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Middle Mountain Interpretive Hikes is an evolution of the interpretive program begun by Walt and Rebecca Anderson in 1976. It has gone through many organizers, many directors, and many name changes to become the program that we offer today.

For many decades the landowners in the Sutter Buttes allowed easy public access to their ranches. By the 1960′s, population growth lead to an overwhelming number of people wanting to access the Buttes and problems with visitors leaving gates open, painting graffiti on rock formations, fires, and other problems. Understandably, the landowners began to enforce rules against trespassing, and access to the Buttes was curtailed.

By the 1970′s, California’s continued population growth had increased demands for more outdoor recreational areas. In response, the state made the acquisition of the Sutter Buttes as state parkland a number one priority. This resulted in such strong controversy between the private landowners and the members of the public who wanted access to the Buttes that the state tabled the parkland plans.

One landowner decided that a way to protect his land from being taken over by the state would be to provide the public some access. In 1976 he created the West Butte Sanctuary Company to allow egress in a controlled manner, and to realize income from the enterprise. He hired Walt and Rebecca Anderson to be directors of the Company.

The Andersons led hikers into the Sutter Buttes, the nearby Sutter Sink waterfowl area, and other nearby wildlife refuges. They also conducted educational programs to increase public awareness of the uniqueness and value of the Sutter Buttes.

Expanding this concept in 1979, the Andersons set about establishing relationships with many of the Sutter Buttes landowners, and created The Sutter Buttes Naturalists. Through Walt and Rebecca’s work, the public was given access to private lands within the Buttes in a controlled manner that protected the flora and fauna, provided economic compensation for the landowners while relieving them of legal liabilities, and facilitated educational activities and scientific research in the Buttes. This is the program that Middle Mountain Interpretive Hikes carries on today.

We have emphasized a faith in the ability of the people themselves to best protect and share the natural and cultural resources vital to the well-being of their communities. Our success depends upon a positive spirit of constructive collaboration. In seeking a way for the public interest and private land to converge for the benefit of all, we have always favored inclusiveness; the bringing together of private landowners with scientists, educators, students, artists, and photographers, and anyone who loves a natural environment. Our common ground is the Sutter Buttes and our heritage.


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