by Bob Neale
“When we hear his call we hear no mere bird. We hear the trumpet in the orchestra of evolution. He is the symbol of our untamable past, of that incredible sweep of millennia which underlies and conditions the daily affairs of birds and men.” -- Aldo Leopold.
I’m struggling to put down my iPhone and the ridiculous little news app I’ve been staring at for days … weeks … maybe months, as I try to glean meaning from our political tea leaves, the pundits’ sound bites, and the tweets from the politosphere. Sigh … the true outcome of our elections may not be known for years as the decisions of people so often affect the future more than the present. Looking out the car window, the smoky air is re-traumatizing. Horns, truck tires bouncing over potholes and racing internal combustion engines are filling the spaces between ash and light. My head is imploding; I can’t find a clear thought.
by Kyle Pinjuv
Sonoma County is famous around the world for many things: the beautiful landscapes, the incredible variety of food and wine, the friendly and inviting culture of people who live here, the…supernatural activity? Yes, that is correct; if you start down that rabbit hole of searching for haunted places of Sonoma County, you will find books, movies and newspaper articles chronicling the rich history of this area and the stories of early settlements. Stories of those who landed here for one reason or another, and who are still here — for one reason or another.
A lonesome monolith at the foot of the Mayacamas Mountains, the now unoccupied stone mansion at Glen Oaks Ranch stands just out of view of the passersby driving along Highway 12 through the small town of Glen Ellen. Built by Charles V. Stuart in 1860 and kept in private ownership until Sonoma Land Trust acquired the property from Joan Cochran in 2002, the house contains many of the psychological mechanisms that correlate with the feeling of being uneasy or creeped out. Houses are generally excellent locations for stories of ghosts and hauntings for a reason. They can be found in somewhat remote settings and our uneasiness is heightened by the fact that any help is far, or maybe even inaccessible (think "The Shining"), and being inside a structure heightens our animal sense of being trapped…two conditions that don’t allow us to rest easy. These old houses typically have accessories that perfectly fit into our haunted mansion archetype: secret rooms, old paintings, distorted mirrors, unexplored attics and dark, damp cellars…what is down in that cellar? More importantly, it is the stories of the place that are passed among the living that feed our fears of the dead.
by Julian Meisler
For two days this week, I had the pleasure of joining leaders from California and Chile in a joint conservation conference organized largely by our former executive director, Ralph Benson. Now in its second year, the conference focused on coastal conservation and “was inspired by the remarkable symmetry of the mountain, valley and coastal landscapes of Chile and California, and by parallel efforts to celebrate, protect and restore our northern and southern lands and waters.” Indeed, the geography of Chile is strikingly similar to California’s, with a spectacular coastline, a central valley and a mountain range. The climate is reversed, however, with the northern portion of the country arid and warm like Southern California, and the southern portion of the country more like Northern California. Though that is an oversimplification, environmental issues facing Chile are the same as those facing California today (sea level rise, increased fire risk, drought) and California 50 years ago (increased development pressure).
by Bob Neale
This time of year — and especially this year — the arrival of autumn brings on melancholy. Light low on the horizon, summer over, winter coming … beautiful, but sad, a kind of heaviness in the air. Throw in the current political climate, regardless of your persuasion, and speaking of climate … oy! … and so it goes in my mind in the fall. And yet, like Venus rising in a clear night sky, a little bit of hope arrived last week. In fact, I believe it is the definition of hope — look it up in the dictionary and you will find a photo like this one. Seven pounds of beautiful, peaceful, little baby joyousness! Our very own stewardship manager Trevor George and his wife, Elizabeth, welcomed their first baby girl, Paige, into the world and, in the process, made our whole world brighter.
