The foothills of the iconic Sierra Nevada—the California gold fields—are linked to California’s way of life and sense of place, as well as tied to the history of our nation. To many Californians, the natural resources of the Sierran foothills are emblematic of our state—grasslands golden in the summer sun mingling with rolling oak woodlands. Nonetheless, this iconic California landscape is not well protected, but rather is severely threatened by residential sprawl that has the potential to permanently compromise its conservation values. Less than 10% of the oak woodlands and grasslands in the Sierra Nevada foothills are protected, and the value of these conservation investments relies on maintaining the lands’ integrity and ecosystem functions by buffering them from development and maintaining connections to other intact areas. The current downturn in the real estate market provides a window of opportunity to protect some of the last uncompromised areas of the northern Sierra foothills using conservation tools such as fee title acquisitions, conservation easements, and land management agreements.

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