Sonoma Land Trust offers to partner with county and state on wildlife studies for Sonoma Developmental Center


CONTACT:

Sean Dowdall
President, Landis PR
sean@landispr.com

Sonoma Land Trust has submitted detailed comments on the Notice of Preparation to Permit Sonoma, the planning body for the Sonoma Developmental Center (SDC), as part of the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) process. In addition, Sonoma Land Trust is offering to partner with the county and the state to conduct the necessary detailed studies to document wildlife concentrations and movement at SDC.

“The negative ramifications of an incomplete and inaccurate Environmental Impact Report are often substantial and irreversible,” said Eamon O’Byrne, executive director of Sonoma Land Trust. “While we applaud the state’s focus to protect biodiverse areas and provide affordable housing, we feel the current SDC redevelopment proposals, as outlined, devastatingly fall short to do either. We believe there is a planning and development path that will support this unique piece of land ecologically, while providing support for those in need of housing.”

  • The EIR must include a complete analysis of the environmental impacts of various types of development within this proposed range and must include these project variants in its core analysis rather than as alternatives to the project. The Notice of Preparation states that the SDC project will consist of between 450 and 1000 residential units. It does not provide specific details about the location or intensity of proposed uses at the SDC.
  • The State’s own 2019 governing legislation and the Plan’s adopted Guiding Principles require preserving the SDC’s ecological resources, including the Sonoma Valley Wildlife Corridor. The EIR must accurately describe wildlife’s use of the Corridor and the SDC site and conserve and enhance irreplaceable habitat areas. The EIR must employ the latest scientific tools, datasets, and studies so that the public and decision-makers may fully understand, design around, and mitigate for development impacts to SDC’s ecological resources.
  • The Sonoma Valley Wildlife Corridor serves as a critical linkage in a larger corridor from coastal Marin County to eastern Napa County. Because of its regional significance, analysis of cumulative impacts on the Corridor should include an area that is large enough to account for the movements of local populations of the widest-ranging species present (i.e., mountain lions) and evaluate the impacts of all the different types of development proposed for the property that will impact the permeability of the Wildlife Corridor and the ecosystem services it provides.
  • The project must incorporate appropriate buffers between development and sensitive habitats, such as watercourses and wetlands, to protect the ecological value of the SDC site and the Sonoma Valley Wildlife Corridor. This may require the removal of existing, unused structures. Buffers will be particularly critical to protecting the species that rely on the Wildlife Corridor.
  • The County must analyze wildfire risk and plan for safety to preserve the ecological value of the SDC site and the Sonoma Valley Wildlife Corridor. The County cannot approve development that would require vegetation management in areas (or to a degree) that would negatively impact the Wildlife Corridor or build new roads that will fragment intact habitat areas and eliminate or significantly disrupt wildlife use.
  • The EIR must consider how development at SDC will increase future water demand at the regional scale and analyze the resulting ecological impacts from such water use. The EIR must consider the water use impacts on sensitive aquatic resources and groundwater, especially during drought conditions, and evaluate how these impacts will affect fish and wildlife that rely on local water sources for survival.

To learn more about SDC and view Sonoma Land Trust’s full letter to Permit Sonoma, please visit here.  

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About Sonoma Land Trust

Sonoma Land Trust works in alliance with nature to conserve and restore the integrity of the land with a focus on climate resiliency and is also committed to ensuring more equitable access to the outdoors. Since 1976, Sonoma Land Trust has protected nearly 58,000 acres of scenic, natural, agricultural and open land for future generations. Sonoma Land Trust is the recipient of the 2019 Land Trust Alliance Award of Excellence and is accredited by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission. For more information, please visit www.sonomalandtrust.org.

