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1 November 2007 The Sierra Nevada Lobby Day: Putting the “Range of Light” on the Map
Gilles Rudaz
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As many mountain scholars have already emphasized, advocacy of the specificity of mountain environments and communities at the international, national and regional levels is a decisive step towards sustainable mountain development. It is an essential task to stress the importance of mountains in the political arena. This short report gives an account of an original initiative: The Sierra Nevada Lobby Day.

This event, carried out on an annual basis, was held on 5 June 2007 and sponsored by The Sierra Fund and the Sierra Nevada Alliance. The former organization is a non-profit community foundation aiming “to support environmental conservation in the Sierra Nevada region.” The latter is an alliance of conservation groups, with a mission “to protect and restore the natural resources of the Sierra Nevada for future generations while promoting sustainable communities.” The event took place where decisions concerning the Sierra Nevada are made: in the California State Capitol in Sacramento (USA). In its essence, the Lobby Day welcomes any citizen concerned about the fate of the “Range of Light,” the name bestowed by the famous environmentalist John Muir, which became the common nickname for the Sierra. There were about thirty participants at the 2007 meeting, mainly members of organizations already active in the Sierra.

It is worth noting how this event was organized. First, a plenary session offered the participants a general overview of the issues in the Sierra and the main target objectives for the year. Second, a specialist in lobbying provided insights into this specific activity and tips for carrying it out. Third, small groups of from 2 to 4 newly proclaimed lobbyists were organized. Fourth, the groups went from door to door of the offices of the Senators and Assemblymen in the State Capitol (the elected representatives in the two Chambers of the California parliament), calling on them to plead the cause of the Sierra. Finally, the day ended with a debriefing for the participants regarding an evaluation of how the message transmitted was received.

The issue at stake for 2007 was the approval of the budget of the Sierra Nevada Conservancy. This California state agency, created in 2004, “initiates, encourages, and supports efforts that improve the environmental, economic, and social well-being of the Sierra Nevada Region, its communities and the citizens of California.” It covers an area of 25 million acres, all or part of 22 counties. The organization needed this money for its operations and to launch a grant support program (US$ 17.5 million of a global budget of US$ 21.6 million). The “day-lobbyists” gave a summary of projects oriented towards the protection and restoration of natural resources, ready to be implemented, and showing that the grants would be well invested. According to information compiled by The Sierra Fund, “in the last 5 years Sierra Nevada stakeholders have identified projects that would require close to one billion dollars.”

The Day was organized with this specific target objective in mind, but it appeared that the budget had been approved by a state commission the day prior to Sierra Nevada Lobby Day. Yet the general objective of this advocacy action—to put the Sierra Nevada on the minds and the agenda of decision-makers—still had to be achieved. During the debriefing, all groups highlighted the powerful communication tool—the map representing the entire mountain range.

In this context, 2 core messages were conveyed to the legislators:

  • The Sierra Nevada exists as an entity and matters!

  • All Californians are connected in one way or another to the Sierra Nevada!

The annual organization of Sierra Nevada Lobby Day illustrates that advocacy for the mountains is an ongoing and never-ending task.


Sierra Nevada Conservancy:

The Sierra Fund:

Sierra Nevada Alliance:

Gilles Rudaz "The Sierra Nevada Lobby Day: Putting the “Range of Light” on the Map," Mountain Research and Development 27(4), 375-376, (1 November 2007).
Published: 1 November 2007

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