Community Summit a Success!

Nearly 300 People Attend
Reclaiming the Sierra
Nov. 8 – 9 at the Miners Foundry in Nevada City California

10 November 2010, NEVADA CITY – The Sierra Fund this week held the first annual public conference on how to address the ongoing human health, environmental and cultural impacts of over a century of mining in the Sierra Nevada this week in Nevada City California with nearly 300 people from around the State and around the country attending.

The Sierra Fund Mining Project Organizer, Mike Thornton states, “Holding Reclaiming the Sierra at the Miners Foundry in Nevada City is a powerful symbol showing where we’ve come from, where we are today, and to launch such an ambitious endeavor like Reclaiming the Sierra. The response we’ve received as a result of holding this summit clearly demonstrates that many people are very interested in these issues and in coming up with practical win-win solutions. There’s no doubt that this inaugural Reclaiming the Sierra Summit has been a huge success!”


Nevada City, like many communities throughout the Sierra Nevada Mountains and “Gold Country” foothills, was once a major center for gold mining during the Gold Rush and a hardly more fitting location for this first of its kind summit on legacy mining impacts could have been chosen for this historic gathering.

According to The Sierra Fund CEO Elizabeth “Izzy” Martin, “Reclaiming the Sierra has been even more successful than we had hoped it would be!  We’ve been working for five years now on our “Mining’s Toxic Legacy” Initiative, bringing together scientists, regulators, healthcare providers, elected officials and decision makers at the local State and Federal level to address these issues. With Reclaiming the Sierra we’ve now brought the public and experts together to discuss the past, the present, and more importantly what we can do moving forward in dealing with California’s oldest and longest neglected environmental disaster.”

As we announced at the close of the Summit on Tuesday evening we are moving into the second phase of this project in an effort to implement practical solutions to the problems we’ve been pointing out with our work on our Mining’s Toxic Legacy Initiative and work with our current and hopefully an increasing number future partners and allies moving forward into Reclaiming the Sierra.  Conference proceedings, PowerPoint presentations, and more will be available online by December 1.

On Monday afternoon, Jane Hightower, M.D., widely acknowledged as the first U.S. physician to recognize low-level mercury poisoning in patients who regularly consume certain types of fish and author of Diagnosis: Mercury: Money, Politics, and Poison, explained to a packed house from a medical perspective why and how exposure to even small amounts of mercury can cause both acute and chronic health issues.

On Monday evening at a special reception three individuals were honored with the “Sierra Crest Award” to visionary leaders helping communities reclaim the Sierra.  The first annual recipients of this award are:  Nevada Irrigation District (NID) General Manager Ron Nelson for NID’s work on mercury removal from its Combie Reservoir on the Bear River; California Indian Environmental Alliance (CIEA) Executive Director Sherri Norris for her work on educating native women and tribal people about the dangers of consuming fish contaminated with mercury; and Dr. Charles Alpers of the United States Geological Survey for his ongoing scientific work related to mercury throughout the Sierra Nevada.

Historical geographer and visiting scholar in the U.C. Berkeley Department of Geography, Gray Brechin author of many books including Imperial San Francisco: Urban Power, Earthly Ruin, brought the history of those who gained power through Sierra resources including mining, ranching, water and energy to life during a riveting keynote presentation on Tuesday morning.

The two day conference concluded with an afternoon long “Community Summit” where all in attendance worked together to help set the agenda for next steps in moving forward on the Policy, Technology/Remediation, Human Health and Outreach components of Reclaiming the Sierra.

Thank you to Reclaiming the Sierra sponsors including the Rose Foundation, Sierra Nevada Conservancy, Tsi Akim Maidu Tribe, Sierra Health Foundation, Holdredge and Kull, City of Nevada City, City of Grass Valley, Larry Walker Associates, Flower Essence Services, Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences CSU Chico, A.A. Rich Associates, California Conference of Directors of Environmental Health, California Indian Environmental Alliance, Geocon Inc., Sierra Nevada Alliance, Teichert Materials, CABY IRWMP, Center for Creative Land Recycling, Emma Nevada House, Sierra Institute, Shute, Mihaly and Weinberger, Solution Mining Inc., Veridico Group Inc, South Yuba River Citizens League, Armrod Charitable Foundation, PEW Charitable Trusts, Chico Environmental Science and Planning, Wolf Creek Community Alliance, Burdick and Co.  A BIG thank you as well to the many volunteers for helping to make this summit not only possible but a great success!