by Bob Neale
This time of year — and especially this year — the arrival of autumn brings on melancholy. Light low on the horizon, summer over, winter coming … beautiful, but sad, a kind of heaviness in the air. Throw in the current political climate, regardless of your persuasion, and speaking of climate … oy! … and so it goes in my mind in the fall. And yet, like Venus rising in a clear night sky, a little bit of hope arrived last week. In fact, I believe it is the definition of hope — look it up in the dictionary and you will find a photo like this one. Seven pounds of beautiful, peaceful, little baby joyousness! Our very own stewardship manager Trevor George and his wife, Elizabeth, welcomed their first baby girl, Paige, into the world and, in the process, made our whole world brighter.
by Naomi Clark and Heather Ah San
On October 27, the long wait for Tolay Lake Regional Park will be over. After 13 years of restoration and development, Tolay will finally be open to the public to enjoy! At 3,400 acres, it is now the biggest park in the Sonoma County Regional Parks system. We’re proud to have played a role in the park’s formation, donating more than 1,600 acres of land from the adjoining Tolay Creek Ranch to double the park in size. The park is not only an ecological treasure, surrounded by rolling hills, oak woodland and, yes, a seasonal 200-acre lake, it’s a cultural gem, considered a sacred place by ancestors of indigenous peoples who occupied the site for millennia. In fact, the park will be managed as a “model of cooperation” between the county and the Federated Indians of the Graton Rancheria
by Bob Neale
A gorgeous relaxing morning on top of Pole Mountain. Of course, I took the easy way up with our truck and volunteers, Tovar and Louise. We wanted to make sure that we were at the top of the mountain to greet the first hikers, get their first impressions and give them Sonoma Land Trust hats and high fives on this inaugural weekend. Yes — at long last, the Sea to Sky Trail from Highway 1 outside of Jenner to the top of Pole Mountain is open. We had 18 inspiring hikers come to the top on this beautiful early fall day. Now, I’ve thought of it as a rugged, thigh-busting 15-mile round trip hike to the highest point on the coast. But judging from the hikers faces, I was totally wrong. Smiles all the way around. All ages: men and women, young and old, speed hikers and runners (yes … at least three runners that Saturday!), hikers and slow walkers. Most of the people were new to Pole Mountain, but some were volunteers and friends who had been there before. Everyone gushed about the beauty, the trail, the views, their excitement. I am inspired by their enthusiasm and energy and feel so stoked that the Land Trust and our partners, The Wildlands Conservancy and Sonoma Ag + Open Space, are able to bring this unique hiking opportunity to the coast.
by Trevor George
The days are shortening and the light feels different. The nightly low temperatures are dipping into the 40s and the sun is still hot, but it feels cool in the shade. Acorns are starting to fall and woodpeckers appear to be snatching them before they hit the ground. Fall is around the corner.
Some trees around town are already beginning to display their annual fall brilliance, like this one by our office.
by Bob Neale
The dog days of summer, marked by the rise of Sirius, the Dog Star, are coming to a sultry, inevitable close. Sniff the wind — you can smell fall coming. But it’s not quite here yet and, lying in the grass at Glen Oaks Ranch ("field work" we call it in the Stewardship Department), my eyes are heavy and my mind drifts … thoughts of dogs lead to thoughts of other canids and memories of a grey fox I saw one afternoon near Stuart Creek. My eye caught movement under the buckeye tree where a handsome little guy popped out from under the bridge. He took a couple steps toward me and then sat down at the edge of the driveway just looking at me. And I looked at him. We remained that way for some time. Suddenly, he turned and scurried back down toward the creek. Delightful encounter.
by Kate Freeman
Eelgrass: a coastal treasure.
As residents of California, we have an extra special relationship to grass. We watch it paint the hillsides gold in summertime. We learn to live without it on our lawns. We have even legalized the use of psychoactive grass for adults. While the quality of one’s lawn or cannabis laws are both rich and riveting topics, I am not here to discuss grass in either regard. Today, I would like to bring to your attention the under-glorified yet inimitable grasses of the sea — and by that, I mean seagrass!
by Kyle Pinjuv and Tom Tolliver
Sonoma Land Trust holds conservation easements over 44 properties throughout Sonoma and Mendocino Counties, eight of which were impacted by the fires in 2017. We have a special relationship with our conservation easement landowners: Through their stewardship on their privately-owned properties, they help further our mission by preserving and protecting some of the most unique and important landscapes throughout our county.
We’ve been working closely with our CE landowners whose properties were impacted by the wildfires by connecting them with local organizations, state agencies and professional colleagues that specialize in the ecological impacts and restoration of fire-affected landscapes. We continue to monitor the properties closely for fire related changes to the conservation values and, if requested, assist the property owners during the ongoing recovery process.
This wildfire season, as fires continue to ravage parts of the state — and Sonoma County continues to recover — we want to share with you, our Land Trust community, information, resources and experience we learned through our post-fire management caring for our properties, and through our CE landowner’s own experiences:
by Heather Ah San
These days, protecting endangered species seems to be at the forefront of everyone's minds given the recent news about the fate of the Endangered Species Act.
Across the country, far from the where the future of the Act will be determined, we at Sonoma Land Trust have a vested interest in one small — but important! — endangered plant species: the white sedge. White sedge (Carex albida), was previously thought to be extinct until it was identified in 1983 at Pitkin Marsh, an environmentally significant wetland located between Graton and Forestville. The Land Trust owns a portion of this marsh, 27 acres worth, of which is home to the only known population of white sedge.
by Julian Meisler
One of the more iconic photos following the fires at Sears Point Ranch was that of a western burrowing owl standing amidst the blackened grassland near the Ralph Benson Center at the Baylands. The picture evoked images of recovery and resilience. On a simpler level, it also suggested that burrowing owls might be using some of the artificial burrows that Sonoma Land Trust, San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge and a whole lot of volunteers installed several years ago.
by Tony Nelson
Seems like only a few months ago we removed an old bridge structure in Stuart Creek near Glen Ellen that blocked steelhead from returning to former, still high-quality spawning areas upstream for the last couple of decades. The restored 900-foot stretch of creek at our preserve, Stuart Creek Run, was specially designed to provide passage and rest for steelhead on their way to spawn.
Now, three years later, I’ve just finished drafting and submitting a final report for a grant that we received to open Stuart Creek to steelhead passage. I wish I was writing to let everyone know that I’ve found steelhead, but none have been confirmed yet. There are trout in the creek, so we know conditions remain good, but they may be offspring of resident fish — until we see large steelhead or find spawning beds (otherwise known as “redds”), we can’t say that steelhead have returned. So we wait.
The sites themselves look vastly better than before the project. The former fish barrier site now looks like a natural creek channel with beautifully developing vegetation growing alongside it.
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.