Pete and Patty Mattson leave a $2 million legacy to Save the Redwoods and Sonoma Land Trust


CONTACT:

Sean Dowdall
President, Landis PR
sean@landispr.com

Philanthropists Peter and Patty Mattson, who lived at Sea Ranch along the Sonoma Coast for decades, shared a passion for redwoods and open space. Pete, as he liked to be known, was a longtime board member of Sonoma Land Trust as well as a board councilor of Save the Redwoods League. Patty worked with Pete both in his business and in conservation and, together, they made a formidable team. In 2016, Patty passed away with Pete following her in early 2021. Recently, Sonoma Land Trust and Save the Redwoods each received $1 million from the couple’s estate.

“Land preservation and protection has been at the forefront of my parents’ charitable objectives for as long as I can remember and Save the Redwoods and Sonoma Land Trust have always had a huge place in their hearts,” said their son and daughter, Andy and Marianne Mattson, in a joint statement. “While our parents had many passions, philanthropy was chief among them; throughout their lives, they continuously sought to contribute to organizations making a positive impact. It was important to them that this impact continue.”

Pete, the founder of leading food and beverage product developer Mattson & Co., served as Sonoma Land Trust board chair from 2005−2009, during which time, the organization was actively raising $20 million to purchase the 2,300-acre Sears Point Ranch in the Baylands and $32 million to acquire the 5,630-acre Jenner Headlands Ranch along the coast — the two largest acquisitions in the Land Trust’s history.

In 2011, Pete and Patty shared why supporting Sonoma Land Trust had long been important to them: “Sonoma Land Trust helps us be part of ensuring that Sonoma County will always be the beautiful and special place that we love. We are confident that our contributions will add important acreage to Sonoma County’s protected landscapes for future generations to enjoy.”

Pete also played a key role in protecting more than 50,000 acres of forest through his service on the board of the Redwood Forest Foundation and as a councilor of Save the Redwoods League. Peter joined the League’s council in 2003 and was an active member of several key committees for 20 years before joining the board in 2014.

“Pete and Patty believed deeply in the power of philanthropy to transform an organization and became the League’s very first donors to the Forever Forest Campaign at the $1 million level,” said Sam Hodder, Save the Redwoods League President & CEO. “Pete was proud to be able to set the pace early on for the success of this campaign. We will always be grateful to Pete and Patty for their vision, leadership and extraordinary generosity.”

The Mattsons’ shared passion for redwoods can be traced to their respective childhoods. Larger-than-life Pete grew up in Los Angeles, where he once said there “were only five trees in the whole neighborhood,” but he sought out each one to climb and play in. Patty came by her affinity for forests at home — her family owned a forested ranch on Skaggs Springs Road between Lake Sonoma and Stewarts Point. After meeting at UC Berkeley, the couple married in 1962, settled on the Peninsula and explored the North Coast every chance they could. In 1984, they become residents of Sea Ranch. Andy and Marianne shared their memories of the long family road trips to many national parks when they were growing up. “Our parents taught us, early on, the value of public lands.”

“We are very grateful to Pete and Patty for all they did and contributed toward land conservation through the years,” said Eamon O’Byrne, Sonoma Land Trust executive director. “While they are deeply missed, they left an incomparable legacy of which their family can be very proud.”

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About Sonoma Land Trust

Sonoma Land Trust works in alliance with nature to conserve and restore the integrity of the land with a focus on climate resiliency and is also committed to ensuring more equitable access to the outdoors. Since 1976, Sonoma Land Trust has protected nearly 58,000 acres of scenic, natural, agricultural and open land for future generations. Sonoma Land Trust is the recipient of the 2019 Land Trust Alliance Award of Excellence and is accredited by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission. For more information, please visit www.sonomalandtrust.org.

Sonoma Land Trust uses nature-based solution to adapt to shoreline erosion and sea level rise


CONTACT:

Sean Dowdall
President, Landis PR
sean@landispr.com

New “Living Shoreline” approach being pioneered at Sears Point Wetland Restoration using logs from Caltrans and PG&E to block levee erosion

In October, 2015, Sonoma Land Trust changed the map of San Francisco Bay by breaching the levee at its Sears Point Ranch along Highway 37 and letting in the tides for the first time in 140 years. With saltwater quickly filling the newly constructed 1,000-acre tidal marsh basin — one of the largest such projects in the Western U.S. — the primary goal was to restore the land that had been diked and drained for over a century back to tidal wetlands. These wetlands are crucial habitat and will also be critical for buffering infrastructure, like Highway 37, from the effects of climate-caused sea level rise.

