jobs and 39% of all state mining jobs. These total employment numbers are presented in the table below.

Private Sector Employment in Timber and Mining for the State and the Bioregion, 2010.

Counties of the Bio-region – North Sierra
Counties of the Bio-region – North Central Sierra
Counties of the Bio-region – Central Sierra/Tahoe
Counties of the Bio-region – South Central Sierra
Counties of the Bio-region – South Sierra
Counties of the Bio-region – East Sierra
Counties of the Bio-region – Nevada
Growing and Harvesting
Sawmills and Paper Mills
Wood Products Manufacturing
All Other Sectors
Total Private Sector Employment
Source: Calculated using data from the U.S. Department of Commerce. 2012. Census Bureau, County Business Patterns, Washington, D.C. obtained from EPS-HD Toolkit, “A Profile of Timber and Wood Products” and “A Profile of Mining”
a The number of jobs (full and part-time) in the timber industry are broken out by three major categories: growing and harvesting, sawmills and paper mills, and wood products manufacturing. Growing and Harvesting: These are jobs associated with growing and harvesting of trees on a long production cycle. It includes people employed in forest nurseries, as well as those involved in the cutting of trees and transportation of timber. Sawmills and Paper Mills: These are jobs associated with converting logs into lumber, boards, poles, shingles, and similar milled products. It includes those involved in the conversion of logs and chips into pulp and paper as well as the creation of veneer and plywood. Wood Products Manufacturing: These are jobs associated with manufacturing. It includes the production of corrugated boxes, gum and wood chemical products, cabinets, furniture, and other wood manufactured products.
b The number of jobs (full and part-time) in the mining industry include employment in oil and gas extraction, coal mining, metal ore mining, and nonmetallic minerals mining.

Timber employment in some counties within the bio-region makes up a much higher percentage of the labor force. Specifically, timber employment in Tehama (11%), Plumas (8.4%), Sierra (7.4%), Siskiyou (5.2%), Alpine (5.0%) and Lyon (3.2%) counties is significantly higher than the 0.7% for the bio-region as a whole. Mining employment in Esmeralda County is a significant part of the economy comprising 17.2% of all employment. Other counties with percentages of mining employment significantly above the bio-regional average of 0.5% are Modoc (5.3%), Kern (4.9%) and Sierra (2.9%). This illustrates how local economies within the bio-region can be much more dependent on these sectors than is the case across the bio-region as a whole (U.S. Department of Commerce 2012b).

The timber and mining industries can be significant drivers of the economy over time. If so, other sectors of the economy, as well as total employment and total personal income, will likely follow trends in these industries. The figure below shows changes in total non-timber employment for the counties of the bio-region from 1998 through 2010. Non-timber employment across all sectors in the bio-region rose steadily through 2006 and then dipped with the recent recession. Even with the recent dip, non-timber employment increased around 10% in the bio-region from 1998 to 2010. Timber employment has decreased 38% over this same time period.

Total Timber and Non-Timber Employment in the Bioregion, 1998-2010.

Mining employment follows trends in overall employment more closely than the timber sector. Mining employment fluctuated throughout the early part of the decade, and then increased along with employment in the rest of the economy to peak around the time of the recession. Employment growth in mining over this period was 1.3%, which is smaller than the 10% growth in the rest of the economy.

Total Mining and Non-Mining Employment in the Bio-region, 1998-2010.

Given those trends, it appears that jobs in the non-timber and non-mining sectors of the bio-region’s economy are for growing, independent of the broader trends in the timber and mining industries. This suggests that at the bio-regional level, these sectors are not driving the economy. However, as noted above, the economies of specific counties and sub-county areas can be more or less tied to these industries than the case for the bio-region as a whole. Therefore, it can be expected that not all geographies have attracted or lost timber and mining industries and employment at the same rate. Counties with key segments of their economies that focus on resource extraction and commodity production are often subject to boom-and-bust cycles that drive employment levels. This vulnerability of local employment levels to economic cycles is important to understanding the heath and stability of that economy, since such dramatic swings in employment make it difficult to sustain longer term growth.

The figure below shows counties in the bio-region experiencing the greatest swings in timber employment growth and loss. To identify these vulnerable counties, an index is created to show changes in employment over time. Timber employment in 1998 is the base value in this index, and is set to 100. Counties with lines above 100 indicate positive absolute growth in timber employment while those below 100 show absolute decline. The steeper the curve, the faster the rate of change. Of the eight counties in the bio-region with the greatest change in timber employment during this period, six end up with a net-loss of jobs and only two, Carson City and Lyon, experience a net-gain.

Bio-region Counties with the Greatest Changes in Timber Employment, 1998-2010.

In the case of timber and wood products, mechanization, rising transportation costs, volatile prices, competition from abroad, shifting public values related to the management of public lands, and the restructuring of timber companies as Real Estate Investment Trusts have led to business and employment declines in many communities.

"The number of primary wood processing facilities across California has been declining, a trend since 1968. Reduced timber availability was the primary driver of sawmill closures between 1988 and 2006 (Morgan et al. 2012). Other factors contributing to sawmill closures over time have been technological advances leading to increased processing efficiency, market conditions, and the shift to harvesting smaller logs. Between the late 1980s and 2000, California milling capacity dropped by almost 60 percent. Since 2000, it has continued to drop as mills have closed (Christensen et al. 2008, Morgan et al. 2004). As a result, California’s capacity to process sawtimber went from 6 billion board feet in 1988 to below 1.8 billion board feet by 2009 (Morgan et al. 2012). In 2006, there remained 12 sawmills, 2 medium-density fiberboard and particleboard mills, and no veneer mills in counties within the Sierra Nevada synthesis area (Morgan et al. 2012).

