Environmental justice is central to The Sierra Fund’s work. Equitable treatment and meaningful involvement of all people – especially the traditionally ignored, underestimated, or underrepresented – results in sustainable outcomes and more equitable solutions for rural communities. The principles of equity and social justice in partnerships and projects built on mutual trust, are fundamental tenets The Sierra Fund’s work.
“The Sierra Fund sees the fundamental right to economic, cultural, and environmental determination of all peoples as critical to restoring resilience to the headwaters. People cannot be separated from landscapes, and projects, at their core, must value and support the involvement of place-based communities.”
Gold mining introduced a host of environmental and social forces that continue to impact communities in the Sierra Nevada. The Sierra Fund weaves together input from many people to create a strategic understanding of the issues, to identify and propose solutions, and then advocate for and sustain projects to improve the community and environmental resiliency of mountain communities. Individuals who know their local environs and care about them have information critical to the decision-making processes, but they do not necessarily know where and how to participate in decision-making. The Sierra Fund participates in diverse partnerships, coalitions and networks that share information and encourage leadership within the communities of the Sierra Nevada.
TSF’s vision for improving community resiliency begins with environmental justice; ensuring that all people who live and work in the Sierra Nevada have the tools they need to protect themselves and their families from exposure to legacy mining toxics; and to participate in decisions about their future access to clean water, air, soil and food. People who are closest to the problem have a unique understanding of its nature, and potential solution(s). Vital to the tenets of environmental justice is the crucial leadership role that must be played by those people who live near environmentally devastated and toxic landscapes, especially those who are economically disadvantaged and/or historically under-represented.
Examples of The Sierra Fund’s collaborative approach in action include TSF projects that work to restore environmentally healthy communities in and with under-represented communities including economically disadvantaged groups, isolated communities without the resources available to larger communities, and tribal entities. These programs bring attention and action to environmental health challenges in the Gold Country including mercury-contaminated fish and toxic dust.