by Trevor George
Often when I’m on the land, my eyes are drawn to geologic features. I can’t help it — it’s what I studied in school and it continues to fascinate me. At Live Oaks Ranch last week, I noticed some of the geologic processes taking place and thought about parallels to our work in stewardship.
Geologic events can take place instantly — but they can also occur very slowly. Take a look at this photo. Bidwell Creek is slowly and persistently eroding away at the bedrock below. The rock, a solidified ash flow, has been eroded into a lumpy creek bottom, creating beautiful pools like this one. The land will continue to shift over time as the creek cuts into the ground.
Aspects of conservation and stewardship move slowly too. We plant native trees and shrubs, seed native grasses, reduce sediment introduced into creeks by fixing our roads, but these all take significant time before realizing their full effect. As this stream removes rock bit by bit, many of our stewardship projects are taking hold and beginning to integrate into the natural landscape.
Geologic processes can also happen instantly, impacting the land greatly. The photo below was taken the same day as the one above. It’s a relatively small landslide, probably only a few years old and of little consequence. We have, however, experienced much larger landslides on some properties and felt the impacts of earthquakes. In fact, the 2014 Napa earthquake opened up some new springs at Live Oaks Ranch — a good example of how the earth can change the land in an instant.
Certain stewardship projects can occur instantly. Our removal of the fish barrier from Stuart Creek — and, more recently, bringing the bay back to Sears Point — come to mind. As with similar geologic events, the effects are seen immediately — and are felt for many lifetimes.
To tackle the question of how to protect land in perpetuity, there are lessons to be learned in the geology. Geology reminds us to be patient, persistent — and, most of all, to make a big splash when we can.
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.