by Bob Neale
A few weeks ago, Sonoma Land Trust transferred our Tolay Creek Ranch property to Sonoma County Regional Parks. Just before the paperwork was done, we took Press Democrat reporter Nick Rahaim out to do a story about this amazing place and to let the community know about this happy event. What a day! It was early spring and warm and sunny — the grass was growing, the meadowlarks were singing and coyotes loped across the hillsides. It was lovely … and bittersweet.
by Kendall Webster
Two weeks ago, it was a big week at Sonoma Land Trust — we closed on the transfer of Tolay Creek Ranch to Sonoma County Regional Parks! Our very public and publicized gift of the 1,665-acre Tolay Creek Ranch doubled the size of Tolay Lake Regional Park, creating the largest regional park in Sonoma County.
by Crystal Simons
Pop the champagne cork! Hire a professional photographer! Send out the announcements!
When a property is protected for conservation, we celebrate. We celebrate the intention and conservation ethic of the landowner. We celebrate the beauty of the natural resources and the realization of their longevity. We honor the individuals, partners and supporters who make the projects happen. This, the moment of acquisition, is the birth of a landscape’s life as a conservation property.
Following the acquisition, the property’s project file is carefully cleaned up, dressed in a new manila envelope, wrapped in a blanket of press coverage, and gently handed over from the acquisition project team to the receiver: the land trust stewardship staffer who will care for it, monitor it and patiently but sternly tend to it and the people connected to it … forever.
Remind you of something?
by Ingrid Spetz
I recently celebrated my fifth year of running the On the Land program at Sonoma Land Trust. I’m proud to have played a part in bringing over 5,000 people to our protected lands in that time. It’s been a wonderful journey discovering some of the treasures of Sonoma County and sharing them with others.
Next week, I am headed to the annual California Council of Land Trusts conference, where I will be presenting on how to run an outings program for a land trust. I hope that I can encourage and inspire others to do the same! In preparation, I reviewed photographs from our outings over the past five years and picked out 35 photos that capture some of the great outings we have had. I think it’s truly impressive what we have been able to accomplish and I can’t stop looking at my slideshow!
I’d like to invite you to come along and experience our lands this spring. Not only do we have our longtime spring favorite wildflower hikes, but we are also featuring the songbirds of spring, nature walks with biologist Peter Leveque, and adventures to Pole Mountain, among other things. We'll be updating our outings page near the middle of next week, so check back then to join us on the land!
Ingrid Spetz is Sonoma Land Trust's outings manager.
by Jen Stanfield
Sonoma Land Trust and Pathways for Wildlife staff placed infrared cameras along major rural roads in southern Sonoma County last summer to monitor underpass and culvert use by animals. We expected to leave the cameras in place for one year. However, we have recently experienced our first truly wet season since the wildlife corridor studies began several years ago, and it soon became clear that monitoring and maintenance for the cameras would be a wholly different experience from our past study.
by Kyle Pinjuv
Hiking season has arrived in Sonoma County. In fact, every season is hiking season in Sonoma County —we are lucky in that way! But hiking season also means tick season, and every season is tick season in Sonoma County. We are unlucky in that way. Our county is home to a variety of tick species, and knowing how to identify them, their behavior and how to deal with them is very important for your short and long-term health. Sounds dramatic, I know, but as a vector species, these small arthropods can transmit a number of diseases to their hosts (hosts being Sonoma County hikers, bikers, our pets, and others). Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tick-borne relapsing fever, tularemia, babesiosis, anaplasmosis and ehrlichiosis are among the diseases that can be transmitted from a single tick bite, Lyme disease being the most common.
Ticks are often found hanging on the edge of a blade of grass, front legs outstretched, waiting for a host to walk by and brush against them so they can grab hold. At this point, they will begin their journey up and over your clothing, or an animal’s fur, until they find a suitable place to dig in for a meal. For humans, that place is usually at the interface between clothing and skin. Your sock lines, belt lines or collars are all common places for tick attachment. It is a misconception that ticks fall from trees or that they can jump onto their hosts. In actuality, if you find them on your neckline or scalp, they likely made a long journey from your boots or pants cuffs. Tucking the cuffs of your pants into your socks and your shirt into your pants can help keep ticks from finding bare skin.
by Shanti Edwards
After my last blog post about the cultural landscape of Little Black Mountain, I’d like to share some of the rich stories from the homesteading era of Cazadero, collected by Leslie Smirnoff, a former SSU graduate student. Leslie surveyed and recorded the property’s cultural sites, sifted through county records and historic maps, and interviewed neighbors to produce a “cultural resources management plan” for Little Black Mountain. The document chronicles the prehistory and history of the landscape and provides recommendations for the safekeeping of culturally sensitive areas. Based on this document and other stories shared by neighbors, here is a brief history of the Cazadero area and Little Black Mountain.
