by Shanti Edwards
When I recently interviewed CAL FIRE Battalion Chief Marshall Turbeville about lessons learned from the 2017 fires, he said “We have to go back to what works: loud sirens and neighbors contacting neighbors.” Marshall advises us that community level, neighbor-to-neighbor planning will be essential in the years to come because extreme fire weather seems to be the future in California.
“We are good at putting out average fires, but we are trending toward catastrophic events driven by weather conditions. History did repeat itself and will again,” he warns. “The large fires of 1964 and 1978 are just one generation away and people forget — but we can’t forget.”
We took Marshall’s guidance to heart and recently convened a gathering to connect with Cazadero neighbors who live near Sonoma Land Trust’s Little Black Mountain and Pole Mountain Preserves. This was a rare opportunity to share a conversation as a group about emergency notification systems, potential evacuation routes, fuel reduction strategies and all things relevant to our rural mountain community. Marshall was in attendance to provide expert advice for defensible space and emergency response planning, and Jeff Schreiber of Sonoma RCD introduced landowner assistance programs for fuel reduction and road improvement.
by Trevor George
Weed populations on Sonoma Land Trust’s preserves appeared blackened and devastated after the fire, along with everything else. Fire burns without prejudice, and will clear out native and invasive species alike. However, just as the native species respond and regrow, so do the invasive species we work hard to manage. In some cases, the fire has given us an advantage against these species, while making it more difficult in others.
Some invasive species are well adapted to fire and even flourish with it. Harding grass (Phalaris aquatica), pictured below, has deep roots and was one of the first grasses to bounce back after the fire. This plant got a head start and is likely to continue outcompeting other native grasses.
by Corby Hines
Nature has a way of slowing us down.
There’s something about the aroma of spring flowers, bird song on the breeze and wide open vistas that encourage us to stop in our tracks and take it all in.
On a recent On the Land hike across more than 10 miles of protected land, there were many such moments — moments in which we couldn’t take another step until we got our fill of the wild beauty spread out before us. From the highest point on the Sonoma Coast, Pole Mountain, to the expansive wild lands of the Jenner Headlands, here are some moments where nature stopped time.
by Karen Arrington
“Service is the rent we pay for being. It is the very purpose of life, not something you do in your spare time.”
Marian Wright Edelman
Edelman’s commitment and devotion to the causes she cares deeply about is reflected in her life’s work. This same level of commitment and devotion is something our volunteers share in common with her. Our volunteers give of their time and their talent, always answering our requests for help. Whether it’s pulling invasive species, planting natives, installing erosion control measures, contributing to the success of special events, being our eyes and ears on properties on which we hold conservation easements or helping the office move at full speed, our volunteers show up and help with projects that we couldn’t accomplish without their support.
by Kate Freeman
Spring has announced its arrival — the generous daylight and boisterous birdsong have made it abundantly clear. It feels positively trite to write a piece about springtime wildflowers, but I really can’t help myself, so bear with me. On a recent hike out on the land, I was treated to views of several spring ephemeral flowers. These blooms caught my attention not only for their beauty, but also for their less than conventional breeding strategies. In this season of birds and the bees, I got to thinking about the innumerable pollination strategies that exist right in our own backyards. Some plants play nice, offering nectar rewards to incoming pollinators, but others use fraud and imprisonment to ensure pollination. And while the birds and bees get plenty of credit, the less glorified creatures on which our native flora rely for propagation deserve some consideration. Here is my ode to the flies, mosquitoes, spiders and beetles, as well as the devious floral sirens that attract them.
What first got my mind in the gutter — or leaf litter — was the sight of this gorgeous native fairy slipper orchid, Calypso bulbosa. The unique morphology of these little stunners is comprised of petals and sepals suspended above a large, modified petal. This lower petal creates a slipper-shaped pouch, thus, the namesake fairy slipper.
by Julian Meisler
We are nearing completion of the repair or replacement of more than seven miles of fire-damaged fence at Sears Point. Fencing is what enables us to run a cattle operation there and that’s something we do for a variety of reasons, including weed control, fuel reduction and continuing our relationship with the agricultural community.
Believe it or not, fencing is actually pretty thoughtful work when working in wildlands. Every time a fence is replaced or constructed, we challenge ourselves as to whether it’s really needed and, if so, how do we make it wildlife friendly. The answer to the second question depends on multiple factors, including the location, the purpose, the type of wildlife in the area and others. Of course, we also need to ensure that the fence serves its purpose of containing cattle or whatever domesticated animal is on the land.
by Ingrid Spetz
I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now, from up and down and still somehow it’s clouds’ illusions I recall…
— Joni Mitchell
A few months back, my colleague Tony Nelson told me he’d just been gifted a membership to the international Cloud Appreciation Society and asked if we might be interested in hosting a presentation by its founder. I wasn’t quite sure what to think. What is cloud appreciation and how would that tie in to our land conservation work?
So I reached out to Gavin Pretor-Pinney, the society’s founder, to learn more.
by Tom Tolliver
As I approached the end of the meadow where the grass and browse are quickly recovering from the fire, I could see about eight blacktail deer crossing it. I counted one buck, what appeared to be two yearlings and five does heading for Stuart Creek. This was the third week of February at Glen Oaks Ranch.
My job as fire recovery project manager is to manage the repair or replacement of the infrastructure at our fire-affected preserves. This offers an opportunity to see firsthand not only the damage at the Live Oaks, Glen Oaks and Sears Point Ranch preserves, but also how natural processes repair the fire damage of the natural areas. The best story is the one told in photos. (Click photos for captions)
by Kyle Pinjuv
Last week I had the pleasure of hiking the Bolinas Ridge Trail, which runs parallel to the San Andreas Fault in beautiful Marin County. We were in search of a hike where we could experience the pastoral beauty of the coastal habitat types and enjoy the emerging wildflowers and vibrant green grass the recent rains had brought to the landscape. We had found the perfect hike for that and then some.
by Bob Neale
My mom thinks I spend most of my time wandering around the woodlands and forests of Sonoma County, tending to all the plants and animals. When I tell folks about my work, or when I make presentations to groups or conferences, I share stories about sensitive habitat, wildlife corridors, restoring wetlands and fisheries, and managing nature. My PowerPoint presentations have photos of owls and mountain lions, serpentine wildflower blooms, and willows and oak trees we planted. These are things I care about deeply and I feel so grateful to be here at Sonoma Land Trust, where I can do this work. It’s good work. And it can often be complicated and, well, just hard.
But the thing that keeps me coming back to work each day isn’t the plantings at Tolay Creek Ranch, the hoped-for fish at Stuart Creek Run or the view from the top of Pole Mountain. No — what keeps me coming back is the people. This is the greatest group of people I’ve worked with in my whole career. I have the best colleagues in the world here at Sonoma Land Trust — especially the stewardship characters! They are dedicated, smart and full of integrity. They are funny, irreverent and always there when you need them. You’ve seen their words in the blog posts and you’ve seen their work on our preserves and conservation easement properties.
Let me introduce you to the “Stew Crew.” Next time you see them out and about in Sonoma County, say hi and tell them “job well done,” ’cause they are rocking your conservation world.
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.