noun | stew·ard·ship | \ˈstü-ərd-ˌship, ˈstyü-; ˈst(y)u̇rd-\
the responsible overseeing and protection of something considered worth caring for and preserving
Those of us who live in or 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. Whether from a recreationist perspective, an economic one, health, biodiversity, agriculture, we all benefit from the free services that Nature provides. Well, the free ride might be over. With declining water quality and quantity, climate disruption, declining species diversity and all of the rest that humans contribute, a few of us now must take the extra responsibility and do good by Nature.
We also know that people need to continue having the opportunity to connect with this land, which means we must create a means for that connection to develop. The disconnect from Nature has somehow disconnected our spirit from the land , rivers, and each other while causing damage to habitat, closure of public areas, and wildfires that threaten everything. It is from the recognition that people, given a nudge, will regain their sense of place and their responsibility to the land that WildPlaces was born.
To implement collaborative volunteer-driven conservation projects in the Southern Sierra Nevada watersheds and withn its diverse communities. In order to inspire a renewed reverence to Nature, we facilitate personal responsibility through volunteer-driven land and water stewardship projects that incorporate art, culture, activism, and science.
We envision a balanced and diverse world ecosystem, where Nature’s perfection is left untrammeled and communities are aware of and take direct action in the long-term preservation, health, and sustainability of all natural and wild places. We desire that the nexus of culture and environment is fostered and regained-- a nature ethic that will spread locally, regionally, and worldwide.
Located all over the southern Sierra Nevada Mountains in California, WildPlaces began in 2001 as a project, not an organization, initiated by Mehmet McMillan and a group of close friends recreating in the Sierra. This motley crew of volunteers wanted to contribute time and love into restorative actions, and it wasn’t long before these friends, and their friends, became dedicated volunteers who would work tirelessly for years to restore and enhance large and small native and rural habitats in the southern Sierra Nevada. Engaging the many diverse communities within those watersheds who benefit from Nature’s free resources (clean air, water, biodiversity, recreation, connection to spirit, and more) became increasingly and very quickly important to WildPlaces as a means to increase effectiveness by increasing numbers of volunteers on the ground and doing the work needed.
Later that year, WildPlaces’ actions gained traction and media coverage moving the organization to be established as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization under the fiscal sponsorship of Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs (SEE). With permanence now in the southern Sierra, recognition and awards soon followed. Partnerships and bridges between seemingly opposing interests were built. Organizations not traditionally considered part of the environmental movement became part of the movement. The development of funding strategies, staff, a Board of Advisers, and membership continues today as the foundation for our future success.
Over the years, tens of thousands of native plants have been planted, miles of rivers improved, thousands of volunteers and youth organized, dozens of wildlife and plant species tracked and monitored, 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 East 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 not only restore damaged and endangered habitat and improve water quality and biodiversity; but to also gain a connection to nature and improve the people internally so they can find a happiness that results in reverence for Nature. Simple, right?
The teachers, parents, and the students themselves tell us over and over how their lives are changed by their experience outdoors 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.
We believe that anyone can and should be a part of the world’s wild places. Ask how you can join a movement in progress and one that doesn’t want to leave you behind.
WildPlaces program and projects are made possible by foundations, agencies, ethical companies and individuals who adhere to a nature ethic: .
- California Rural Legal Assistance (The Fund for Rural Equity)
- California Wildlands Grassroots Fund
- Community Leadership Partnership (Hewlett, Packard and Irvine Foundations)
- Disadvantaged Communities Grant
- Dolores Huerta Foundation
- National Forest Foundation (MAP and Capacity Programs) is a private, nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization chartered by Congress and engages America in community-based programs that promote the health and public enjoyment of the 193-million-acre National Forest System and administers private gifts of funds and land for the benefit of the National Forests. The NFF believes that communities should play a significant role in determining the future of National Forests and Grasslands.
- Northern California Environmental Grassroots Fund
- Rose Foundation
- Sequoia National Forest
- Southern California Edison
- Steven Brye
- Tulare County Youth Commission
- United Way of Tulare County
- United States Forest Service
- Youth Outside