The forced relocation of Kashia Pomo from their ancestral lands on the Sonoma Coast — and a burgeoning era of European immigrant homesteading, ranching and logging — left its mark on the hills surrounding Cazadero. The post-gold rush era of Sonoma County history is characterized as a time of increased homesteading settlements into rural areas by European immigrants who engaged in farming, ranching, logging, the tourism industry and other related trades. Nearly the entire area was settled by 1897. By 1908, all land had been claimed.
Cazadero was initially called Austin when a post office was established in 1881. In 1886, the North Coast Pacific Railroad established a spur running from Duncan’s Mills along Austin Creek to the town, enabling the expansion of the lumber industry and tourism economy. In the early 1880s, Silas Ingram established a resort, and in 1886, the town was renamed Ingram’s after the resort. The bustling resort town and two-story hotel was subsequently re-named Cazadero (Spanish for “the hunting place”).
by Trevor George
As we all know, Sonoma County has recently endured severe rainstorms. We’ve seen serious impacts from these storms on our roads, yards, homes, and more. After events like these, stewardship staff take stock of the infrastructure and natural resources on our preserves. While inspecting Laufenburg Ranch, I came across a portion of Bidwell Creek that, from afar, looked to be missing trees. I walked toward the creek and found this:
by Corby Hines
Much can be observed from a shoreline, especially with a good set of binoculars. From the levee at Sears Point, I’ve seen long-billed curlews probing in the mudflats, harbor seals cruising the deeper channels with noses and eyes just above the surface, and even a bald eagle perched on a marsh mound. Although there’s a lot to see from the shoreline, if you want to truly experience the habitat, you need to get in the habitat. There is no better way to fully experience the tidal march at Sears Point than in a kayak.
From time immemorial, people have been plying the waters in our region with kayak-like boats. The Coast Miwok and Pomo lashed tule reeds together to make elegant boats with which they navigated local waterways. In the early 1800s, the Russians brought Aleut hunters and their sealskin kayaks to hunt sea otters along the coast. And today, kayaks are readily available in all shapes and sizes, allowing people to explore every manner of watery habitat.
Although I’ve witnessed some special moments from the shoreline at Sears Point, you can only see a fraction of what’s going on from the edge of the habitat. It wasn’t until I got in the water that I actually got a feel for the place. Moving at paddle speed seems like the natural pace to take it all in. Birds remain calm and continue feeding as you float by, much closer than they would be if you were stuck on land. It’s one thing to observe the bay’s tide surging through the levee breach while standing safely on solid ground, but to feel the power of the tide’s pull from in the water is quite another. Seals, skittish on land, are curious in the relative safety of the water, and that fleeting glimpse of a seal from shore can turn into a delightful show as the seal performs underwater acrobatics observable from your ringside seat in the belly of a boat. At nearly 1,000 acres, the marsh is a big place, and all of it is accessible by kayak.
by Julian Meisler
After Jen Stanfield’s excellent blog post two weeks ago about Bee Gate, I’ll continue with another bee-centered story.
Chances are that, if you are reading this, you are aware that honeybees face global declines from a variety of causes. While the disturbing losses attributed to colony collapse disorder (CCD) seem to have abated somewhat, colony failure in the U.S. was still over 40 percent in 2014−2015. Beekeepers consider losses above 18.7 percent to be economically unviable.
It is true that European honeybees are not native — but, without them, we’d be in a heap of trouble. That is why the lesson I learned at Sears Point several years ago has remained poignant.
Sonoma Land Trust is a local nonprofit based in Santa Rosa, CA, that conserves scenic, natural, agricultural and open lands in Sonoma County for the benefit of the community and future generations. This blog focuses on SLT's stewardship team, whose members do hands-on work to directly protect, restore, and safeguard the land for generations to come.