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:
by Heather Ah San
These days, protecting endangered species seems to be at the forefront of everyone's minds given the recent news about the fate of the Endangered Species Act.
Across the country, far from the where the future of the Act will be determined, we at Sonoma Land Trust have a vested interest in one small — but important! — endangered plant species: the white sedge. White sedge (Carex albida), was previously thought to be extinct until it was identified in 1983 at Pitkin Marsh, an environmentally significant wetland located between Graton and Forestville. The Land Trust owns a portion of this marsh, 27 acres worth, of which is home to the only known population of white sedge.
by Julian Meisler
One of the more iconic photos following the fires at Sears Point Ranch was that of a western burrowing owl standing amidst the blackened grassland near the Ralph Benson Center at the Baylands. The picture evoked images of recovery and resilience. On a simpler level, it also suggested that burrowing owls might be using some of the artificial burrows that Sonoma Land Trust, San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge and a whole lot of volunteers installed several years ago.
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.
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.