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)
glen oaks ranch
The stone barn, which was restored in 2012, burned extensively and is a complete loss. Since it’s on the National Register of Historic Places, we’re unable to begin any clean up or reconstruction until we’ve developed a plan describing how it will be restored, rehabilitated or preserved. An architectural historian and a structural engineer have been engaged to assist us in the process of determining a path forward.
live oaks ranch
The Tubbs Fire began just north of Calistoga and burned over the ridge and onto Live Oaks Ranch. On this property, the fire burned grasslands, forest, fences and two small structures. In one structure, personal belongings were lost. We also lost a garage with a 1959 Willys ranch pickup truck and the ranch tractor, a 1950 Ford model 8N.
If you’ve not been to the property, as you enter from Highway 128 in Knights Valley, you encounter a large meadow with Bidwell Creek running through it. This portion of the creek — a known salmonid riparian stream — was being restored before the fire. The irrigation system and the many plants and trees that had recently been installed and were lost in the fire have since been replaced.
sears point ranch
signs of recovery
Historically, local native American tribes deliberately burned lands to improve forage, control insects and increase basket-making materials. Today, we have the opportunity to see what they saw, as the land repairs itself and returns to a new stasis. In my work, I’ve been fortunate to regularly see firsthand not only the damage, but also to witness how natural processes repair the fire damage of our protected lands. They are, as they say, “fire adapted.”
Tom Tolliver is the fire recovery project manager at SLT. Almost daily he gets to enjoy spectacular views and witness nature at its finest, and he continually asks himself, “They pay me for this?”
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.