A year-old public lands partnership coordination program has become the latest victim of federal cutbacks, ceasing day-to-day operations as of Wednesday.
The Public Lands Partnership Program (PLPP), which represented a partnership of the non-profit Eastern Sierra Interpretive Association (ESIA), Inyo National Forest (INF), and the Bishop Field Office of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), was created to assist agencies in educational, historic, scientific, and interpretive activities undertaken on public lands throughout the Eastern Sierra.
One example of a project facilitated by the PLPP is a recently completed X Corps summer program, which brought 6 students from around the country to the Eastern Sierra to learn about conservation and stewardship in a region none had visited before. The crew of students traveled from Manzanar to Bodie, learning from presentations and hands-on projects like meadow and riparian habitat restoration.
“We’re getting a very diverse experience in the Eastern Sierra working with so many agencies and groups,” said student participant Chris Niebuhr, who hailed from New York. “It’s good for everyone on the crew to see the different approaches by the difference agencies toward land management and conservation.”
“Every one of those kids want to come back,” said former PLPP Program Coordinator Lisa Isaacs.
The PLPP was also at work on a partnership database, or “information storage project,” as Isaacs put it. The database took shape from interviews with 70 organizations in the area about what they do and what their needs are. Isaacs hopes to use this information to facilitate further collaborations and partnerships.
Now that PLPP has lost its federal funding, it’s up to ESIA and PLPP partners to try to locate secure and sustainable funding elsewhere. “You cannot rely on government funding anymore,” said Isaacs; “you just can’t. You also can’t rely on grants from year to year, either.” Still, she said, “I have hope.”
In the meantime, ESIA, INF, and the BLM are committed to organizing an annual partnership forum to keep the ball rolling. The forum, to be held sometime in Oct., will double as a celebration of ESIA’s 40 year anniversary. In an ironic twist, ESIA was recognized just last winter by INF as public lands partner of the year due to its efforts in coordinating the PLPP.
Isaacs maintains the need for a program like the PLPP in the Eastern Sierra. “Given what we are up against, it appeared inevitable” that the PLPP would lose funding, she said. “However, there are many great programs underway on our public lands and we all believe an organized partnership program can bring even greater value to these efforts.”