Stewardship is defined as the responsible overseeing and protection of something considered worth caring for and preserving. Those of us who live in or have visited the foothills and have experienced the extraordinary beauty of the Sierra Nevada Mountains know, without question, that this unique corner of the world is worth caring for and preserving.
We also know that people need to continue to have the opportunity to connect with this land and its inhabitants, which means we must create a means for that connection to develop. It is from this understanding that WildPlaces was born.
Located in Porterville, California near the Giant Sequoia National Monument, WildPlaces officially began in 2001 as a project, not an organization, initiated by a group of close friends. It wasn’t long before these friends, and their friends, became dedicated volunteers who would work tirelessly for years to restore and enhance a number of habitats in the southern Sierra while engaging the many diverse communites who benefit from Nature’s free resources: clean air, clean water, biodiversity, recreation, connection to spirit and more.
Later in 2001, WildPlaces was established as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization under the fiscal sponsorship of Social and Environmental Entreprenuers (SEE) with permanence in the southern Sierra. Recognitions and awards soon followed. Partnerships and bridges between seemingly opposing interests were built. The development of funding strategies, staff, Board of Directors, and membership continues today as the foundation for our future success.
Over the years, thousands of native plants have been planted, miles of rivers improved, thousands of volunteers and youth organized, and hundreds of acres of meadows, forests and woodlands restored; all of which are conducted on single and multi-day events throughout the year. Students of all ages are brought from major cities like Los Angeles, Fresno, Bakersfield, and Sacramento as well as the often-marginalized and disadvantaged communities of the San Joaquin Valley like Porterville, Strathmore, London, Alpaugh, Arvin, and Lamont. All are brought into the magical groves of Giant Sequoia, oak woodlands, meadows, grasslands, and the riparian habitats of local rivers to help restore damaged and endangered habitat, improve water quality, increase biodiversity, and gain a connection to Nature.
Their teachers, parents, and the students themselves tell us over and over how their lives are changed by their experience with WildPlaces. Through all of these activities, real needs are being met with very modest financial resources while providing enormous social, environmental, and spiritual capital.
Although WildPlaces has endured the challenges of limited (initial) local buy-in, scarce financial resources, second-hand equipment, borrowed tools, no pay, and economic and environmental hard times, it has persevered and is now a shining example of how a few concerned people caring for the land will, without doubt, succeed wildly.
Today our mission is still to preserve, support, and protect the natural and rural places of the southern Sierra Nevada while supporting the peoples of these landscapes through volunteer-driven habitat restoration, natural and cultural education, and career development.
We believe that anyone can and should be a part of the world’s wild places.
D. Mehmet McMillan