Mining's Toxic Legacy Initiative

Organization Information:

Organization Name:
The Sierra Fund
City & State:
Nevada City, 
Organization Website:
Organization's Mission Statement
The Sierra Fund is an innovative community foundation for the environment. Our mission is to save the Sierra Nevada by increasing and organizing investment in the region's land, air, water and human resources. We pursue this mission through philanthropy, advocacy, and strategic campaigns such as our Mining's Toxic Legacy Initiative.

Submission Information

Impact Essay
Everyone knows the story of the Gold Rush, right? 1849: Intrepid prospectors from around the world flocking to California’s mountains, wild times, great riches, grave disappointments. But the glittering legend of rags-to-riches Forty-Niners isn’t even half the story. Flourishing Native American societies were destroyed. The hillsides, streams and rivers of the Sierra Nevada Mountains were torn apart. Plant and animal species were decimated. And the most serious impact persist today—toxins including mercury and arsenic were left behind, and affect environmental and human health. The Sierra Fund, a non-profit community foundation in Nevada City, California, is working hard to tell the whole story of the Gold Rush: what really happened, what the impacts are, and what we need to do about them now. Our Mining’s Toxic Legacy Initiative campaign aims to involve all kinds of people including ordinary citizens whose health is affected, tribal members who want to restore cultural practices, scientists who can provide critical research, and elected representatives who can protect public health. Reaching out to this diverse set of people can be challenging! Using Adobe programs from TechSoup, we developed an in-depth report and outreach materials to bring people into this historic movement to restore the environment and protect public health. Our Mining’s Toxic Legacy report is the foundation of our Initiative. It frames background and recommendations for action that will direct decades of activity. This 85-page document was developed over two years by leading scientists, tribal members, doctors, and community leaders. Going into the design process, we had a wealth of technical information; using InDesign and Photoshop, we created a publication with the scientific credibility of the original document, but engaging and readable for everyone. The report is clean and well-organized. Distinct borders for each section emphasize the many facets of the story that need to be told. Dynamic facts paired with photos integrate the text and visual elements, drawing in unsuspecting readers. We heard on different occasions of people who picked up the report just to flip through, and ended up reading cover (ominous, mercury-laced tunnel) to cover (sunny, tribe-sponsored community event). From the report has spiraled an effective outreach campaign involving rural communities, health clinics, tribal gatherings, environmental groups, and local, state and federal governments. In fact, a yellow spiral took shape in Illustrator to characterize this new phase of our Initiative, and graces our informational brochure and table-top display. The impact of our materials has been outstanding. Their accuracy and effective design have been praised by Ph.D.s, high school students, and everyone in between. People as far away as Pennsylvania and Australia hope to produce something similar. Closer to home, since the report’s publication last year, over 3,000 individuals and 100 organizations have participated to address California’s legacy toxins. Thank you to The California Endowment, The California Wellness Foundation, the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund, and True North Foundation for direct funding, and to Adobe and TechSoup for providing tools to create a positive resolution to this long and complex story.
Submission Category
Environmental Impact Print/Photo