by Bob Neale
Our world is so busy now that it is often difficult to take a moment to breathe, to take a moment to step back and look at the big picture or see the results of our work. Last week I was out at Tolay Creek Ranch counting how many trees were alive in the lower stretch of the creek. As the day was progressing, I realized that I had been working on restoring that lower section of creek for more than 10 years — a decade of oak trees, creeping wild rye and children planting seedlings (and ticks, poison oak and sunburns…).
The reason I was counting the trees is that the number of trees that lived is one of our primary metrics for success. But our work out there is so much more than just the trees we planted. It involves changing behavior, like how the cattle are managed and how the landscape responds. It involves coping with things we can’t control, like drought and floods, and the changes these natural events bring to the landscape. I started thinking about what change had actually occurred and I realized I couldn’t exactly remember those first visits I made in 2006 and 2007 and what Tolay Creek looked. Like the face of my daughters over the years, I knew the creek had changed; it was different. I couldn’t exactly say how it was different, just that it is.
So when I returned to the office I looked for photos of those early days and was stunned — in a good way. So I thought I’d share:
by Katy Reynolds
It is not often in life that you experience something coming full circle. But when it happens, it is something to savor and appreciate. Recently, I led a hike with 20 or so 12 to 13-year-old girls on Laufenburg Ranch. They were from a school in the Bay Area and had come out to the ranch for a father-daughter campout — the first we’ve ever had the opportunity to host on one of our properties.
We walked along the trail and talked about Sonoma Land Trust’s mission in our community and the importance of environmental conservation. At one point, we passed by an old habitat restoration site. Dotting the field along the creek, you could see the young oak trees that had been planted there over 10 years prior poking out of the tall grass. It was heartening to see the trees thriving and naturalizing into the landscape, providing habitat, erosion control and other important functions, just as they were intended to do. We stopped and talked about restoration and why it matters, but best of all, I was able to share with them that it was, in fact, my class all those years ago that had planted the trees, and how proud I was to come back and see them today.
by Ingrid Stearns
Running Sonoma Land Trust’s On the Land program, I find myself at the interface of humans and nature. My job is to design ways to get people into the outdoors to experience the places we have been working to protect. A basic premise is that when people directly experience a place, that personal connection helps bring the abstract ideas of land conservation into a tangible reality.
While we might not get to experience every inch of every area that we’ve put into protected status, our On the Land program brings people close enough to taste a variety of the landscapes and habitats that make up this amazingly diverse county — from redwood forests to coastal prairies, tidal marshes to oak woodlands, and on and on.
Recently I’ve been contemplating what brings people into the outdoors and what inspires people to take a walk with us. For some, it’s the opportunity to experience places they can’t otherwise see. For others, it’s the opportunity to learn something new about nature. And some people experience a deep nourishment from being in natural landscapes, away from the concerns of the world. Yet what I’m beginning to realize is one of the true values of our program is providing people the opportunity to connect with each other in the natural world.
by Heather Ah San
Have you voted yet? We all know how important voting is, and as the June 5 election approaches, you’re probably trying to educate yourself on all the candidates and ballot measures in California.
Sonoma Land Trust is in strong support of Prop. 68, a $4 billion investment to protect California’s parks, clean water and our incredible wildlife habitat and natural resources. California’s last park bond act was Prop. 84 in 2006; almost all of that money is gone today. Our parks and water need ongoing maintenance, and in Sonoma County, we are in dire need of money to restore state and regional parks damaged in last year’s fires, to maintain wildlife corridors and to provide funding for park-poor areas like Roseland and southwest Santa Rosa. The Press Democrat recently endorsed Prop. 68.
As you prepare to make your vote, here are some fast facts on how Prop. 68 will impact our region:
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.
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.