Sacramento, California —
The proposed budget for the Sierra Nevada Conservancy has had its first hearing in both the Senate and Assembly, but no final decisions have been reached. This budget contains $21.6 million for the Sierra Nevada Conservancy, including $17.5 million (from Proposition 84) to create a grant program for the protection and restoration of rivers, lakes and streams, their watersheds and associated land, water, and other natural resources in the Conservancy service region. The budget also includes $4.1 million for staff and operation of the Conservancy.
The budget faced some questions from the Legislative Analysts Office and the Senate Budget Committee staff in their reports. Both raised questions about whether the Sierra Nevada Conservancy has the guidelines and experience necessary to administer a new grant program. In addition, there were questions about the capacity of Sierra Nevada local governments and organizations to prepare and administer grants.
The Sierra Fund, the Town of Truckee, and the California Council of Land Trusts spoke at the Senate Budget Subcommittee on Natural Resources hearing about these issues on Monday, March 12. The Sierra Nevada Alliance and the Sierra Cascade Land Trust Council compiled lists of successfully completed projects throughout the range by local government, land trusts and other conservation organizations. Many organizations wrote letters in support of full funding for the Conservancy's grant program.
The Senators appeared to have their concerns answered during the hearing. They took “no action” on the Sierra Nevada Conservancy grant program, leaving the budget item open. This action was consistent with how all other programs funded by bonds passed by the voters in November 2006 are being handled by both the Senate and Assembly budget committees.
Final action on these items will be withheld until there are appropriate policy committee hearings to consider the best ways to invest the bond funding. The policy committees will make recommendations to the appropriate budget subcommittees, at which time the budget committees will make final decisions on items such as the Sierra Nevada Conservancy grant program. Under California's constitution, the final budget is supposed to be adopted by the Legislature and signed into law by June 30, 2007.