by Shanti Edwards
At the height of the summer season, the heat in the air is palpable as the dry leaves crunch underfoot and the haze of distant forest fires cloaks the horizon. One’s senses sharpen — and the reality of the need for emergency response planning and rural evacuation routes hits home.
Devastating fires in the 1950s through the 1970s shaped the North Coast landscape and marked those communities forever. Sonoma Land Trust’s Little Black Mountain Preserve was donated to the Land Trust in 1979 following the Creighton Ridge Fire of 1978, which charred over 12,000 acres in the region. The Thieriot family — who barely made it out alive — donated the land to Sonoma Land Trust soon after and moved to Massachusetts to initiate forest conservation activities there.
Little Black Mountain is a forested landscape still regenerating after the historic logging practices of the ’50s and the destructive fire of 1978. The steep, rugged terrain is rich with a mosaic of streams, springs and habitat types that make this property a sanctuary for wildlife and humans alike. For nearly four decades, Sonoma Land Trust has been managing the Little Black Mountain forest for fire resiliency, forest health and wildlife habitat in partnership with CalFire, FireSafe Sonoma and Conservation Corps North Bay.
Building on our partnerships with CalFire and other forest conservation and stewardship groups, Sonoma Land Trust is glad to support the continued use of the Pole Mountain Fire Lookout, which has operated from the Pole Mountain summit since 1981. Sonoma Land Trust acquired the iconic Pole Mountain property in 2014 with the vision of creating a contiguous protected area from the shore to the highest point along Sonoma’s coast, providing a critical wildlife and recreational connection between the Jenner Headlands and Little Black Mountain.
by Trevor George
Live Oaks Ranch, nestled in the foothills of Mt. Saint Helena, comprises 572 acres of beautiful rolling oak woodlands. Generously bequeathed by Marie Rogers in 2010, the property has since been managed as an open space preserve and a working cattle ranch by us at Sonoma Land Trust.
One of the most notable natural resources on the property is Bidwell Creek. This stream is particularly sensitive because it is home to steelhead trout, freshwater shrimp and possibly even coho salmon — all animals protected under the Endangered Species Act. Live Oaks Ranch encompasses the headwaters to this important creek, which means that our management has an effect for miles downstream toward the Russian River.
What can we do to preserve and/or enhance Bidwell Creek? For the most part, just let it be. As it flows through Live Oaks Ranch, the majority of the creek is relatively unobstructed by human activity; the best thing we can do is give it the space to stay that way. However, downstream of the farmstead, human impacts are evident and there is significant opportunity for us to create a positive influence on this riparian ecosystem.
With that opportunity in mind, we’ve developed a three-phase plan to restore the marginalized riparian habitat along the several-hundred-foot stretch of Bidwell Creek before it leaves the property. In Phase One, we’ll remove an old failing bridge and replace it with a fish- and creek-friendly design. In Phase Two, we’ll work with the Sonoma Resource Conservation District to plant a variety of native trees and shrubs along the largely denuded stream banks. In Phase Three — perhaps the most ambitious phase — we’ll restore part of the creek channel and floodplain meadow to reestablish a complex network of healthy riparian and wetland habitat. This summer, we will begin Phase One.
by Corby Hines
Sonoma Land Trust recently hosted a bird language workshop at our Glen Oaks Ranch Preserve, opening my eyes (and ears) to an amazing new world. While we sat under the wide canopy of an ancient oak tree, our instructor Jay Markert revealed the wealth of information that birds communicate to everyone who cares to listen.
by Fraser Ross
In the Sonoma Valley, black-tailed deer graze and hummingbirds dart off to their next meal under shaded oak woodlands and along secluded creeks that wind into sprawling chaparral. At first glance, all seems idyllic and natural. However, a closer look reveals that, among our native species, aliens lurk — not those little green people from outer space, but invasive alien species.
Invasive species are species not native to a habitat and whose presence may cause economic or environmental harm. Natural ecosystems have evolved over millennia to become beautifully and complexly balanced, and the introduction of a new species can easily disrupt this equilibrium.
Many of the more dramatic and well-known examples of invasive species involve exotic animals. Burmese pythons (Python bivittatus), introduced to Florida from Southeast Asia through the exotic pet industry, are now thriving in the Florida Everglades, likely after being released by owners who found the snakes too much to handle. Growing up to 12 feet in length, and with voracious appetites, they are seriously impacting species native to the Everglades, such as foxes, wood rats and bobcats.
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.