Oak Woodlands, © Jim Rose

Northern California’s Undiscovered Treasure

Letts Lake, Mendocino National Forest  (©Pamela Flick/Defenders)

Letts Lake, Mendocino National Forest (©Pamela Flick/Defenders)

Pamela Flick, California Representative

From the thundering rapids of Cache Creek to the snow-capped peak of Snow Mountain, northern California’s somewhat undiscovered Berryessa Snow Mountain region is home to iconic wildlife, including the rare and elusive Pacific fisher, thriving elk herds and one of our state’s largest wintering populations of bald eagles. Visitors from nearby Sacramento and San Francisco Bay Area encounter scenic vistas and a wide variety of rare species found nowhere else on Earth, thanks to the region’s distinctive geology.

Indeed, this rich landscape provides habitat for so many plants and animals – among them some of the most unique butterflies and dragonflies in the state – that it has been identified as a “biodiversity hotspot.” The lands between Lake Berryessa and Snow Mountain make up one of the largest tracts of relatively undisturbed public lands in the state, providing invaluable space for wildlife to roam. Spanning nearly 100 miles in length from north to south, and ranging from near sea level to over 7,000 feet in elevation, this landscape includes habitats at such a wide variety of altitudes and latitudes that it also presents an important opportunity for species to adapt as the climate continues to change.

Building on overwhelming support from a wide array of stakeholders – from business owners to local elected officials, wildlife enthusiasts to mountain bikers – Representatives Mike Thompson, John Garamendi, Jared Huffman, Anna Eshoo and Ami Bera, along with Senator Barbara Boxer, recently introduced the Berryessa Snow Mountain National Conservation Act (H.R. 1025/S. 483) “to conserve, protect and enhance for the benefit of present and future generations the ecological, scenic, wildlife, recreational, cultural, historical, natural, educational, and scientific resources of the lands.” These bills would designate nearly 350,000 acres of federal land managed by the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation as a National Conservation Area.

Fisher, Photo Washington State

Fishers, an elusive and imperiled species, make their home in the Berryessa Snow Mountain region.

With nearby metropolitan areas expected to gain millions of new residents within the next decade, roads and development threaten to fragment this largely unbroken expanse and limit wildlife movement. The impacts of poorly managed recreation can also threaten important habitat. Protecting the Berryessa Snow Mountain region will safeguard the natural beauty, sensitive areas and the plants and animals that make their homes in this unique landscape. Protection will also secure existing recreation opportunities like hiking, boating, camping and horseback riding, while providing well-managed recreation experiences for residents and visitors alike.

Permanent protection for the Berryessa Snow Mountain region isn’t just good for the environment and wildlife, it’s also good for the economy. The outdoor recreation industry supports more than 400,000 California jobs and generates $46 billion (yes, that’s billion with a b!) of economic activity in the Golden State every year. Protecting our special places encourages tourism, supports local businesses and creates desirable places to live and work. Riffing on the old adage, protect it and they will come!

From meeting with key decision-makers to hosting town hall meetings with our conservation partners to engage local community stakeholders, Defenders is committed to continuing our work to support permanent protection of the Berryessa Snow Mountain region to ensure that wildlife as well as future generations benefit from this unique and diverse landscape just as we do today.