Science for a Blue Planet

Featuring cutting-edge work, discoveries, and challenges of our scientists, our partners, and the larger conservation science community.

Scaling Up Mountain Meadow Restoration

One year ago, we announced that California’s Wildlife Conservation Board had awarded Point Blue a $24.7 million block grant to support and scale up the work of the Sierra Meadows Partnership (SMP). The SMP, which Point Blue chairs, is an established coalition of organizations working to restore and protect Sierra meadows. Over the past twelve months, our team has been busy developing and evaluating potential projects, deepening relationships with partners, and getting financial and technical support out into the field where it can make a difference.

California mountain meadow. Photo by Garrett Costello, Symbiotic Restoration.

But let’s back up a minute. Why is restoring meadows a priority to begin with? Healthy mountain meadows clean and store water, sequester carbon, provide wildlife habitat, and offer significant cultural and recreational benefits (click here to learn lots more about the importance of mountain meadows). Unfortunately, of the estimated 280,000 acres of Sierra meadows, ~50% are degraded and climate change and development continue to threaten remaining healthy meadows.

Through our partnership with the WCB, we are working to restore 6,000 acres of meadow habitat, complete planning for an additional 4,000 acres, and identify the next 2,500 acres of meadows to prioritize for future restoration.

Projects selected to date for funding by the SMP Grant Program include: 14 meadow restoration implementation projects ($8.5 million awarded) 13 meadow restoration planning projects ($4.1 million awarded) 10 technical assistance projects ($2.3 million awarded)

Launched in March 2023, the Sierra Meadows Partnership Grant Program has already completed five successful project selection cycles in March, May, July, and November of 2023 and February 2024. Across all rounds, the SMP Management Board reviewed 55 project applications for a total funding request of $25 million. Thirty-seven projects were selected for funding, totaling nearly $15 million of SMP funds and leveraging $5.5 million in cost share brought by SMP grantees. And with $1.6 million already awarded to indigenous-led projects and tribal involvement in non-indigenous-led projects across the Sierra Nevada, we’re well on our way to exceeding our $2 million goal for supporting these communities. Increasing authentic engagement and inclusion of indigenous groups, who have historically had barriers to accessing restoration and conservation funding, in meadow restoration and conservation is a core strategy of this program.

As an example of an implementation project, the South Yuba River Citizens League (SYRCL) received SMP block grant funding for the Haskell Peak Meadows Restoration Project located in the headwaters of the North Fork of the Yuba River. With this funding, SYRCL restored hydrologic function in five degraded meadows, totaling 229 acres, using beaver dam analogs (BDAs) and post assisted log structures (PALS) to raise water levels in eroded channels and the surrounding water table. Members of the United Auburn Indian Community participated in the restoration through a weeklong training on BDA and PALS construction.

Biologist conducting a meadow plant survey. Photo courtesy of South Yuba River Citizens League.

Planning support is designed to help projects get “shovel-ready.” As one example, Point Blue is planning restoration on Goodrich Creek Home Ranch, a 160-acre section of meadow in the larger 7,000-acre Mountain Meadows complex in the Feather River headwaters. The project is being designed following Point Blue’s Climate Smart Framework for Meadow Restoration and, once implemented, will have multiple benefits, including increasing habitat for sensitive species, restoring hydrologic function, increasing carbon sequestration, and improving the meadow’s resilience to a changing climate. Located at the intersection of the Sierra and Cascade ranges, the meadow is already a hotspot for biodiversity, and if restored is expected to support populations of Willow Flycatcher, Sandhill Crane, and Yellow Warbler.

As an example of a technical assistance grant, Point Blue and members of the SMP Management Board worked with California Open Lands, an indigenous-led non-profit, to support the development of a project to train indigenous groups in the use of Indigenous Traditional Ecological Knowledge (ITEK) to restore and manage Sierra meadows. This project will support greater integration of place-based ITEK in Sierra meadow restoration and conservation by engaging indigenous practitioners in educating and demonstrating the multiple benefits of Indigenous stewardship in meadow restoration. The project will build an ITEK-certified workforce that will be immediately available for implementation of restoration and stewardship projects in this bioregion and strengthen the quality and availability of Indigenous cultural resources for food, fiber, and medicine from Sierra meadows.

You can explore our Sierra Meadows Partnership grant program StoryMap to learn more about each of these projects and others as well.

It’s thrilling to put our decades of experience in climate smart restoration, restoration design and implementation, ecological monitoring, and partnership building to use. We can’t wait to see what the next three years of meadow restoration bring!

We’re honored that the State of California has entrusted Point Blue and the SMP to steward these resources through our partnership with the WCB.