Conservation landowners join to coordinate fire and land management efforts in Sonoma Valley
Million-dollar grant secured from CAL FIRE
SANTA ROSA, CALIF. — A group of six private organizations and public agencies that own and manage land in the public trust has formed the Sonoma Valley Wildlands Collaborative (“the Collaborative”) and has just been awarded a grant from CAL FIRE (California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection) in the amount of $1,055,575 to undertake fuel reduction work on their lands.
The Collaborative is working with CAL FIRE to implement strategic fuel reduction and vegetation management measures to reduce the impacts of future wildfires, protect communities, and improve ecosystem health in the northern Sonoma Valley area and surrounding hills.
Members of the Collaborative are Audubon Canyon Ranch, California State Parks, Sonoma County Ag + Open Space, Sonoma County Regional Parks, Sonoma Land Trust, and Sonoma Mountain Ranch Preservation Foundation.
Together, the members own and manage approximately 18,000 acres of protected lands between eastern Santa Rosa and Agua Caliente. In October 2017, this area was significantly impacted by the Nuns Fire, which burned 56,556 acres and destroyed over 1,000 buildings.
“All of the Collaborative’s lands connect to the Sonoma Valley directly or indirectly,” said Cyndy Shafer, natural resource program manager for California State Parks-Bay Area District. “By working together, we can help protect communities while, at the same time, improve ecological health on a landscape scale.”
Among the treatments being planned by the Collaborative are controlled burns, targeted thinning and reduction of ladder fuels where appropriate, installation of shaded fuel breaks, and clearing vegetation along roadways to improve access for emergency personnel.
“I am absolutely thrilled to hear about this award,” said Sonoma County First District Supervisor Susan Gorin. “The Sonoma Valley Wildlands Collaborative is exactly the type of innovative partnership we need in our county to create a more resilient, fire-adapted landscape for the long term.”
“Embarking on these activities was dependent on securing funding and we are so pleased to receive this grant from CAL FIRE,” said Tony Nelson, Sonoma Valley program manager for Sonoma Land Trust. Acting as the fiscal agent for the group, the Land Trust applied to CAL FIRE’s Fire Prevention Grant Program on behalf of the Collaborative and was notified of the grant outcome on April 16.
Controlled burning will be conducted by CAL FIRE through its statewide Vegetation Management Program (VMP) on Collaborative lands in the Sonoma Valley and could begin as soon as mid-May if conditions allow. “CAL FIRE’s Sonoma Lake Napa Unit is excited to be working with the Collaborative in their effort to use controlled burning as a land management tool,” said Will Powers, Fire Prevention Specialist for the Unit.
The Collaborative looks forward to engaging with Sonoma Valley communities through education and outreach, while informing residents of upcoming controlled burns and other vegetation management activities.