California Sierra Nevada > Foreword


For many people, the Sierra Nevada—California’s Range of Light—is the most conspicuous, if not revered geographic feature in the Golden State. In Spanish, sierra means “jagged range” and nevada means “snowed upon.” Stretching roughly from Lassen Volcanic National Park in the north to the Inyo and Sequoia national forests in the south and from the oak woodlands of its western foothills to its eastern juncture with the Great Basin, the Sierra Nevada is one of the largest mountain ranges in the world.

Ever since the Spanish Franciscan missionary Pedro Font looked east from San Francisco and saw a great white range, the Sierra Nevada has been looked to for inspiration. For some, the range is best known for places like the incomparable Yosemite Valley, Mount Whitney, and the cobalt blue Lake Tahoe. For others, the Sierra Nevada evokes thoughts of a storied history, marked by events such as the Gold Rush and people like members of the Donner Party and Ishi—the last California Indian living in the wild.

Much of the Sierra Nevada—almost 13 million acres—is public land owned by the American people and is found within 10 national forests and Yosemite, Sequoia-Kings Canyon, and Lassen Volcanic national parks.

The Sierra Nevada range is also home to a rapidly growing population. As a result, the economy of the Sierra is rapidly becoming robust, diverse, and far more resilient than in the past. Friendly communities, high quality of life, open space, and outdoor recreation are drawing new residents, new businesses, and new wealth to the Sierra.

These changes will bring new challenges. What will the future hold for the Sierra Nevada? As Kevin Starr, the respected California state librarian has said, “Once again, as in the past, the Sierra Nevada challenges us to ask basic questions. Are we worthy of these great mountains, rivers, and lakes? Or is ours a long nightmare of wasteful consumption and improper stewardship? One hundred and fifty years ago the Sierra Nevada awed mankind into humility and silence. Today, it is time for men and women to begin a new dialogue with the Range of Light: a dialogue based upon the knowledge that the mountains that have inspired so much appreciation can also be lost.”

To know the Sierra is to love the Sierra. And it is through knowing an area that a sense of place is attained. And it is a sense of place that leads to wise management and good stewardship. The Longstreet Highroad Guide to the Sierra Nevada by Mark Grossi will help bring about a new understanding of the Sierra Nevada, a new sense of place so important to its future.

—Jay Thomas Watson, California/Nevada Regional Director, The Wilderness Society

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