Sierra Institute celebrates its renaissance

Current staffing at the Sierra Institute might be at an all-time high. This photo was taken right before the open house in Taylorsville. Front row, from left: Ashley Bomar, Camille Swezy, Amy Hafsrud, Kaily Bourg and Dobby dog. Middle row, from left: Ramsey and baby, Guy Harvey; Lauren Burton and Lauren Miller. Back row, from left: Luis Mayberry, Courtney Gomola, Brooke Huffman, John Owen, Kyle Rodgers and Jonathan Kusel. Not pictured are Vince Rogers and Miranda Fitch. Photo submitted

The Sierra Institute for Community and Environment has a good deal to celebrate and showcase — which is exactly what the employees of Sierra Institute did April 21, on a sunny afternoon in downtown Taylorsville.

People gathered on the lawn between the Sierra Institute buildings and the Taylorsville Tavern for a picnic, kids’ craft activities and the chance to talk with staff about the various projects being undertaken by Sierra Institute these days.

Not everyone in Taylorsville and Indian Valley knows exactly what it is Sierra Institute does. At one point when they moved across the street several years ago — and they moved by hand-carrying computers across the street, some folks thought maybe it was a computer business. Who knew?

These days though, the combination of longevity of the nonprofit, coupled with an innovative young staff and solid grant acquisitions, have made the once skeletal staff much more robust with programs of all kinds to address the needs of the community and environment.

The biggest celebration was this month’s winning business plan proposal spearheaded by Camille Swezy — Sierra Institute’s biomass program associate. The Barrett Foundation Business Concept Challenge award for $100,000 will go toward the biomass facility in Crescent Mills, which Sierra Institute is planning to develop on an old mill site.

Swezy and Sierra Institute director Jonathan Kusel flew to Washington D.C. to receive the award and mingle among heads of various agencies and organizations including Forest Service chief Craig Barrett.Sierra Institute’s winning proposal combines California’s continuous push for alternative energy markets with Plumas County’s natural resources. The idea behind the competition was to provide solutions to challenges facing national forests in the 21st century.

Biomass facilities are not the only things heating up over at the Sierra Institute.

Sierra Institute’s Ashley Bomar, the P-CREW organizer, just returned from a GOAL trip to Oregon with 30 miles of hiking she organized for Indian Valley teens.

Courtney Gomala and Luis Mayberry have been busy at Indian Valley Elementary School getting kids ready and excited for the science fair and their science fair projects.

At the Sierra Institute open house April 21, Luis Mayberry recreates a demonstration that he did during the Fire Institute program with Greenville High School and Indian Valley Academy. Photo by Maggie Wells

Earlier in the semester, Sierra Institute partnered…

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