by Shanti Edwards
… To protect the land forever is our tagline, and it’s been nearly 40 years since the Creighton Ridge Fire, after which Bob and Peggy Thieriot donated their Little Black Mountain Preserve to Sonoma Land Trust. Though 40 years is just a blink compared to an eternity, it’s long enough to see dramatic changes in the landscape, witness generational changes in the neighborhood and forge lasting relationships with our community of volunteers, caretakers and hikers who all share a strong affinity for this special place.
by Trevor George
Over the course of this winter and early spring, Bidwell Creek on our Live Oaks Ranch property has been getting a facelift. So far, we have planted over 100 native trees and shrubs along this creek, with more to come. These new plants provide important habitat and water quality improvements that benefit a variety of critters, including some species that are threatened or endangered.
What you might not realize is just how much collaboration and partnership is needed to complete a project like this one. Take a look at the photo below, which shows teenagers from a local school planting a buckeye tree next to the creek.
Now let’s step back and see what it took to get to this point. There are many great organizations that do conservation work throughout our county and elsewhere. For maximum impact, we all work collaboratively to complete projects like this. Our names occasionally might sound similar (Sonoma Land Trust, Sonoma Resource Conservation District, Sonoma County Agricultural and Open Space District, and LandPaths anyone?), and our mission statements might overlap, but when we combine our unique strengths, the result is remarkable. Here’s how this project came to be.
The Sonoma Resource Conservation District (Sonoma RCD), which provides technical expertise and funding assistance to private landowners, identified this stretch of Bidwell Creek as a perfect site for restoration using Caltrans’ mitigation funding. Because the Land Trust owns the land, we were able to provide access to the creek, water for irrigation, and staff and volunteer support. The Sonoma RCD planned the project and manages the contract with Caltrans, and they also chose to extend the impact of the project by partnering with STRAW (Students and Teachers Restoring A Watershed). STRAW connects with local schools to bring kids out to places like Live Oaks Ranch (and our former Tolay Creek Ranch) to plant trees.
by Julian Meisler
If you’ve hiked or driven past the uplands of Sears Point, located just north of Highway 37, then you’ve seen the open grasslands, perhaps the wildflower fields — and you’ve definitely seen the large eroded drainages.
Sears Point has roughly nine miles of creeks or drainages that flow seasonally. The erosion that you see is the result of a long history of land use that has included heavy cattle stocking rates on a landscape that is steep and naturally prone to erosion. The flat grasslands in the foreground were once part of the San Pablo Bay tidal marshes. Streams would have flowed from the hills into the marshes, bringing sediment to sustain their growth. As we all know, that changed long ago.
While some of the eroded drainages are more like canyons and have little hope for true restoration (the ends don’t justify the means), we can slow their erosion with changes in management. Other drainages are not so far along and offer outstanding opportunities for restoration and enhancement.
by Corby Hines
Before beginning my tenure as outings guide at Sonoma Land Trust, I spent years working with kids as a teacher-naturalist at a local outdoor science school. Each week, a new group of middle-schoolers would arrive from Sacramento, the East Bay, San Francisco, Santa Rosa, or anywhere in between to be introduced to the natural wonders of Sonoma County. It was very rewarding to aid in the transformation of students who had never spent much time in nature. At first, many kids were wary of simply sitting on the soil, holding a beetle or just walking on an uneven trail, having rarely ventured off the pavement in their lives back home. After four or five days of hiking through redwood forests, exploring the creek, going on a night hike and helping with a restoration project, the kids were wholly transformed. That student who was at first scared to sit on the forest floor, by the end of the week, was turning over rotten logs in search of salamanders and eating wild huckleberries that they picked themselves — and encouraging their friends to do the same. The personal growth that a kid can accomplish in a short time is truly remarkable.
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.