The marsh is developing rapidly and most of the elements of this massive project are working well, with one exception. The 2.5-mile “habitat” levee, built to protect the surrounding lands from bay water and to provide high-tide refuge for marsh wildlife, is eroding along its shoreline. This is a common problem around the Bay where shorelines are exposed to wind waves — and it’s one that will worsen with sea level rise and also droughts, since most of the bay mud supply for tidal marsh growth comes from high flows of local tributary streams that discharge to the Bay.

To solve the erosion problem, Sonoma Land Trust is employing a unique combination of treatments that avoid “hardened” shorelines lined with boulders (known as rip-rap), which simply shifts the problem to other parts of the Bay. Instead, using natural materials, the goal is to create a “living shoreline” that will work with natural processes and achieve the intended ecological and flood protection benefits of the levee.

Causes of levee erosion

Marshes significantly reduce wave energy and where they have been lost or have not yet been fully restored, as at Sears Point, shoreline erosion is common. Erosion has occurred along approximately 8,000 feet of the northern, or habitat, levee, and roughly 1,300 feet of the western levee, which separates the earlier Sonoma Baylands restoration from the Sears Point project. If the erosion were to be left unchecked, it could threaten the stability of the flood protection functions of the northern levee and the public access trails of both the northern and western levees.

“Shoreline erosion like this is not uncommon, but how we’re approaching it is,” says Julian Meisler, Baylands program manager for Sonoma Land Trust. “For decades, it’s been dealt with by placing rock — static, unchanging rock — with no habitat value. Instead, we are using a dynamic solution: a unique combination of treatments that work together with natural tidal processes.”

“This project may be one of the first in the Bay region to combine the use of large woody debris, coarse and fine sediment, and natural processes, along with native vegetation, to address wind-wave erosion of recently restored, unstable tidal marsh and levee shorelines,” says Peter Baye, a coastal ecologist who co-designed the project. “This local tidal marsh variation on the ‘living shoreline’ approach to adaptive management will provide a large-scale test of the capacity of ’nature-based’ shoreline stabilization methods to provide an ecologically preferable alternative to engineered rip-rap, the traditional default response to shore erosion.”

How the “Living Shoreline” approach works

Working with a team of scientists and engineers, the Land Trust has developed a plan to adaptively manage the levee erosion with vegetation, logs, soil and the power of tidal currents. Several hundred logs that are 15−25 feet long will be strategically embedded and anchored in front of the levees to block wave energy and create a “wave shadow.” Historically, before the great Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers were dammed and diverted, logs were a natural part of the system from treefall — and the Bay shoreline was a natural landing point. Today, obtaining logs and having them delivered is expensive, but Caltrans and PG&E responded to the call for help, bringing and stacking logs that they salvaged from road projects, burn areas and utility line clearing. Their contributions of logs and labor have saved Sonoma Land Trust $130,000 in costs. Siegel Environmental, the firm that developed the design, has been hired as the construction manager, Dixon Marine Services is the contractor and the Land Trust’s Meisler is serving as project manager.

Before installing the logs (which function similarly to large, woody debris in nature, it was first necessary to begin to stabilize the levee with native marsh plants. Over the past 18 months, crews transplanted 3,100 Pacific cordgrass plants along the front of the northern levee, which are growing well. Planting will continue this year and next. Ultimately, it is the cordgrass and other marsh plants that will provide the greatest shoreline defense.

