Sierra Summit

Conversations and observations about California's mountains

April 29, 2010

April 27, 2010
Sierra Business Council `Vision 2020' winners announced

Vision 2020 Award Winners1.jpg

The Sierra Business Council has announced the winners of its Vision 2020 awards. The work of this year's honorees reflects some of the biggest challenges facing the range, from providing low-income housing in resort areas to thinning over-crowded, fire-prone forests to protecting rural areas from development. 

Meea Kang, president of Domus Development, was selected for her efforts to bring affordable housing to Kings Beach at Lake Tahoe where many Hispanic families now live in over-crowded conditions in trailers and apartments. 

Jim Turner, general manager of the Loyalton Co-Generation Plant and Keith Logan, principal in the firm Logan and Associates, were singled out for their work to develop renewable sources of wood energy (known as biomass) and help make Sierra forests more fire-resilient at the same time.

Reed Tollefson, manager of Audubon's California Kern River Preserve was selected for reaching out to private landowners and public agencies to preserve the rural nature of the area, and for his efforts at ecological restoration.

Finally, Michael Chrisman, former California Secretary for Natural Resources, was selected for his leadership on Sierra issues, including his role in the formation of the Sierra Nevada Conservancy in 2004. 

Based in Truckee, the Sierra Business Council is a nonprofit group of more than 700 members that works across the range to protect the environment, improve economic prosperity and community vitality and promote social fairness.

(Photo: From left to right, Michael Chrisman, Jim Logan, Meea Kang, Reed 

Tollefson, Jim Turner and Sierra Business Council president Steven Frisch.) 

April 26, 2010
Cattle contaminate high Sierra lakes and streams
cows from buckley.jpgIn case you missed it, my story about livestock grazing and water pollution in the high Sierra is well worth a look. 
The story examines the efforts of Robert Derlet, former director of the emergency room at the UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, to collect and analyze water samples from high Sierra lakes and streams over the past 10 years. In short, Derlet found U.S. Forest Service lands where cattle graze, including wilderness areas, were the most widely contaminated. He is using his findings - which have been published in peer-reviewed scientific journals - to call for the creation of up to five new national parks across the high Sierra. "This is where the water is the purest," he said. "This is what needs to be protected."
Anne Yost, regional rangeland program manager for the Forest Service, is skeptical. "You can prove a lot of different points with research," she said. Other scientific studies, she said, show the agency can successfully manage cattle in the high Sierra and protect water quality. 

 You can find the story at:

(Photo of cattle in the Stanislaus National Forest, north of Yosemite National Park, courtesy of John Buckley, Central Sierra Environmental Resource Center.)


April 23, 2010
A great glacier resource
lyell1.jpgScientists at Portland State University have assembled a wonderful website tracking the retreat of glaciers across the West, including the Sierra Nevada. This is a great tool for teachers, backpackers and anyone else interested in what's happening at the uppermost reaches of our mountains.

Countless stories have been written about glacial retreat. What makes the Portland State website fascinating is it shows you the retreat with contemporary and historical photos assembled on a timeline. A simple click takes you back in time - and shows you what our Sierra glaciers looked like a half century and more ago. It's fascinating - and I encourage you to check it out at: 

 Bottom line: Our glaciers, like Lyell in Yosemite National Park, show above, are retreating fast. 

April 2, 2010
Energy Star program vulnerable to fraud

ES_Logo 1.jpg

We all want to save energy. But a new
Government Accountability Office report has uncovered serious flaws with the
government's  Energy Star program,
which was established to identify products that lower energy costs and reduce
greenhouse gas emissions. 

Its logo is widespread on appliances and electronics today. But there's a catch: the government does not  verify manufacturer claims of energy savings - and that means products that carry the Energy Star logo may not be energy savers.

To prove this, the GAO set up bogus companies and submitted applications for Energy Star certification for 15 make-believe products. Most were approved, including - unbelievably - a gasoline-powered alarm clock the size of a small generator!

Many of the fictitious devices quickly appeared on a government web-site as official Energy Star products, including a computer monitor that was approved in just 30 minutes. Soon, real companies were calling the bogus GAO firms, wanting to buy the products based on their energy savings.

Obviously, this is not good. As the GAO pointed out in its report: "Our investigation found that companies can easily submit fictitious energy-efficiency claims in order to obtain Energy Star qualification for a broad range of consumer products."

ES_Logo 1.jpg

 To read the full report, go to:

About Sierra Summit

The Author
Tom Knudson lives in the Sierra Nevada and travels widely throughout the range. His hobbies include fly-fishing, backpacking and cross-country skiing. He is the recipient of numerous journalistic awards, including two Pulitzer Prizes, one for a 1992 Sacramento Bee series "Sierra in Peril," a watershed work about environmental threats to the mountain range. E-mail Tom at

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