About the Foundation

The Sierra Nevada Foundation is a groundbreaking new grant-making organization that will be funding organizations, programs, and projects in the Sierra Nevada Conservancy region.


Dr. Sarah Pender with her adopted cat Tuffy at her home in El Dorado County

Founded by a Career Educator and Passionate Sierra Nevada Resident

Dr. Sarah Pender has always had a passion for the mountains and has always felt at home in the Sierra Nevada mountains in particular. An educator by career, Sarah started a backpacking club at the high school where she taught to help foster a similar appreciation of nature within her students. Sarah’s dedication to nature and to education are what have led her down a trail of discovery over the last 40 years, searching for a way to fund projects that would have a direct benefit to this corner of the world which she had grown to love. During those 40 years, Sarah has been seeking an existing program for residents of the Sierra Nevadas to support and fund projects and efforts that support the Sierras where they work, play, and live. Her goals were simple, a program or organization dedicated to protecting, preserving, and restoring Sierra Nevada lands, water, wildlife, and communities.

What she found was… nothing. No matter where she looked, nothing fit the vision that she had defined for what she intended to be her legacy, a program that would ensure a healthy, beautiful, and thriving Sierra Nevada region for future generations to enjoy as she herself had enjoyed them for most of her life.

Dr. Pender would not describe herself as a visionary or even someone who should be praised or recognized for her educational and philanthropic achievements over the years, but after searching 40 years for something that she was told countless times didn’t exist, she made it her mission to ensure it would exist for all those who would come after. Her search included consultations with Earthjustice, the Sierra Fund, the Sierra Nevada Conservancy, the University of San Francisco, and the Sierra Club all in an attempt to find an existing program that had a mechanism in place for Sierra Nevada based organizations to receive direct funding for defined projects benefiting that defined region. Determined in the legacy she wanted to leave to the world, Sarah decided that if she wanted to see her vision made reality, she would need to make it happen herself. Thus, the Sierra Nevada Foundation at the El Dorado Community Foundation was born.

What We Do

The defined purpose of the Sierra Nevada Foundation is to support the charitable conservancy goals of protecting, preserving, and restoring Sierra Nevada lands, water, wildlife, and communities. These goals can be achieved through activist-based tools to protect resources, including but not limited to watershed restoration, water quality monitoring, air quality monitoring, forest health monitoring, land and water rights acquisition, conservation easements, land use planning, litigation, legislation (within allowable limits defined by Internal Revenue Code), advocacy, grassroots organizing, communications, environmental clean-up, and most importantly, environmental education. The scope of what the Sierra Nevada Foundation looks to accomplish might appear to be broad but is actually quite focused when viewed through the lens of intent, that intent being the long-term preservation of the majestic Sierra Nevada region for future generations to enjoy, as we enjoy it now.

yuba river
donner summit

Regions Served by the Sierra Nevada Foundation

The geographic region to benefit from the Sierra Nevada Foundation is the boundary defined by the Laird-Leslie Sierra Nevada Conservancy Act of 2004. This geographic region is quite diverse and spans twenty-four different counties within California, from Modoc County in the north to Kern County at the southern end. It has been determined that Funding preference will be given to charitable organizations that are themselves located within the defined geographic region. This decision was made in an effort to foster locally sourced solutions to problems that might face the this region now or in the future, as who is better positioned to understand the needs of the region than those located within its boundaries? Preserving and improving the region might be the main goals of the Sierra Nevada Foundation, but more than anything, the fund aims to foster that love and passion for the region that Dr. Pender strove to instill within her students all those years ago through her backpacking club.

snc region

The boundary defined by the Laird-Leslie Sierra Nevada Conservancy Act of 2004

tufas of mono lake