Declining mill capacity has important implications for the ability of federal and private forest owners to produce timber. Mills provide a market for timber; fewer mills mean less competition and lower stumpage prices; and the further the haul distance from the harvest site to the processing facility, the higher the transportation costs and less economical the timber sale. Greater haul distances also mean an increase in fossil fuel consumption, increasing carbon emissions. Maintaining the remaining wood processing infrastructure in the Sierra Nevada synthesis area is an important strategy for supporting continued timber production from national forests to help accomplish ecological restoration goals and maintain jobs in the wood products industry." (Charnley and Long 2013 pp 4-5)

The individual county economies most vulnerable to boom and bust cycles in the mining sector are highlighted in Figure 9. The same type of index to measure these changes is used here as was used above. As can be seen in the steepness of these lines, these economic cycles are more dramatic in the mining sector than was experienced in the timber sector. Again, the majority of counties experienced an over net-loss of jobs over time period with only Shasta and Yuba Counties experiencing a net-gain.

Bio-region counties with the Greatest Changes in Mining Employment, 1998-2010.

The timber industry has the potential to provide high-wage jobs to the bio-region’s economy, but these wages differ by geography and by timber sub-sector. The 2011 annual wage averaged across all economic sectors in the bio-region is $42,776, which is lower than the state average of $55,005. This average annual wage for the bio-region differs greatly by county ranging from a high of $53,150 in Sacramento County to a low of $31,566 in Mariposa County. The average annual wage for timber employment in the bio-region is $44,759, which is higher than the average for all sectors suggesting that timber employment is a higher than average earning occupation in the bio-region. However, this value varies by timber sub-sector with paper manufacturing paying $52,002, forest and logging paying $43,461 and wood products manufacturing paying $39,520. Therefore, when examining the contribution of timber employment to wealth in the bio-region, it is important to examine these effects by county and by sub-sector (U.S. Department of Labor 2012 ).

The 2011 annual average wages in the mining sector are $85,447, which is double the $42,776 average wage across all sectors in the bio-region. Again, there is variation in this wage by county ranging from a high of $179,141 in Washoe County to a low of $42,090 in Butte County. Wages also vary in the bio-region by mining sub-sector, but unlike timber, all of the mining sub-sectors provide an average annual wage much greater than the average wage for all other sectors. Specifically, oil and gas extraction has an average annual wage of $115,585, other mining of $85,986 and support activities for mining of $74,873. So as with timber, when examining the contribution of mining employment to wealth in the bio-region, this variation makes it important to examine these effects by county and also by sub-sector (U.S. Department of Labor 2012 ).


In places where agriculture increasingly operates alongside a larger, non-agricultural economy and greater range of adjacent land uses, farms and ranches continue to be important. These operations contribute to local economic diversity, the scenery they provide can be part of the mix of amenities that attract and retain people and businesses across a range of industries, and they are often an important part of local culture and community vitality. Even when agriculture is a small component of the local economy, the industry can represent a large portion of the land base. Farms and ranches on private lands have important implications for the management of public lands. Specifically in the bio-region, rangelands for grazing have an important private-public synergy and the policy on public rangelands is critical in the operation of private ranching operations. These pasture and rangelands within the bio-region comprise 53.0% of the total land area in farms, which is similar to the percentage for the state as a whole (52.3%) (U.S. Department of Agriculture 2009). In terms of number of farming operations, cattle, sheep and goat farming, which are the primary types of animals grazed on public lands in the bio-region, account for around 22.5% of all operations, higher than the percentage for the state (17.5%) (U.S. Department of Agriculture 2009).

Agricultural employment in most parts of the U.S. has been declining over the last century, largely as a result of mechanization and other efficiencies of scale. Nevertheless, it is still an important source of jobs in many places. Farm employment in the bio-region accounts for 3.2% of all employment, higher than for the state as a whole (1.2%). This suggests that the region is more specialized in farm employment. Another way to examine this is through a ratio that compares the industry’s share of total employment in the bio-region to the state share, thus measuring specialization, using the state as a benchmark. A ratio of more than 1.0 means the local area is more specialized in agriculture relative to the state and in this case this ratio is 2.6 (U.S. Department of Commerce 2012a). Note that farm employment cannot be broken down by type of activity so this specialization in the bio-region includes all types of agriculture not just grazing and livestock operations.

Agriculture is therefore important to the economy of the bio-region and forest management has direct impacts on this sector. These direct impacts occur most notably in grazing, but also occur across the sector indirectly as forest management decisions affecting water supply and water quality influence the availability and suitability of this critical input for all types of agriculture.

Recreation, travel, and tourism

Public lands can play a key role in stimulating local employment by providing opportunities for recreation. Communities adjacent to public lands benefit economically from visitors who spend money in the travel and tourism sector in hotels and restaurants, as well as ski resorts, gift shops, and elsewhere. While the information in this report is not an exact measure of the size of the travel and tourism sectors, and it does not measure the type and amount of recreation on public lands, it can be used to understand whether travel and tourism-related economic activity is present, how it has changed over time, and whether there are differences between geographies. In 2010, these travel and tourism related industries comprised 15.7% of jobs in the state and 18.1% in the bio-region (U.S. Department of Commerce 2012b).

