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Shaping the Sierra

Shaping the Sierra: Nature, Culture, and Conflict in the Changing West

Timothy P. Duane
Copyright Date: 1999
Edition: 1
Pages: 623
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  • Book Info
    Shaping the Sierra
    Book Description:

    The rural west is at a crossroads, and the Sierra Nevada is at the center of this social and economic change. The Sierra Nevada landscape has always been valued for its bounty of natural resource commodities, but new residents and an ever-growing flood of tourists to the area have transformed the relationship between the region's nature and its culture. In an engaging narrative that melds the personal with the professional, Timothy P. Duane—who grew up in the area—documents the impact of rapid population growth on the culture, economy, and ecology of the Sierra Nevada since the late 1960s. He also recommends innovative policies for mitigating the negative effects of future population growth in this spectacular but threatened region, as well as throughout the rural west. Today, the primary social and economic values of the Sierra Nevada landscape are in the amenities and ecological services provided by its wildlands and functioning ecosystems. Duane shows how further unfettered population growth threatens the very values which have made the Sierra Nevada a desirable place to live and work. A new approach to land use planning, resource management, and local economic development—one that recognizes the emerging values of the landscape—is necessary in order to achieve sustainable development, Duane claims. Weaving personal experience with outstanding scholarship, he shows how such an approach must explicitly recognize the importance of values and the application of an environmental land ethic to future development in the area.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-92614-1
    Subjects: Biological Sciences

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-ix)
    (pp. x-xiii)
    (pp. xiv-xxiii)
    (pp. xxiv-xxvi)
    (pp. xxvii-xxviii)
  7. CHAPTER ONE The Range of Light
    (pp. 1-36)

    Little Deer Creek slips off the northwest slope of 3,899-foot Banner Mountain, gathering a trickle of light snow and rain on its journey to the sea. Dipping down through a transition zone forest, its waters are cooled in the shade of ponderosa pine, Douglas fir, incense cedar, black oak, madrone, manzanita, and ceanothus. Spring brings the glorious bloom of the dogwood, only to see the white petals beaten to the ground with a late April rain. Deep in the shadows where the sun rarely shines, the snow lingers longer to water an occasional big-leafed maple. A brilliant explosion of color...

  8. CHAPTER TWO Theoretical Foundations
    (pp. 37-72)

    Over the many years that I have worked on this book, I at first presumed that better information would lead to better decisions.¹ I implicitly definedbetterto mean leading to outcomes that did not degrade the things I valued, so my values are an important part of the equation. More specifically, I thought that our failure to mitigate the negative effects of growth was the result of an inability to understand the negative consequences of our actions. My experience since then has revealed political power as a critical determinant of , whether, how, and when information is used in...

  9. CHAPTER THREE The Exodus to Exurbia
    (pp. 73-121)

    My family first came to Nevada County in 1970 during a visit to my grandparents, who had just moved to the area. My grandfather, who managed the Base Exchanges at Beale, Mather, and McClellan Air Force Bases in the Sacramento area, made Beale Air Force Base his headquarters, located just across the county line in Yuba County. They settled on five acres of land in the peaceful agricultural community of Penn Valley. Their land was a mix of pastureland and oaks, with rolling terrain surrounding the flat plain of the valley.

    One day we drove up Highway 20 to visit...

  10. CHAPTER FOUR Economics and the Environment
    (pp. 122-158)

    I am looking out my window at the first day of spring. The California black oak trees are now leafing out with a touch of light green, following the lead of the California buckeyes. The buckeyes beat everyone to the punch when they sprang open six weeks ago. They also dropped their leaves six weeks before the oaks, however, which gave them roughly an equal period of winter dormancy. Each relies on different thresholds of light, warmth, and precipitation. The oaks out my western window are more ambitious than those on the north slope, for they receive a stronger dose...

