Martis Valley, Sierra Valley featured in radio program airing nationally |

Martis Valley, Sierra Valley featured in radio program airing nationally

Provided to the SunCatherine Stifter interviewing Stefanie Olivieri at Martis Valley.

Listeners across the country are traveling over radio waves to the Sierra Nevada to listen to stories about rural communities preserving their natural environment and their ways of life despite urban development pressures.

The radio documentary, “Saving the Sierra: Grassroots solutions for sustaining rural communities,” is getting airtime on National Public Radio stations around the West.

The program visits the Sierra Valley where conservation easements are a valuable tool to preserve the land, and the Martis Valley where a development battle ended in agreements that are preserving large portions of the valley’s land today.

Producers Catherine Stifter and Jesikah Maria Ross spoke with Truckee locals Stefanie Olivieri, Nikki Riley and Steve Frisch about the Martis Valley and affordable housing.

And the producers paddled a canoe on Mono Lake, which provides water to sprawling Los Angeles and has seen the rise of a public stewardship movement to preserve its waters.

“What people are doing in the Sierra Nevada is certainly trend-setting and inspirational,” Ross said. “Providing really solid models that can be used by people across the country.”

Development pressures on rural areas is a reoccurring theme not just in the Sierra Nevada, but across the nation, evident in the documentary’s expansive air time on radio stations in Oregon, Montana, Pennsylvania, Canada and beyond.

“If you are within a couple hours of a major city and you’re in a rural area, chances are you’re experiencing these same issues,” Ross said. “And that’s why this documentary is resonating across the country.”

Stifter said they wanted to focus the documentary on positive stories, where communities came together to overcome development conflicts.

“Our documentary offers some solutions,” Stifter said. “We’re not saying do this, do that. What we’re really saying to people is sit down, talk to each other and try to figure it out.”

The producers interviewed Truckee resident Stefanie Olivieri in 2006 about her involvement with the Martis Valley litigation and the Mountain Area Preservation Foundation. While Olivieri took the producers snowshoeing up the valley, she spoke about how the settlement provided a stream of funding for open space acquisition, affordable housing and habitat restoration.

“What we learned and what we would advise other areas that are facing the same challenges of development is to try to make the land owner a partner right away,” Olivieri said in a phone interview Thursday. “A partner in your cause, right away.”

Olivieri said she was impressed by the documentary and honored to be a part of the project. She agreed that the documentary will spread the lessons learned in Martis Valley to other rural areas across the nation.

“I think that was the purpose,” she said. “And I think that will definitely be the result.”

To compliment the radio segment, the Truckee-based Sierra Business Council created an online tool kit intended to promote further listener involvement in their own local issues.

“Give [listeners] an opportunity to get directly involved,” said President Steve Frisch. “It’s not enough to just listen and understand. If you really understand the scope of the issues that the region faces, everyone should get involved. And we should all be part of the solution.”

Frisch, who was also interviewed in the documentary, involved the Sierra Business Council in the documentary’s national promotion.

“Largely because we think that this issue of applying new practices to common problems is really where we should be going,” he said. “That as a society, this is what we need to do.”

And the documentary’s message has seemed to hit home. Stifter said listeners are writing to tell their own stories, many of which are posted on their Web site,

“The stories are coming our way,” Stifter said. “And we know there’s so many stories to be told.”

“Saving the Sierra: Grassroots solutions for sustaining rural communities” will be aired on Saturday, April 19 at 2 p.m. on KQED, 88.5 FM in San Francisco and 89.3 FM in Sacramento. It will also air on Tuesday, April 22 at 1 p.m. on KVMR, 89.5 FM in Nevada City and 105.1 in the Truckee Tahoe region.

The words of Attilio Genasci, believed to be California’s oldest working rancher, who passed away in January, were captured in the radio documentary, “Saving the Sierra: Grassroots solutions for sustaining rural communities.”

“The land does not belong to me. The land belongs to future generations,” Genasci said in the documentary that has aired across the nation. “It’s one of the natural wonders that’s there for humanity. I would dare not destroy it.”

Those that knew him say that Genasci’s work will be seen in the future of the Sierra Valley, wedged between the fast-growing areas of Truckee and Reno. Genasci’s work as an elder statesman promoting land conservation have helped permanently protect more than 30,000 acres of Sierra Valley land from development.

“This documentary is a great testament to his life,” said Steve Frisch, president of the Sierra Business Council. “And what he came to believe in the Sierra Valley.”

A public memorial will be held in honor of Genasci on Saturday, April 19 at 12:30 p.m. at the Grange Hall in Vinton, CA, north of Loyalton.

“Farming is a way of life. You have to love it … I hope I die out here with my boots on, working on the ranch,” Genasci said at age 97 in the documentary. “I think we have a natural wonder here that I’ll do my best to preserve.”

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