USFS, university look for agreement on Sagehen facility | SierraSun.com
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USFS, university look for agreement on Sagehen facility

SHERRY MAYS

Truckee has a little known secret tucked away in a basin just north of town. It’s Sagehen Basin and field station.

Although under the management of the University of California, Berkeley, the U.S. Forest Service and a handful of residents and educators are hoping that the field station that has been in existence since 1951 will facilitate learning experiences for Truckee students.

“This would be a great opportunity for Truckee students if a new agreement could be hammered out,” said Joanne Roubique, Truckee District ranger.

Records at the facility, which was opened by Starker Leopold, son of Aldo Leopold, have been kept on site since its opening.

“This is why this facility is so important,” she said. “It has the most extensive and consistent set of records. We need to keep this field station in tact.”

Up until last year, the fate of the field station rested in the hands of Berkeley researchers. Faced with budget cut backs, the university was unsure of funding for the station. The station sat without funding for more than three years, but now with new supervision under the Vice Chancellor for Research, the station has hope.

Sarah Trebilcock of the Villager Nursery has supported the field station and its importance for many years and says that the opportunity to possibly renegotiate the agreement between the U.S. Forest Service and the university is the key to the station’s success.

“The local community should have involvement in the station,” she said.

“I have always pushed for one-third research, one-third public service and one-third education. In a community like Truckee this should be possible.”

Roubique said negotiations are taking place to help include the community in the field station’s future.

“School officials, science teachers and others from the community have such an interest in the facility,” she said. “I think there will be enough support to get this plan going.”

UCB Vice Chancellor Jim Kirchner said he is aware of the fact that community support might mean financial support also.

“Our hope is to revive the station so it can be made useful to the community,” he said. “We have suffered millions of dollars in budget cuts, but it is possible to generate funds to continue at this station.”

Trebilcock is skeptical about the university’s budget woes.

“I have worked within the university community long enough to know that research budgets extend into the millions,” she said.

“It would take a small fraction, like $80,000 to $100,000, to run the facility successfully and that includes the on-site station manager, who resides at the station throughout the winter.

Kirchner said he thinks it would be possible to include diverse types of community outreach into the station’s plans.

“While funds are an issue, it isn’t the role of the director to raise funds,” he said. “But if there’s a will, there’s a way. We will take contributions from anyone.”

Trebilcock said the accumulated knowledge that has come from the area is important to continue.

“No where has there been such a database for meteorological and ecological information,” she said.

Kirchner said as much as the facility is an important resource to the local community, it is even a larger resource for the intellectual community.

Research at the station has resulted in more than 300 published scientific papers. It is estimated that more than 2000 university students benefit from the station every year.


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