by Tony Nelson
Seems like only a few months ago we removed an old bridge structure in Stuart Creek near Glen Ellen that blocked steelhead from returning to former, still high-quality spawning areas upstream for the last couple of decades. The restored 900-foot stretch of creek at our preserve, Stuart Creek Run, was specially designed to provide passage and rest for steelhead on their way to spawn.
Now, three years later, I’ve just finished drafting and submitting a final report for a grant that we received to open Stuart Creek to steelhead passage. I wish I was writing to let everyone know that I’ve found steelhead, but none have been confirmed yet. There are trout in the creek, so we know conditions remain good, but they may be offspring of resident fish — until we see large steelhead or find spawning beds (otherwise known as “redds”), we can’t say that steelhead have returned. So we wait.
The sites themselves look vastly better than before the project. The former fish barrier site now looks like a natural creek channel with beautifully developing vegetation growing alongside it.
by Kate Freeman
It’s Independence Day week and for most people that means celebrating with fireworks. While I too enjoy the site of colorful exploding missiles in the night sky, I often find myself questioning a tradition that produces both chemical and noise pollution. California hosts many naturally occurring phenomena that are as equally awe-inspiring as fireworks. Below I will introduce you to a few glowing alternatives that do not involve gunpowder (I recognize that the pyromaniacs have checked out already).
If you enjoy glow sticks, starry skies or glitter, then you will undoubtedly be enchanted by bioluminescence, which is the biochemical emission of light by living organisms. This spectacle is found in many marine organisms, such as bacteria, algae, jellyfish, crustaceans, seastars, fish and sharks (most of these are deep sea dwellers).
Is the chandelier firework what you’re after this holiday? Then I highly recommend getting your phosphorescent-fix somewhere along the coast. Head to Tomales Bay where single-celled organisms called dinoflagellates float near the water’s surface. Mechanical agitation — i.e., by a boat, a hand or the surf — causes a reaction resulting in a burst of bright blue light. When concentrations of dinoflagellates are high and waters are calm, you might witness a full-on aquatic firework display.
by Tom Tolliver
In the 2015 Sonoma County Community Wildfire Protection Plan it describes the 1964 Hanley and Nuns Canyon fires that burned in the same manner and path as the 2017 Tubbs and Nuns Canyon fires. It’s clear from our history that Sonoma County burns. If you haven’t done so already check out the interactive county fire map depicting wildfires from 1939 to 2016 developed by our GIS guru Joe Kinyon:
If fire is a natural occurrence on our landscapes, how does the Land Trust become as resilient as the landscape we protect? By being prepared for future fires. In the coming months we’ll update our fire disaster planning template to address three key areas: fire prevention, fire response and fire recovery. Using this template to create and implement a fire disaster plan for each preserve will become an important element of our property stewardship.
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.
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.