Travel and tourism can be significant drivers of the economy for areas that have abundant natural and social amenities, and which offer recreational opportunities. Public land resources are a primary draw for pleasure travelers in many of these geographies. In some of these places, travel and tourism-related employment is growing faster than overall employment. While pleasure travel and recreation are important economic activities in and of themselves, they also stimulate other forms of economic development when visitors move families and businesses to communities they first visited as tourists. The figure below provides the trends for travel and tourism related sectors[2] in the bio-region. These sectors follow the general pattern of employment across all sectors as seen in the figures above – increasing until 2006 and then decreasing during the recession.

Total Travel and Tourism Related Employment in the Bio-region, 1998-2010.

Employment in these travel-related sectors is not the same for all the counties in the bio-region. Employment related to visitor spending comprises a high percentage of total employment in Alpine, Inyo, Mariposa, Mono and Douglas Counties.

The 2011 average annual wage in the travel and tourism industries was $17,892, which is much lower than the bio-region average of $42,776. The variation in this average wage across the counties of the bio-region was relatively small compared to the county-to-county variation for the timber and mining sectors ranging from $27,612 in Douglas County to $13,166 in Modoc County. Wages across sub-sectors of the industry varied from $45,842 in passenger transportation to $16,966 in accommodations and food (U.S. Department of Labor 2012 ).

A study examining the value of travel and tourism to California counties estimated the percentage of total county employment and earnings that is generated by all travel in the county. As can be seen by the results in the table below, travel and tourism is an important sector across the bioregion but is especially important to economies in Mariposa (52% of employment and 33.4% of earnings), Mono (48.6% of employment and 32.2% of earnings), Inyo (23.5% of employment and 11.5% of earnings), and Sierra (22.7% of employment and 13.0% of earnings) (Dean Runyan and Associates 2012).

travel related percentage of employment
travel related percentage of earnings
El Dorado

Another study examined employment created by recreation specifically in the National Forests across the bio-region also contributes positively to the local economy. Forest Service analysis conducted in 2008 estimated the number of jobs created by this recreational activity and found that in most cases this contribution is only a small percentage of the local economic activity surrounding the forests. However, recreation on the Inyo National Forest is an exception where it was estimated to account for 12.5% of all jobs and over 9% of all labor income generated in the local area. The Stanislaus National Forest is the next highest, providing around 1% of all local jobs and labor income. The remaining forests yield a much smaller percentage contribution through recreational activity generating 0.35% or less of all local jobs and labor income (USFS 2008). These results for all forests in the bio-region are presented below.

Job Creation and Labor Income Generated by Recreational Activities on Forests (2008).
National Forest
Labor Income
Jobs as % of Total Area Employment
Income as % of Total Area Labor Income
National Forests of the Bioregion
Source: USDA Forest Service [USFS]. 2008. TMECA Economic Contribution Reports. Region 5 Travel Management Part B forest level economic analysis. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service.

According to the Outdoor Industry Association's 2012 economic report, more than 140 million Americans make outdoor recreation a priority in their daily lives, spending $646 billion each year on outdoor recreation. Annually, outdoor recreation participants spend the following on their activities:

Gear, Accessories &
Trip Related
Snow Sports
Trail Sports
Water Sports
Wildlife Viewing
All Activities

Another important contribution of recreation on national forests system lands are the fees collected through the Forest Land Recreation Enhancement Act (FLREA). Ninety five percent of FLREA funds go back to where they are collected for the maintenance and operation of recreation facilities thereby helping improve conditions for recreational opportunities adjacent to local communities. This legislation is currently up for reauthorization and if it is not reauthorized, a loss of this funding would create a burden that could not be made up with appropriated or other partnered funding and would have a direct impact on rural economies due to closures of recreation sites and loss of jobs (Tidwell 2013).

‍‍Fiscal conditions‍‍

Local governments rely on revenues generated from activities on forest lands. Management decisions that affect these activities have the potential to impact these revenues. In order to determine the context of these payments, we need to understand how important these revenues are to local budgets and to the current overall budget condition of local governments. Communities facing difficult fiscal times will feel an impact from any changes in revenues, thus leading to the potential for reduced public services in the area.

Key sources of these revenues are: (1) the sales taxes generated from timber sales and tourism, and (2) direct revenue received from the Payments In-Lieu of Taxes (PILT) and Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act (SRS) programs. This assessment focuses on county level fiscal conditions since county budgets reflect the level of importance of these revenue sources to local governments, than do the much larger federal and state budgets, of which these sources comprise a much smaller fraction.

The type of economic activity that is generated by forest service system lands can be identified by looking at the receipts generated by the different classes of use of these lands. In addition, a look at these uses demonstrates the importance of forest service system lands to support the activities of private businesses and non-profit entities. In fiscal year 2011, recreation special uses generate by far the most receipts on forest service system lands in the bioregion. This recreation special uses represents 78% of all fiscal year 2011 receipts that were generated. The El Dorado and Inyo National Forests generated more than half of these receipts. The next highest receipt generating activities in the bio-region were land use (8%) and power (6.5%).[3] The Sequoia, El Dorado and Sierra National Forests are generating the most receipts for land use, while the Sierra is the primary power receipt generator. Timber receipts account for only 2.8% of the total receipts collected in the bio-region with over half of these receipts occurring in the Lassen and Plumas National Forests (USDA Forest Service 2012c).

