noun | stew·ard·ship | \ˈstü-ərd-ˌship, ˈstyü-; ˈst(y)u̇rd-\ the responsible overseeing and protection of something worth caring for and preserving
noun | fun | \ˈfən-\ playful often boisterous action or speech
noun | rev·er·ence | \ ˈrev-rən(t)s , ˈre-vərn(t)s \ Deep and profound respect
Our Mission Statement
To implement collaborative, volunteer-driven habitat conservation projects in the southern Sierra Nevada watersheds and inspire the regions diverse communities to become protectors and stewards of wild places, thereby renewing our reverence for Nature through art, culture, activism, and science.
We envision an elevated, protected, and revered relationship between a healthy planet and dynamic communities--one where a nature ethic exits that is so profound it 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 diverse crew of volunteers wanted to contribute time and love into restorative actions while doing what they loved - being in the mountains and being with friends. 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-scale habitat areas 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.
WildPlaces’ actions soon gained traction and, with media coverage and tireless outreach, moved the organization to be established as a 501(c)3 project under the fiscal sponsorship of Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs (SEE). With permanence in the southern Sierra, a few tools, some foundation and private money, and an old truck, recognition and awards followed. Partnerships and bridges between like and 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 grew-- the foundation for our success was laid.
Over the years, thousands of native plants were 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 conducted on single and multi-day, place-based 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 Sequoias, bio-rich oak woodlands, meadows, grasslands, and the riparian habitats of local rivers to help not restore damaged and endangered habitat and improve water quality and biodiversity. Also gained is a connection to nature that improves us internally so that we can find a happiness and a deep reverence for Nature.
"It is the magic that dreams are made of, and we do it one tree at a time", WildPlaces' Founder Mehmet McMillan says. "While the world around may seem full of problems, we find in the deep woods our place in the family of things."
The teachers, parents, and the students themselves tell us over and over how their lives are changed by experiencing the outdoors with WildPlaces. Real needs are 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", says past Program Manager Anne Taormina. "If you haven't joined the movement, then consider WildPlaces as the platform to change your corner of the world. Don't miss the FUN!"
WildPlaces' programs and projects are made possible by foundations, agencies, ethical companies and individuals who adhere to a nature ethic:
- California Rural Legal Assistance
- California Wilderness Coalition
- Community Leadership Partnership (Hewlett, Packard and Irvine Foundations)
- The Rose Foundation for Community and the Environment
- Dolores Huerta Foundation
- National Forest Foundation
- Southern California Edison
- Steven Brye
- Tulare County Youth Commission
- United Way of Tulare County
- United States Forest Service
- Edison International
- Bergen Farms Strathmore, California
- McMillan Brothers, LLC
- Lush Cosmetics Charitable Giving Program