Sierra Meadows Rx

What comes to mind when you glimpse a mountain meadow?  Is it awe, tranquility, the urge to grab your fishing gear and go?

What you may not know is that these meadows are also key elements of our nation’s water infrastructure.

Healthy meadows in the Sierra Nevada soak up flood flows and slowly release the water back into streams during California’s long summer drought.

They protect lands downstream from the Sierra’s annual cycle of very wet winters followed by very dry summers.

Meadows have buffered these weather extremes for millennia, and, as climate change brings more variable weather, the benefits of healthy meadows will become even more important.

Yet, currently the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation [PDF] estimates that more than half of Sierra meadows are not providing the benefits they should.

American Rivers, in partnership with the Tahoe National Forest, has developed a tool to rapidly evaluate a meadow’s health and identify critical restoration needs.

So far, the tool has been applied throughout two Sierra watersheds, and results are being used to help these critical areas recover. Findings will also be reported this Friday at the Ecological Society of America’s annual conference.

Health assessment and planning tools are one part of American Rivers’ campaign to help restore the Sierra’s hard working meadows.

What’s your favorite meadow memory? I’ll bet, whether it’s wildflowers, a rare bird, or a burger from grass-fed beef, your story will be tied to the unique way a meadow stores water.