by Tony Nelson
One of the most satisfying tasks in land management, for me, is removing fence. Much of our work stewarding land and resources requires a very long view. Often we do good things knowing that we aren’t likely to see the full benefits ourselves. Taking out fence, though, provides immediate gratification. While we can see the old materials piled up to be taken away, the aesthetic transformation on the landscape is incredible. The more one takes notice of fences, the more one sees. They’re everywhere and they create psychological as well as physical barriers. Not all fences are bad, of course, and we need them to manage livestock and people. But they have unintended consequences for wildlife so I love taking fence out when it’s not necessary. Our volunteers like taking fence out for the same reasons — which is why a group of volunteers and staff took out three old fence lines (2,350 feet!) at Glen Oaks Ranch this past Tuesday.
by Kate Freeman
On a recent afternoon at Glen Oaks Ranch, the allure of feeling alone in the woods fueled my desire to linger until dusk. I slowly wound my way down the George Ellman Trail, savoring the rich blanket of green that is once again spreading out over the landscape. In a momentary respite from the cacophony of robins and starlings that are flocking in massive numbers around the farmstead, I savored the stillness and solitude of wintertime. Just as my mind began to quiet, I was caught off guard by a pungent gust of skunk musk coming from above. Looking up, I saw not a skunk but a Great Horned Owl passing silently overhead, unintentionally broadcasting its presence like the lovesick Pepé le Pew.
by Julian Meisler
The nearly 700 acres of grassland that burned at our Sears Point Ranch in October have now greened up despite the paltry rainfall so far this winter. The fire here was not nearly as hot or intense as elsewhere, but it was hot enough to burn hundreds of fence posts over many miles of fences. To determine the extent of the damage, I spent a fair bit of time walking fence lines in November.
The good news is that it allowed me to visit areas that I seldom get to, including a small drainage at the back of the property that supports some of the property’s few willow trees. I’ve seen them before, of course, but I had never poked my head underneath until then. It was a good thing I did.
The fence line travels underneath the canopy and the fire had too, burning posts and causing the fence to loosen and sag. Caught in the fence was a seemingly dead red-tailed hawk, its wings caught in the loosened fence wire. In the eight years I’ve spent on Sears Point Ranch, it was the first time I’d seen something like this. I ventured closer and the hawk moved, craning its neck to watch my approach. I could see that I was not going to be able to disentangle the bird by myself so I retreated to avoid injuring it further or risking my own injury from its sharp talons and beak. I needed to find someone who could help.
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.