The counties in the bioregion receive revenues from sales taxes on timber products and on temporary lodging from visitors to the region. Data available from the California State Controller’s Office allows timber yield tax revenue and the tax collected on transient lodging to be aggregated and examined for the counties in the bio-region (California State Controller's Office 2012).[4] These data show that these sources of tax revenue are a very small percentage of the total county revenues for the bio-region as a whole (0.5%). However, there are some counties where these tax sources comprise a more significant portion of the total revenue collected. Specifically, this is true in Mariposa (20.4%), Mono (4.6%), Inyo (4.3%), Alpine (3.1%), Placer (2.2%), Plumas (2.2%), Tuolumne (1.9%) and Sierra (1.6%). In all of these cases, it is the transient lodging tax revenue that is the more significant contributor of the two tax sources. It should be noted that while national forests do contribute to travel and tourism in the bio-region, and therefore, can influence this transient tax revenue, there are other recreational opportunities in the bio-region that also drive this tourism (e.g. National Parks) and therefore all of this revenue cannot be attributed to visitors to the national forests alone.

Another study estimated the percentage of the county sales tax revenue that is visitor related. This includes spending on goods and services while visiting an area. As can be seen in the table below visitor spending is an important fiscal consideration across the bio-region particularly in Mariposa (61.4%), Mono (57.9%), Alpine (33.3%), Sierra (29.9%), Plumas (24.9%) and Inyo (20.8%) (Dean Runyan and Associates 2012).

percentage of total sales tax revenue that is visitor related
El Dorado
Under federal law, county governments are compensated through Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) for reductions to their property tax bases due to the presence of forest service system land. These lands cannot be taxed, but may create demand for services such as fire protection, police cooperation, or simply longer roads to skirt the federal property. Some of these programs are run by specific agencies and apply only to that agency’s land. For forest service system lands, counties receive federal payments for timber and other resources through either the traditional 25% revenue sharing agreement or through the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act (SRS). Given decreases in timber production and timber prices, counties have typically favored the higher payments from SRS since its introduction in 2000. Originally scheduled to sunset in 2006, SRS has been renewed three times (2007, 2008 and 2012) and each time payments were reduced. The future of SRS is uncertain given that it has not yet been renewed for FY 2013 and all payments may revert to the original 25% revenue sharing framework if not renewed.

All of the counties in the bio-region received some level of payment in lieu of taxes (PILT) in FY 2009. These values ranged from a low of $8,114 in Stanislaus County to a high of $4.5 million in Siskiyou County. These absolute values do not reflect the importance of these revenues to individual county budgets. Instead, looking at these PILT revenues as a percentage of total county revenues provides a measure of the importance of this contribution. For many counties, this percentage is very small (around 0.5% or less). For a few counties, this percentage is more significant. Specifically, PILT payments are a significant percentage of total county revenues in Modoc (5.7%), Plumas (5.7%), Siskiyou (4.3%), Sierra (4.2%), Lassen (4.1%), Inyo (3.3%), Alpine (3.0%), and Tuolumne (2.5%) counties (Headwaters Economics 2012b).

Forest Service spending

The level of Forest Service spending in the bio-region is important because this is a direct investment into the local economy. This investment also results in indirect and induced multiplier effects to businesses providing support for forest activities and services to the workers and their families in the region. To understand the context of this spending, it is necessary to understand the amount of spending, trends over recent years and how large this direct investment is in terms of the overall economy.

Forest Service spending from 2006 through 2012 in the bio-region has increased mostly as a result of increases in the budgets for wild land fire management – spending for fuel reduction and fire preparedness (USDA Forest Service 2012c). The same increase in costs is true for fire suppression costs as well. Fire suppression costs are skyrocketing and seriously jeopardizing Forest Service ability to fund its natural resource mission (USDA FS 2008)

Forest Service Spending in the Bio-region ($2012 dollars).
Source: Forest Service Program Development, Budget and Accountability Monitoring Reports – Pacific Southwest Region
As can be seen in the figure, this spending on national forests in the bioregion reaches a maximum of around $220 million in 2011. In terms of total federal spending in the bioregion, this amounts to only a very small percentage of the approximately $40 billion in total federal government expenditures in the bioregion in FY 2006 and an even smaller percentage of the total economic output across all sectors of the economy over this time period (California Department of Finance 2009).

The Forest Service is working to increase the pace and scale of restoration on National Forest System lands (USDA Forest Service 2012d) and there are a variety of strategies that can be used to achieve these goals while enhancing local job creation through that spending. In addition, many of the jobs supporting this effort can be created in local communities.

"Between 1994 and 2004, there were at least six regional or national legislative and administrative directives that gave the Forest Service authority to consider benefits to local communities when undertaking forest restoration work (Moseley and Toth 2004). These included: (1) the Jobs in the Woods program of the 1990s (applicable in northern California counties affected by the Northwest Forest Plan); (2) the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self- Determination Act of 2000, which made it possible to establish local Resource Advisory Committees that could use Act funding to pay for forest restoration work benefitting federal lands, creating local jobs as a result; (3) the ten-year stewardship contracting authority approved by Congress in the fiscal year 2003 appropriations bill; (4) the National Fire Plan of 2000; (5) the Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003 (HFRA) (Moseley and Toth 2004, Steelman and DuMond 2009); and (6) the Tribal Forest Protection Act of 2004. Since 2005, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), and Title IV of the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 on forest landscape restoration, which established the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program, have been added to this list." (Charnley 2013 p.7)

As noted in the Science Synthesis (Charnley 2013), this investment in local communities can be undertaken strategically to target projects to communities in need, as was done recently with Forest Service investment in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) projects. This effort identified high-poverty and unemployment communities, and communities having underserved populations so that this investment could make a difference in helping communities gain access to increased economic opportunities. Another approach is to identify communities where job skills are limited in order to target workforce training programs as an effective means of helping communities build their capacity to engage in forest restoration (Nielsen-Pincus and Moseley 2012). Another strategic approach to investment can be to structure forest restoration work in a way that is accessible to local communities and can benefit multiple recipients. This strategy entails breaking down work into appropriate sizes and types that can be achieved by smaller, less experienced and more local businesses. One example is road maintenance work. Many national forests consider roadside brush removal as one component of road maintenance, and therefore include it as a separate task in larger road maintenance contracts. Local businesses that would be unable to provide a bid on the complete package for road maintenance can instead bid on the smaller brush removal component.

