Extending the trail
at Little Black Mountain Preserve
As part of our new EXPLORE hike series, a group of Sonoma Land Trust hikers enjoyed a new segment of the trail along the old ranch road on Little Black Mountain Preserve last week. Thanks to a recent trail maintenance project led by the Sonoma County Trails Council, the project added another mile of trail so that hikers can explore the west side of the preserve and the old Peterson Ranch homestead site that burned in the 1978 Creighton Ridge fire. Only a stone chimney is left as a reminder of the way of life in years past. Relishing the evening breeze, the group picnicked at the Lone Antler Lookout— a knoll on the east edge of the property with stunning views — before making the descent back down the rambling mountain road to town.
Saving owls is all in a day's work
Early this summer out at Sears Point Ranch, our lessee ranchers were interested in reviving this old water tank, which had not been used for at least a couple decades. Imagine their surprise when they looked inside and found two young barn owlets at the bottom. Baylands program manager Julian Meisler kept tabs on the owlets over the last few weeks with growing concern that the young birds might not be able to fledge from the old tank, which has only an 18-inch opening at the top. On Monday evening, he decided to carefully place a wooden board inside the hole to enable the owlets to climb out if necessary. Predator access was a consideration, and death by starvation and heat were even bigger concerns. But in a nod to the ability and agility of these nimble flyers, both owlets had already fledged and the board wasn't necessary after all! Although the tank in the middle of a field seems like an odd place to nest, it turns out that it is not so extraordinary and, certainly, the vast grasslands of Sears Point provide excellent hunting grounds for the owls.
The bees' knees at Oak Hill Farm
A delight of the early spring outings series for Land Trust members was an April tour of the apiary at Oak Hill Farm with inspirational beekeeper and instructor Serge Labesque. In May, member Aletha Soule, who had joined the tour that day, wrote, "I am part of a local group that helps support the efforts of AMIDI — Mayan women who farm and weave. The nonprofit status for the group is held by Slow Food Sonoma County North. The leader of the Mayan women, Ana Maria Chali Calan, is visiting in July. Our focus this summer is bees and beekeeping. Would it be possible for Serge to lead us on a beekeeping walk at Oak Hill Farm? The Mayan women raise animals and coffee, and grow plants and flowers for medicinal uses, all on land that is quite steep and remote. The walk with Serge was so informative, and Oak Hill Farm is similar in its diversity and farm practices. We think Ana Maria would get a lot out of the experience." Serge and Oak Hill landowner Anne Teller, whose ancestors grew coffee in Guatemala, enthusiastically invited Ana Maria and her Slow Food friends to come to Oak Hill Farm on Saturday, July 14. It was a morning rich in cultural exchange and honey and pollen tasting, and we wish Ana Maria and her Mayan sisters every success as they undertake beekeeping in the Guatemalan Highlands.
Click here to learn more about AMIDI
Stuart Creek Run cheers, "Bye bye, bamboo!"
Earlier this month, Sonoma Land Trust hosted a partnership workday with Conservation Corps North Bay, providing a work project for a group of 10 high school students from around the county. For two days, the students focused their work on the removal of bamboo from our most recent acquisition in the Sonoma Valley, Stuart Creek Run. This fast-growing invasive displaces native flora and can be particularly harmful along riparian zones. Unlike native vegetation, bamboo provides little canopy cover for in-stream habitat, leading to increased water temperatures and reduced habitat quality for native amphibians, fish and other species that rely on cooler water temperatures. Their hard work transformed the property into a more open and scenic landscape, uncovering native oaks and madrone that were once engulfed in the bamboo forest.
Off the land and into the classroom
The inaugural North American Congress on Conservation Biology took place last week in Oakland where stewardship project manager Tony Nelson and outings coordinator Ingrid Stearns attended workshops and lectures on this year's theme: "Bridging the Gap: Connecting People, Nature and Climate." Leading conservation scientists presented their latest research on topics such as habitat connectivity, wildlife corridors, citizen science and planning for climate change in the San Francisco Bay Area. These topics are timely for the conservation work Sonoma Land Trust is doing in Sonoma County. Stuart Creek Run, the Jenner Headlands and Tolay Creek Ranch are all prime examples of conservation that aids habitat connectivity and wildlife movement. Our tidal marsh restoration project at Sears Point will buffer against sea level rise and provide habitat for endangered species, such as the salt marsh harvest mouse. And our volunteer birders are collecting valuable data on bird species present on our preserves. This conference was a great opportunity to learn about the science in real time and to help us plan for the future as we work to preserve the biodiversity that makes Sonoma County such a special and important place.
And thanks to a grant provided by ESRI, GIS manager Joe Kinyon is attending the ESRI International User Conference in San Diego this week. After attending workshops on "Telling Stories with Maps," "Using GIS to Manage Vegetation" and "EPA Metadata Editor," we trust he will return brimming with ideas on how to use new mapping techniques and technology to further our conservation efforts.
Great horned owl at Estero Americano
Some of our people were out at the Estero Americano Preserve last month looking for outlying patches of invasive fescue and surprised — and were surprised by — this juvenile great horned owl who was seated in the grass. He immediately flew away, found a perch and displayed. Being sensitive to the needs of wildlife, we didn't pursue him — just got out the telephoto lens and snapped away. This is a zoomed in shot of the resulting photo. Pretty cool, huh?
Focusing on what's right with our parks
While the news about State Parks sitting on a $54 million surplus has been vastly unsettling, Lauren Dixon of the Parks Alliance reminds us in this Press Democrat op-ed that, regardless of what happens with this money at the state level, Sonoma County has saved its state parks for the near future and will continue to work hard to keep them open.
And Sonoma Land Trust member Elisa Stancil, vice president of the Valley of the Moon Natural History Association (which is now running Jack London State Historic Park), reminds us in this op-ed in Patch to celebrate the fact that our county found innovative ways to keep all of our state parks open — and to continue supporting our parks.
Where there's a will, there's a way
Please remember to include the Sonoma Land Trust in your will or estate plan. A gift of any size helps guarantee that funds will always be available to preserve for future generations what we all love most about Sonoma County. For more information, please contact Bev Scottland via email or phone: (707) 526-6930, ext. 108.
Coastal prairie fact sheet
One of our key management goals for the Jenner Headlands is to keep the rare coastal prairie habitat healthy. For information on how we plan to do that, read our new fact sheet.
In the news
North Bay Biz magazine ran the following two in-depth articles featuring Sonoma Land Trust in its July issue: "Promised Land: North Bay land trusts make it their mission to protect and steward the land" includes an interview with executive director Ralph Benson about our work in the Baylands, and at Glen Oaks Ranch and the Jenner Headlands.
Read it here
"No Walk in the Park: Organizations statewide are forming to keep parks open" presents the efforts in Marin, Sonoma and Napa Counties to keep our state parks open and discusses Sonoma Land Trust's role in helping to form the Parks Alliance for Sonoma County.
Read it here
From one land trust to another
Congratulations to Stacey Kaufman Konner, Sonoma Land Trust development manager from 2004–2010, who is newly serving as development director for the Bear Yuba Land Trust in Grass Valley! Stacey came back to Santa Rosa last week for a quick visit with her former co-workers and her best buddy Sally, one of our friendly office dogs.