by Naomi Clark and Heather Ah San
On October 27, the long wait for Tolay Lake Regional Park will be over. After 13 years of restoration and development, Tolay will finally be open to the public to enjoy! At 3,400 acres, it is now the biggest park in the Sonoma County Regional Parks system. We’re proud to have played a role in the park’s formation, donating more than 1,600 acres of land from the adjoining Tolay Creek Ranch to double the park in size. The park is not only an ecological treasure, surrounded by rolling hills, oak woodland and, yes, a seasonal 200-acre lake, it’s a cultural gem, considered a sacred place by ancestors of indigenous peoples who occupied the site for millennia. In fact, the park will be managed as a “model of cooperation” between the county and the Federated Indians of the Graton Rancheria
by Bob Neale
A gorgeous relaxing morning on top of Pole Mountain. Of course, I took the easy way up with our truck and volunteers, Tovar and Louise. We wanted to make sure that we were at the top of the mountain to greet the first hikers, get their first impressions and give them Sonoma Land Trust hats and high fives on this inaugural weekend. Yes — at long last, the Sea to Sky Trail from Highway 1 outside of Jenner to the top of Pole Mountain is open. We had 18 inspiring hikers come to the top on this beautiful early fall day. Now, I’ve thought of it as a rugged, thigh-busting 15-mile round trip hike to the highest point on the coast. But judging from the hikers faces, I was totally wrong. Smiles all the way around. All ages: men and women, young and old, speed hikers and runners (yes … at least three runners that Saturday!), hikers and slow walkers. Most of the people were new to Pole Mountain, but some were volunteers and friends who had been there before. Everyone gushed about the beauty, the trail, the views, their excitement. I am inspired by their enthusiasm and energy and feel so stoked that the Land Trust and our partners, The Wildlands Conservancy and Sonoma Ag + Open Space, are able to bring this unique hiking opportunity to the coast.
by Trevor George
The days are shortening and the light feels different. The nightly low temperatures are dipping into the 40s and the sun is still hot, but it feels cool in the shade. Acorns are starting to fall and woodpeckers appear to be snatching them before they hit the ground. Fall is around the corner.
Some trees around town are already beginning to display their annual fall brilliance, like this one by our office.
by Bob Neale
The dog days of summer, marked by the rise of Sirius, the Dog Star, are coming to a sultry, inevitable close. Sniff the wind — you can smell fall coming. But it’s not quite here yet and, lying in the grass at Glen Oaks Ranch ("field work" we call it in the Stewardship Department), my eyes are heavy and my mind drifts … thoughts of dogs lead to thoughts of other canids and memories of a grey fox I saw one afternoon near Stuart Creek. My eye caught movement under the buckeye tree where a handsome little guy popped out from under the bridge. He took a couple steps toward me and then sat down at the edge of the driveway just looking at me. And I looked at him. We remained that way for some time. Suddenly, he turned and scurried back down toward the creek. Delightful encounter.
by Kate Freeman
Eelgrass: a coastal treasure.
As residents of California, we have an extra special relationship to grass. We watch it paint the hillsides gold in summertime. We learn to live without it on our lawns. We have even legalized the use of psychoactive grass for adults. While the quality of one’s lawn or cannabis laws are both rich and riveting topics, I am not here to discuss grass in either regard. Today, I would like to bring to your attention the under-glorified yet inimitable grasses of the sea — and by that, I mean seagrass!
by Kyle Pinjuv and Tom Tolliver
Sonoma Land Trust holds conservation easements over 44 properties throughout Sonoma and Mendocino Counties, eight of which were impacted by the fires in 2017. We have a special relationship with our conservation easement landowners: Through their stewardship on their privately-owned properties, they help further our mission by preserving and protecting some of the most unique and important landscapes throughout our county.
We’ve been working closely with our CE landowners whose properties were impacted by the wildfires by connecting them with local organizations, state agencies and professional colleagues that specialize in the ecological impacts and restoration of fire-affected landscapes. We continue to monitor the properties closely for fire related changes to the conservation values and, if requested, assist the property owners during the ongoing recovery process.
This wildfire season, as fires continue to ravage parts of the state — and Sonoma County continues to recover — we want to share with you, our Land Trust community, information, resources and experience we learned through our post-fire management caring for our properties, and through our CE landowner’s own experiences:
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.