‍‍Ecosystem services‍‍

According to the Science Synthesis (Patterson 2013), an articulate depiction and accurate assessment of ecosystem services of the Sierra Nevada hinges on how the term ‘ecosystem services’ is used and approached. Two often-cited works describe ecosystem services as the conditions and processes through which natural ecosystems, and the species that make them up, sustain and fulfill human life, thereby supporting quality of life on earth (Daily 1997, Costanza 1997). Forest Service projects designed to raise awareness for forested ecosystems and public investment tend to use similarly general language (MEA 2005, Daily 1997, Collins and Larry 2008). Examples of ecosystem services include:
  • Food
  • Fresh water
  • Clean air
  • Timber and fuels
  • Genetic resources
  • Medicines and pharmaceuticals
  • Air quality regulation
  • Water regulation
  • Erosion control
  • Riparian forest cleaning
  • Filtering and cooling streamside water
  • Climate regulation and carbon sequestration
  • Disease regulation
  • Pest regulation
  • Pollination
  • Natural hazard regulation
  • Aesthetic values
  • Recreation and ecotourism
  • Spiritual enrichment
  • Educational opportunities
  • Scientific research
  • Biological diversity
  • Nutrient cycling
  • ecological integrity
  • wildlife viewing
  • fish and game stocks
  • scenic views
For an in-depth look at ecosystem services in the bio-region, please visit Chapter 7: Assessing Benefits People Obtain from the NFS Plan Area.

From the complementary perspective of natural resources, water is the most valuable commodity in the bio-region, followed by timber, livestock and other agricultural products. The Sierra Nevada ecosystem also provides the setting for a large recreation and tourism industry, as well as new residences built for the large influx of people who enjoy living within the Sierra Nevada ecosystem. Based on estimates of direct resource values as one input (not the total revenue produced by resource dependent activities), the Sierra Nevada ecosystem produces approximately $2.2 billion worth of commodities and services annually
(Centers for Water and Wildland Resources 1996). Water accounts for more than 60% of that total value. Other commodities account for 20% as do services
(Centers for Water and Wildland Resources 1996). Most of the water value accrues to water rights holders and beneficiaries outside of the region. Although the infrastructure to hold, divert, and channel the water is very valuable, relatively little direct employment is needed to operate and maintain these facilities. The other resource-based sectors involve many more employees and firms, and hence have greater visibility in the local economies.

In addition to supporting businesses and employment, the different economic uses of the Sierra Nevada ecosystem also generate revenue for ecosystem and community reinvestment. Ecosystem reinvestment is part of overall resource management costs and involves expenditures within individual agencies and private ownerships. While reinvestment is required to sustain economic uses of the ecosystem, actual levels of reinvestment are hard to track across different resource-controlling institutions. Reinvestment that benefits local communities is more tractable when funds are transferred between different parties through revenue sharing, fees, taxes or subsidies. Under existing institutional relationships, the rate of reinvestment varies considerably among different commodities and services. Public timber and private recreation are the largest net contributors both in total dollars and as a percentage of their total value. The table below, taken from the Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project, presents an overview of the major resource-based commodity and service sectors that are directly or indirectly dependent on the Sierra Nevada ecosystem (Stewart 1996).

Estimated Annual Resource Values and Reinvestment for Major Ecosystem Commodities and Services.
COMMENT 7-9-13: Text on Colby and Smith-Incer 2005 discussion moved to value section of Chapter 7.

Opportunities to Contribute to Social, Economic, and Ecological Sustainability

social-ecological integration.jpg
Representation of a complex social-ecological system.
The history and changes of the Sierra Nevada create a complex environment for National Forest System management. Maintaining a cultural legacy is important to communities in the Sierra Nevada. At the same time, community well-being depends on the ability of those communities to adapt to a changing, uncertain future. Individuals and communities far beyond the Sierra Nevada influence the sustainability of forests and communities in the bio-region, and are likewise influenced by management decisions that take place on National Forest System land in the bio-region. We now have a much richer understanding of the social, economic, and ecological factors in land management decisions. While challenging, this complexity highlights the robust opportunities available to the Forest Service to contribute to social, economic, and ecological sustainability. The Science Synthesis was very helpful in looking at the diversity of opportunities for incorporating the triple bottom line in management decisions and provided much of the information presented here.

We talk about:

building community capacity;
the role of ecological restoration;
working together to build capacity for sustainability;
the importance of sustainable recreation; and
the role the Forest Service plays connecting people to nature.

Community capacity

People who live in rural communities in the Sierra Nevada are concerned about their future. Many traditionally resource-based communities in the Sierra Nevada are in a transition period. New people have moved in from urban areas, bringing different values and changing the demographics of communities. Ecological concerns, federal policies, and competing land uses have influenced timber harvesting and grazing. Outdoor recreation and tourism have brought new economic opportunities to communities that were formerly timber-dependent. Population growth, increased demand for recreation, competition for different uses, and ecological concerns bring with them additional challenges. In addition, tribal communities continue to struggle with maintaining a culture that is directly tied to management of and access to ancestral lands and sacred sites. Many people who live outside the Sierra Nevada are also dependent on the bio-region’s ecosystem services, which can impact Sierra Nevada forests and local communities.
Vol Proj Near June Lake.jpg
Volunteer project near June Lake, Inyo National Forest.

