Our Tools

The Sierra Fund’s signature programs to build resilient headwater ecosystems and environmentally healthy communities rely on the tools of science, policy, outreach & capacity building.


TSF uses a targeted approach to applied science. We conduct research to ignite and inform land and water use actions that protect and enhance the resources of the Sierra Nevada. We strive to utilize a research-to-practice  feedback model where our research methods and outcomes continually inform best practices that can be incorporated into new research projects. Hallmarks of our initiatives are that they are collaborative in nature and that the projects we embark on help inform the development of sound assessment and remediation activities that can be used to inform comprehensive strategic approaches to land and water management. Our approach is implemented through pilot projects that exemplify research and development of new and innovative techniques and technologies. Pilot projects allow us the opportunity to develop and improve techniques to assess and mitigate  environmental impacts in the Sierra Nevada. The goal of our pilot projects is to demonstrate effective methods and techniques for monitoring, assessment and restoration that can provide a replicable model which local, state  and federal landowners can implement to build capacity on a broader scale.

To achieve our goals, we work with a growing network of collaborative partners and experts who are brought together as advisors at topic-specific  forums to inform and advise on pilot projects. For example, TSF’s quarterly Mercury Forum is closely integrated with the work of the downstream collaborative partnership Delta Tributary Mercury Council (DTMC), allowing for regional capacity building to address legacy mining impacts from summit to sea. Critical to the success of this model is communication, through publication of pilot project results in peer reviewed literature and presentation of results at professional meetings. In this way, we attract additional scientific interest, as well as investment and expertise into the fields of conservation, restoration and resource management in the Sierra.


TSF has developed an important policy presence in the state over the last ten years. We have sponsored legislation, research, conferences, and campaigns with pointed actions directly related to land and water management  actions and to increasing and organizing public and private investment in restoring and protecting the natural resources and communities of the Sierra Nevada. Our policy work to date has been organized around three strategic objectives that implement our mission:

  • Creating and supporting the Sierra Nevada Conservancy to bring new financial and technical resources to the region;
  • Increasing public and private funding available to the region; and
  • Addressing legacy and current impacts of mining on the Sierra Nevada’s forests, rivers, meadows and communities.


To The Sierra Fund, outreach means a two-way flow of information between our organization and various audiences, including people both within and outside of the Sierra Nevada. We aim to reach into all corners of the Sierra  Nevada and California at large to touch both the residents and the tourists that love the range.

The goals of our outreach are to engage, convene and listen. We strive to ensure that our work is responsive to the needs of our  various audiences and to make sure our educational materials and programming provides these audiences with the best information available on the issues. TSF outreach activities augment the science and policy activities  around both of our major programs. We have found that taking people out to see the projects, showing them where we work and introducing them to the landscape that we love, is a very effective way to stimulate both interest in and commitment to our work.

As part of our outreach efforts, we have created working groups of advisors with different foci:

  • A group of Community Advisors, which includes environmental scientists, doctors, tribal representatives and local leaders, who are experts on pertinent aspects and who contribute to our work through document review,  technical advice on specific projects, and strategic visioning for our programs.
  • A group of Agency Advisors, who work with The Sierra Fund to ensure that their agencies’ roles, responsibilities and actions are appropriately  characterized.

The Sierra Fund’s Mining Toxics Working Group provides expert technical support and direction to our restoration activities. Our advisors include senior staff from every regulatory or landowning agency affected by legacy  mines, as well as concerned community members, tribes, environmental activists, and academics.

Capacity Building

TSF was originally founded to provide a fiscal vehicle for the Sierra Nevada region. TSF established seven Donor Advised Funds in its early years. TSF has also assisted numerous organizations and projects in the Sierra with  fiscal project management, administrative support, and organizational incubation. Additionally, we have served as a convener to lead diverse participants in collaborative strategic and program planning meetings. These  collaborative projects have produced results ranging from trail building to acquisition of keystone parcels threatened with development. Most recently, TSF has stepped in to provide a fiscal vehicle for projects funded through  the Cosumnes, American, Bear, Yuba (CABY) Integrated Regional Water Management (IRWM) Group. We serve as fiscal sponsor for nine regional implementation projects funded by two grants from the CA Department of  Water Resources (DWR) and, since 2013, have worked to help CABY resolve management and governance challenges in order to establish a strong vehicle for bringing funding to our region.