  11. CHAPTER FIVE Ecotransformation and Amenity Values
    (pp. 159-194)

    John Casey is an experienced businessman who has spent his entire life in the wood products industry. He grew up in Oregon and then moved to the tiny town of Camptonville, California, after he married Claire South. John’s father owned Sierra Mountain Mills, and they lived there when their oldest daughter, Kathleen, was just a baby. Within a decade they had a nice house on the lower part of Banner Mountain with a view of Nevada City and a swimming pool. John commuted to the mill every day over winding Highway 49, and every night a couple of Sierra Mountain...

  12. CHAPTER SIX The Fragmented Landscape
    (pp. 195-250)

    My brother Danny and I were heading down to our tree house when we came across the stakes and flagging. Our bikes slid to a stop and we hopped off. I was twelve and Danny was ten years old at the time. We regularly took this trail to the home of some friends, where we had built a tree house the previous summer. We dubbed ourselves the “Squirrel Patrol,” and had the usual collection of secret signs and rituals for membership. The only members were my brother, my older sister, Terrie, myself, and our friends Robin and Tracy MacDonald. The...

  13. CHAPTER SEVEN Politics and Property
    (pp. 251-295)

    The First Amendment to the United States Constitution proclaims the separation of church and state, but there is a thematic center to our Culture that transcends religious, ethnic, racial, and spiritual differences. That common theme is a seemingly unquestioned belief that growth is good and the individual matters more than the community.¹ Growth is now God in America, and we worship it at an altar called economic progress. Economists are the new religion’s clergy, and they hide the secrets of the faith in complex econometric models and a language not all that different from the Latin that once baffled my...

  14. CHAPTER EIGHT Managing Exurban Growth
    (pp. 296-336)

    There are a wide range of policies available to manage population growth and mitigate the effects of human settlement in the Sierra Nevada. The appropriateness of specific policies depends on the consequences of concern, however, as well as the specific relationship between human settlement and its effects. A particular settlement pattern might, for example, have a significant effect upon native nesting songbirds that can primarily be traced to the presence of domestic dogs and cats. Alternative settlement patterns might all have a similar effect, therefore, while alternative pet management regimes could mitigate the effects on native nesting songbirds. In contrast,...

  15. CHAPTER NINE Planning and Politics
    (pp. 337-385)

    My grandparents’ move to Penn Valley opened the door to Nevada County and exposed me to the earliest stages of the ecotransformation. The process was already under way by the time our family arrived for our first visit. Interstate 80 had been completed in 1964, creating four-lane access for commuters and tourists to the foothills and the Lake Tahoe region. The Golden Center Freeway then opened with great fanfare the day after New Year’s in 1970 to connect Grass Valley and Nevada City, following much of the path of the old Nevada County Narrow Gauge Railroad. It sliced right through...

  16. CHAPTER TEN Habitats and Humanity
    (pp. 386-424)

    The March 1996 election changed the face of Nevada County politics, but it did not end the debate over the general plan. All efforts now turned to the rezoning effort following Van Zant’s election, for the lame-duck majority still had nine months to make policy before Van Zant would replace Wilcox-Foster on the board of supervisors. The focal point of the new battle was the build-out estimates for the general plan: which “carrying capacity” of allowable population would guide zoning decisions under the new general plan? The ensuing debate illustrates how technically complex land use and environmental planning analyses can...

  17. CHAPTER ELEVEN Reinhabiting the West
    (pp. 425-470)

    The mud is thick and the rain is hard, and visibility is down to less than a few hundred feet. Misty rain drifts by the window and across the canyon in waves, suddenly gusting in a full-force attack on the side of the house. Every square inch on the deck is soaked. To anyone who has moved to western Nevada County in the past eight years, this is an unfamiliar experience. It reminds me of winters past, however, when I sat by the fire in the living room as the thunder and lightning crashed among the pine trees and rolled...

  18. NOTES
    (pp. 471-504)
    (pp. 505-566)
  20. INDEX
    (pp. 567-595)
  21. Back Matter
    (pp. 596-598)