As described in Charnley (2013, p.4), studies recognize that (1) well-being in forest communities was based on more than jobs and income, and included other quality of life attributes, such as health, safety, political participation, social equity, and access to social services; and (2) national forests can contribute to community well-being in multiple ways that include both commodities (e.g., timber, grazing, minerals, non-timber forest products) and amenities (e.g., outdoor recreation, scenic beauty, clean air and water, open space, forests and mountains) values associated with them (Kusel 2001, Nadeau et al. 2003, Sturtevant and Donoghue 2008).

Community capacity is critical to well-being in forest communities, and can be defined as the ability of its residents to respond to internal and external stresses, create and take advantage of opportunities, and meet the needs of residents (Kusel 2001, as cited in Charnley 2013).

Community capacity influences the ability of communities to prepare for and adapt to change and stressors such as wildland fire and climate change. Resilient systems are able to cope with, adapt to, and shape change; persist and develop in the face of change; and innovate and transform into new, more desirable configurations in response to disturbance (Charnley 2013, p.5). "It is challenging, however, to identify critical thresholds beyond which social systems will lose their resilience and break down" (Charnley 2013, p.5). "Rural communities in the U.S. tend to be more vulnerable to climate change than urban communities, and people residing in the wildland-urban interface are particularly vulnerable to fire" (Jardine and Long 2013, p.5). In addition, "tribal traditions and beliefs may require direct stewardship of lands in order to maintain place and culture. Taking this direct stewardship approach allows for conflicting views and meanings of protected areas, including forest lands containing valued natural and cultural resources" (Winter et al. 2013b, p.9). "Engagement, capacity building, and participation are necessary components of strategies that promote resilience through social learning" (Long et al. 2013b, p.12). The provision of ecosystem services and the benefits they supply to the public (see Chapter 7), is a key piece that links the human and ecological components of a system. As described in Long et al. (2013b, p.12), "an important component of a resilience strategy may be to moderate societal expectations for ecological services, rather than trying to provide a constant to ever-increasing supply." "Federal forest management alone cannot ensure community stability" (Charnley 2013, p.4).

Ecological restoration

As described in Charnley (2013):
Management of National Forest System lands in the Sierra Nevada can contribute to community capacity by helping people become stewards of the land as participants in ecological restoration activities. This engagement is empowering. People personally partner with land management agencies to find solutions (p.7). "The literature on community-based-forestry in the United States suggests that healthy forest ecosystems and healthy forest communities are interdependent" (p.2). "Ecological restoration offers a chance to present positive messages, values, and activities, while addressing ecosystem threats" (p.7). Restoration activities restore connections and relationships to the land, as well as to people, building collective identities around improving ecosystems and caring for the land (p.7). Many socioeconomic benefits of ecological restoration exist (p.7). Stewardship contracting is an effective tool for enhancing social and economic benefits to local communities (p.10).

Long et al. (2013a, p.7) describe a need for more integrated research to look at how ecological restoration efforts affect social, cultural, and economic values. In particular, there is a gap in understanding the effects of restoration on "ecosystem services associated with wildlife, culturally important plants, and water resources." "Although science suggests that there are opportunities for forest treatments to enhance water supply and mitigate some of the potential effects of climate change, research is lacking in the Sierra Nevada for how much and how long restoration treatments are likely to increase water yield, and if water quality can be maintained."

As described in Winter et al. (2013c, p.10):
"To dramatically reduce the legacy of fire suppression and associated fuel loading and restore the role of fire would require a sharp increase in the level of burning and emissions, which in turn would require increased political support. Public land management agencies have an incentive to respond to short-term, local complaints about smoke while discounting hypothetical impacts from future wildfires. The fact that wildfires are often excluded from the regulatory constraints that apply to prescribed burns further diminishes the incentive to avoid wildfires through prescribed burning. Efforts to increase burning raise equity concerns by asking current residents and tourism-related businesses to bear a burden partially created by prior generations in order to mitigate impacts to future populations. Education, notification, and other outreach measures may help to diminish residents’ concerns, but fundamentally, prescribed burning requires sacrifice on the part of present-day, local residents for the sake of a greater public good."

According to Anderson and Moratto (1996), there is an ecological “vacuum,” or disequilibrium, in the Sierra resulting from the departure of Native American influences. The recent decline in biotic diversity, species extirpation and endangerment, human encroachment into fire-type plant communities and increased risk of catastrophic fires are symptoms of this disequilibrium. They recommend that land management agencies and land-use planners incorporate Native American traditional knowledge into future policies and programs for ecosystem management in the Sierra Nevada. This traditional knowledge, which permitted the adaptive success of large human populations and the maintenance of Sierran environments for more than a hundred centuries, must not be dismissed.

There are several plants that have cultural significance to tribes, and have special ecological value in providing habitats or playing key ecological roles that are dependent on fire and/or smoke. A prime example in the Sierra Nevada is California black oak, which is an important food source for Native Americans, and is recognized as a key species to manage for wildlife habitat (Lake and Long 2013, p.5).

In 2006, the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management, in partnership with the California Indian Basket Weavers Association and the California Indian Forest and Fire Management Council, finalized a Charter and the Native Plant Gathering Policy. The policy provides traditional practitioners an opportunity to access plants and work together to provide and promote ecosystem health on the lands managed by these agencies. The policy emphasizes local collaboration, implementation, and issue resolution. The agencies acknowledge that traditional native plant gathering and management practices on these lands are sustainable, benefit forest health, and are part of our multiple use mandate (Chapter 8: Multiple Use - Fish, Plants, and Wildlife).

