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Local environmental and conservation organizations are bringing the Wild & Scenic Environmental Film Festival On Tour to Sacramento for the first time Thursday.
Save Our Sandhill Cranes and the Environmental Council of Sacramento have chosen 11 films for the three-hour festival being held at the Crest Theatre — a sampling of the annual film fest held last month in Nevada City.
Moviegoers will watch adventure films about a team kayaking in Papua New Guinea, Oregon tree climbers in search of the biggest Sitka spruces and surfing in Wyoming. Other films document life in the Anza Borrego desert, the rising acidity of the ocean and Kenya's environmental and social justice movement.
With more than 125 films and documentaries to consider, the Sacramento film committee tried to choose flicks that would resonate locally, said Matthew Baker, habitat director for ECOS and a committee member.
"I think we have a really good lineup of films," he said. "A lot of them are kind of inspiring calls to action for people to get involved locally."
The South Yuba River Citizens League launched its environmental film festival in 2003 as a fundraising project to protect the Yuba Watershed. The festival got its name in recognition of the group's success getting 39 miles of the river designated as "wild & scenic." That festival has grown to three days with dozens of films and 80 speakers. The league now offers a smaller film tour package to groups around the country.
The Sacramento event will raise funds for ECOS' regional conservation plan, the California Heartlands Project. The project is working to build a network of protected open space on working farms and ranches in order to protect biological diversity and the region's agricultural heritage and to give local residents more places to go for recreation and to learn about nature.
The project would help protect habitat for sandhill cranes, Swainson's hawks and the inhabitants of seasonal wetlands known as vernal pools, among other creatures, Baker said.
Sandhill cranes are elegant, long-necked gray birds with red feather caps and wingspans of six to eight feet. They are found in North America, Siberia and Cuba. The birds are popular among birders and nature photographers, including those who travel to locate prized species. The birds' appearance here for winter migration has been gaining more widespread attention in recent years.
The California Heartlands Project is getting involved in upcoming discussions on Elk Grove's proposed expansion of its city limits. The city, whose limits contain 8,000 acres "lying fallow," are trying to add another roughly 10,000 additional acres within city limits and thus expand into the southeast corner of Sacramento County, Baker said.
That area is overflow winter habitat for sandhill cranes, especially when Cosumnes River Preserve floods. Sandhill cranes that don't find suitable habitat will fly off and most likely never return after nesting in other areas, he said.
The California Heartlands Project is also seeking to preserve the last high-density vernal pool areas in east Sacramento county.
"Vernal pools are seasonal wetlands that are unique to California's Central Valley," he said. "Because of geologic conditions of having a hardpan soil, over the winter during rainy seasons, the pools collect. Throughout spring, you get the real blooming of life that happens there."
Two areas of ranch land — one along Jackson Highway and the other east of Rancho Cordova — support vernal pools with many endemic species, including fairy and tadpole shrimp. These areas are also under speculation for more urban growth, Baker said.
Organizers hope the film fest attracts enough people to fill one of the Crest's small theaters, which seats about 200. Tickets are being sold in advance for $10. ECOS is also offering a special one-year membership and film fest ticket special of $25. ECOS membership usually costs $35.
"I think we're going to fill the place," Baker said. "We're hoping if we can fill a small theater, we'll go for the big theater next time."
The Wild & Scenic Environmental Film Festival On Tour will run from 6-9p.m. Thursday at the Crest, 1013 K St. For more information, call 442-5189.