noun | stew·ard·ship | \ˈstü-ərd-ˌship, ˈstyü-; ˈst(y)u̇rd-\
the responsible overseeing and protection of something considered worth caring for and preserving
Our Mission Statement
To implement collaborative volunteer-driven conservation projects in the Southern Sierra Nevada watersheds and within 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 balance between diverse natural places and communities; nature’s perfection is left untrammeled and communities understand their dependance on it, take direct action to protect it, and utilize it with reverence and respect. We desire that the nexus of culture and environment is fostered and regained - a nature ethic that will spread locally, regionally, and worldwide.
Located within the southern Sierra Nevada mountain range 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 while doing what they loved - being in the mountains-- 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 community benefits organization 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' programs 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)
- Northern California Environmental Grassroots Fund
- California Wildlands Grassroots Fund
- Disadvantaged Communiites Grant - Rose Foundation
- Southern California Edison
- Steven Brye
- Tulare County Youth Commission
- United Way of Tulare County
- United States Forest Service
- Youth Outside
- Edison International