Feature: Living Lightly in Eastern Madera County

With the influx of new people moving to our area from urban settings, the Yosemite/ Sequoia Resource Conservation and Development Council (Y/S RC&D) and its many partners recognized a need to educate new residents about important natural resource issues affecting southern Sierra Nevada foothill and mountain communities.

Urban interface issues, and the need to reduce the threat of catastrophic fires to the communities, were key motivations for the Resource Conservation Districts, Tribal Governments, Fire Safe Councils, other environmental and community organizations, and the Y/S RC&D Council that brought them together to find ways to educate residents about resource needs.

Other key resource issues included degradation of water quality, reduced water availability, invasive non-native plants, soil erosion, human impacts on wildlife habitat, increased conflicts with wildlife, declining forest health, and poor air quality. Critical social issues included: conflicts between neighbors, increasing insurance costs, growing fire suppression costs, and health care costs relating to asthma and lung problems.

To address these challenges, the Y/S RC&D began searching for funding to develop a handbook that introduced these critical issues in easy to understand terms and provided sources for additional information. The Y/S RC&D was also committed to providing a template for other organizations to use in developing similar information for different areas.

Thanks to generous funding from the Madera County Resource Advisory Committee and the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and in-kind assistance from Sierra National Forest, Coarsegold Resource Conservation District, Central Sierra Watershed Committee, Mariposa County Resource Conservation District, Sierra Resource Conservation District, and many other partners, "Welcome to the Foothills, a Guide to Living Lightly..." became a reality for Eastern Madera, Mariposa and Fresno Counites.

Topics covered in "Welcome to the Foothills..." include:

“The booklet is designed to share information with residents on simple things that they can do on their property to promote healthy ecosystems,” says Robyn Smith, Y/S RC&D coordinator. "Welcome to the Foothills..."  is currently being distributed to new residents through local realtors, homeowner associations, chambers of commerce, and others who have contact with people coming to our area. Demand for this publication grows daily. Funding to reproduce the Madera, Mariposa and Fresno County versions and create the new Tulare County booklet is being provided by the Sierra Nevada Conservancy.

Currently, we are working with partners to find funding and to produce a Tulare County version. Central Sierra and Mojave Desert Mountain RC&Ds, and several Resource Conservation Districts (RCDs) and Fire Safe Councils are utilizing this template to create similar booklets for their areas.