Working together

We believe that by working together we can move toward sustainable forest management, that is, management that incorporates the triple bottom line. Finding creative ways to coordinate, partner, and be more inclusive in our work is a key piece of how the Forest Service can contribute to social, economic, and ecological sustainability.

As the Chief of the Forest Service described in a January 2010 speech, in order to restore the resilience of America’s forests and grasslands to disturbances of all kinds, we need to work at a scale that supersedes ownerships. Specifically, “an all-lands approach brings landowners and stakeholders together across boundaries to decide on common goals for the landscapes they share. It brings them together to achieve long-term outcomes. Our collective responsibility is to work through landscape-scale conservation to meet public expectations for all the services people get from forests and grasslands.”

According to Charnley (2013, p.15):
"A number of researchers have found that when the Forest Service works collaboratively with local communities to develop forest restoration projects that build on local community infrastructure, resources, values, culture, and collaborative relationships and address local needs and priorities, it can be especially effective in creating local community benefits and contributing to community resilience. It is not always easy to collaborate, given declines in agency staffing and resources, and there can be challenges in the process. Nevertheless, when opportunities exist to develop projects collaboratively and align them with community needs and capacity, they are more likely to create local community benefits."

Charnley et al. (2013) provide numerous examples of models for collaboration in forest management:
Several highlights come from fire and include Fire Safe Councils (FSC) and the role that the agency plays in actively supporting and engaging in their activities, and providing funding. FSCs help Californians mobilize to protect their homes, communities, and surrounding lands from wildfire. Fire Learning Networks foster collaboration across organizations and administrative boundaries to develop landscape-scale restoration plans for fire-prone ecosystems. Conservation learning networks promote learning by spreading best practices and identifying barriers and solutions. Community Wildfire Protection Plans not only help communities address fire risk locally, but also help people create social networks, enhance learning, and build community capacity. The Forest Service can play a role in helping with plan development, providing data and expertise, and helping stakeholders form networks. Collaboration between managers, researchers, and tribal practitioners who hold traditional ecological knowledge can be the vehicle for developing metrics to evaluate cultural resources that support community health and livelihoods. Tribal communities within the Sierra Nevada present distinctive opportunities for mutually beneficial partnerships to restore ecologically and culturally significant resources, and to promote resilience.

Sustainable Recreation

The 2010 Forest Service document “Connecting People with America’s Great Outdoors: A Framework for Sustainable Recreation,” describes how our national forests and grasslands provide an unparalleled diversity of outdoor recreation opportunities that connect people with nature. Participation in recreation activities is the way most people have come to know their national forests. Outdoor recreation contributes greatly to the physical, mental, and spiritual health of people, bonds family and friends, instills pride in their heritage, and provides economic benefits. This definitely holds true for the Sierra Nevada.

Outdoor recreation is major part of the culture and lifestyle in the Sierra Nevada, and in California in general. The social, economic, and ecological benefits are numerous. Outdoor recreation contributes to people’s connection to nature, sense of place, and community identity. It provides physical and mental health benefits, and a foundation for stewardship. Recreation supports social interactions with friends and family, which is especially important in the Latino community. There is growing recognition of the importance that recreation volunteerism plays in California, in maintaining the quality of opportunities, as well as restoring ecosystems. Recreation is an important part of California’s tourism portfolio. Population growth and resulting increases in recreation and tourism have brought new economic opportunities to many Sierra Nevada communities. The most economic activity the Forest Service generates is through recreation special uses.

Recreation in the Sierra Nevada, compounded by various stressors to the system, can also have negative impacts on social, economic, and ecological conditions. Recreation on National Forest System lands can impact the spread of invasive species. Unmanaged recreation can adversely impact natural resources. Manipulation of streams for water recreation has degraded watersheds. Population growth has led to increased competition for water among various uses. Increasing numbers of outdoor recreationists scan lead to increased conflict, and a lesser quality of experience. Recreation and tourism have led to an influx of urbanites into Sierra Nevada communities, which can increase the cost of living, and result in shifting values.

The Framework for Sustainable Recreation provides focus areas that help us contribute by shaping the role of recreation in promoting forest and grassland health and strengthening the vitality of our communities.

There is a huge need for the Social Ecological Integration to apply environmental concerns and knowledge in positive way that helps all existing forms of recreation and land use to continue and flourish. A new way of thinking is needed based on dispersing use to reduce environmental impacts. Finding ways to keep existing routes and areas open to the public while addressing reasonable environmental issues. To address increased use by encouraging building new routes and allowing additional access to disperse and reduce impacts. This new way of thinking would benefit the public and the environment, rather than the current trend of using environmental issues as a club to further restrict land uses and thereby concentrating land use and needlessly harming the environment. (California State Parks PEIR 2012, Road and Trail Change In Use Evaluation & USDA Forest Service 1996-National Off-Highway Vehicle Activity Review)

Connecting People

The economy relies on society, and society is dependent on the environment. This is the general premise of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2003), which recognized the growing burden degraded ecosystems are placing on human well-being and economic development. It points out that sustaining the benefits ecosystems provide for human well-being requires a full understanding and wise management of the relationships between human activities, ecosystem change, and well-being in the near and long term future.

The importance of the connection between people and Sierra Nevada forests is clear. Specific and comprehensive data on people’s connection with and understanding of Sierra Nevada forests is largely unavailable however. These connections may best be understood and maintained through more place-based approaches to management and planning.

As described in Winter et al. (2013b, p.9-10):
Generic discussions at the landscape scale present challenges because place-specific attachment has been shown to differ from more conceptual ideas of attachment that managers and other technical experts may hold. This can result in differing values, preferences for management, and responses to change in relation to a place. Discussions of management are better when they focus on specific landscapes in order to consider social and cultural dimensions, including place meanings and personal and social identities. Understanding meanings of place, e.g. sacred or otherwise valuable places, is essential to social ecological resilience. However, landscape-scale approaches are needed for addressing ecosystem threats, such as climate change. It is likely that a nested approach to planning and management will be most successful into the future. Place-based approaches to planning represent one way of incorporating these various place meanings. However, proximity is not the sole determinant of meaning. Individuals and groups some distance away must also be considered. This can complicate deliberations over management direction when particular groups are not represented in planning approaches that gather input through more conventional mechanisms, such as through inviting public comments or holding public input meetings. The population of the Sierra Nevada represents a small portion of the statewide population, and it is thus a numerical minority centered in a highly valued social-ecological and historical context. Statewide or regional decisions to address majority interests may adversely impact human and non-human populations and ecosystems in the Sierra Nevada, sometimes in ways that put long-term sustainability at risk. Competition for scarce ecosystem services and opportunities will remain a challenge for management of the forests in the Sierra Nevada. Connections to place within the Sierra Nevada may also be instrumental in efforts to reduce demand on ecosystem services delivered far downstream, such as water drawn from the Sierra Nevada to be used in southern California, or the need to manage transportation in ways that reduce the transport of pollutants into the area.

Many people outside the Sierra Nevada feel a deep connection with the forests in the bio-region. It is important to continue to foster these connections. Several opportunities occur for developing connections where they do not yet occur, especially in many urban communities, where water demand, resource demand, and pollution all influence the health of Sierra Nevada ecosystems. Ecosystem services can be a useful framework for forest stewardship (Smith et al. 2011), by helping stakeholders identify and understand services provided by a landscape and human use and dependence on those services (Patterson 2013). Scientific evidence has shown that information, together with motivation, can induce change (Schultz 2011). Messaging that is more focused, versus broad pleas for help, as well as positive behavior alternatives, versus attempts to curtail or prevent certain behaviors, have been shown to be more effective at changing behaviors (Schultz 2011). In addition, supporting opportunities to help people connect through actual experiences with nature can help provide numerous benefits socially, economically, and ecologically.

Another important piece of connecting people to Sierra Nevada forests is related to the major changes in ethnic composition that are occurring within and just outside the Sierra Nevada, as well as in the country as whole. "Increased cultural diversity in California will continue to be reflected through immigration of Latinos and Asians into Sierra Nevada communities, thus increasing the importance of attending to cultural influences and values of long-standing and newly immigrated residents. These dimensions of diversity add to the already diverse demographic, economic, and ethnic profile of Sierra Nevada communities. Both new and existing populations will challenge modes of outreach, engagement, and approaches to management. Particular attention will need to be paid to groups who may be underserved or underrepresented in opportunities to have their opinions heard, needs or interests represented in decisions about how places will be managed, and opportunities to use their public lands" (Winter et al. 2013b, p.8).

Changes may be met with adjustments in how the Forest Service works with and offers opportunities to the public (Winter et al. 2013b, p.7). "Services offered through existing communication and information approaches and more direct opportunities, such as those represented in recreation and tourism might be a poor fit to these populations that are increasing in the region and surrounding areas. Planning for the Sierra Nevada may consider these cultural shifts and how they may be met through adjustments in local and regional services. For example, communication may need to be through ethnic media or key contacts within communities, rather than through mainstream English-speaking media. Science suggests that messaging that is culturally sensitive and addresses issues that matter to the particular community of interest will be more effective. Recreation and tourism opportunities may include more developed sites that accommodate extended family gatherings and support activities of interest to diverse groups. Sensitivity to cultural differences in relationships to government, the land, and land management will aid effective management in this diverse region."


American Community Survey Office. 2012. American Community Survey Multiyear Accuracy of the Data (2009-2011 ACS 3-year and 2007-2011 ACS 5-year).
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[snapshot: 4/9/2013 @1027]
  1. The Forest Service Special Uses Program provides services that support our national policy and federal land laws by authorizing uses on NFS land that provide a benefit to the general public and protect public and natural resources values. The Forest Service receives individual and business applications for authorization for use of NFS land for activities such as water transmission, agriculture, outfitting and guiding, recreation, telecommunication, research, photography and video productions, and granting road and utility rights-of-ways. The Forest Service carefully reviews each application to determine how the request affects the public's use of NFS land. Normally, NFS land is not made available if the overall needs of the individual or business can be met on non-federal lands.
  2. It is not known, without additional research such as surveys, what exact proportion of the jobs in food and accommodations is attributable to expenditures by forest visitors as opposed to other pleasure travelers and local residents. This sector can be thought of as having the potential of being influenced by expenditures by non-locals but unlike the timber and mining estimates above, is less useful as a measure of the absolute size of employment in travel and tourism resulting from forests visitors.

  3. Land use receipts include amounts collected for trespass settlements and pasture permit fees. Power fees collected include permits and easements for all power generating activities and all transmission rights-of-way.

  4. The timber yield tax is collected on the harvest value of forest trees, whether standing or down, for wood products. This tax is assessed by the State Board of Equalization and proceeds are distributed to the counties according to the timber’s location and value. Transient lodging (room occupancy) is a tax that counties may levy on temporary lodging in their unincorporated areas.