The next step, which is currently in the beginning stage, is to place the logs by digging a trench and then positioning and anchoring a log in bay mud with smaller branches embedded underneath to reduce energy and trap sediment. The eroded scarp behind the logs will be graded to a gentle slope. Lastly, piles of granular, dried bay mud, of which 600 truckloads were brought in earlier from Port Sonoma, will be placed in between and in front of the logs so that the wind waves and tidal currents can wash them up on the shore in the form of swash bars, which are similar to gravel and sandbars on bay and lake shores. The swash bars will serve as platforms for pickleweed and other marsh species to colonize and take root and further stabilize the system. This local process was responsible for most of the high salt marsh that formed on the north shore of Sears Point in the first few years after tides were restored and it is copied in the “living shoreline” design.

“Our adaptive management approach is derived from natural processes observed by our design team onsite and around the bay,” concludes Meisler. “We’ll monitor its progress and, if we’re successful, we hope this will be a tool that other managers can use to manage the chronic issue of shoreline erosion within tidal marsh settings.”

Timing, funding and trail closure

The $900,000 project is expected to be completed by the end of this year. Funding has been provided by the California Wildlife Conservation Board.

Throughout the construction, which is anticipated to continue into December, the 2.4-mile Bay Trail–Eliot Trail and 0.3-mile Dickson Trail will be closed. The 1.4-mile Bay Trail–Sonoma Baylands Trail will remain open via Port Sonoma only. 

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About Sonoma Land Trust

Sonoma Land Trust works in alliance with nature to conserve and restore the integrity of the land with a focus on climate resiliency and is also committed to ensuring more equitable access to the outdoors. Since 1976, Sonoma Land Trust has protected 58,000 acres of scenic, natural, agricultural and open land for future generations. Sonoma Land Trust is the recipient of the 2019 Land Trust Alliance Award of Excellence and is accredited by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission. For more information, please visit www.sonomalandtrust.org.

Bay Area business executive Marie Andel named chair of Sonoma Land Trust board of directors


CONTACT:

Sean Dowdall
President, Landis PR
sean@landispr.com

Marie Andel, an award-winning business executive specializing in building values-based, high performance cultures, has been named the new chair of Sonoma Land Trust’s board of directors. A board member since 2017, Andel retired as chief people and culture officer for CSAA Insurance Group, a AAA Insurer, in 2019, and is currently serving as interim chief human resources officer for Pinterest.

“Marie’s exceptionally deep experience with organizational change management and her passion for environmental equity will be enormous assets during her time as chair — as she helps to navigate the Land Trust toward the goal of serving an inclusive conservation audience and all our communities in Sonoma County,” says Eamon O’Byrne, Sonoma Land Trust executive director. “Her leadership as a board member has been infused with enthusiasm and an eye toward the future, and I know she will be an outstanding chair.”

Andel, who led the process that resulted in the hiring of O’Byrne in 2019, says she is delighted to be working more closely with him and the Land Trust staff on the organization’s initiatives to make Sonoma County more resilient to climate change and ensure that all communities have access to the benefits of nature.

“Nature is such a healing force — it gives us life, energy and renewal,” says Andel. “As we confront the challenges of climate change, I look forward to partnering with the diverse communities of Sonoma County to keep the land, waterways and wildlife healthy — and, by extension, all of us.  

“A few years ago, when I was trying to figure out the best way for me to give back, someone very wise suggested that I focus on what I love,” she continues. “That brought me to Sonoma Land Trust because I am grateful to be able to hike among the trees, listen to the birds and walk along the shores. The most beautiful place in the world to me is the stunning Sonoma Coast. The grandeur of nature does a wonderful job reminding me of my insignificance, which I appreciate.”

Andel has been named one of the “Bay Area’s Most Influential Women in Business” and has also served as a board member of the American Red Cross Bay Area. She lives in Sonoma with her husband, Eric.

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About Sonoma Land Trust

Sonoma Land Trust works in alliance with nature to conserve and restore the integrity of the land with a focus on climate resiliency and is also committed to ensuring more equitable access to the outdoors. Since 1976, Sonoma Land Trust has protected nearly 58,000 acres of scenic, natural, agricultural and open land for future generations. Sonoma Land Trust is the recipient of the 2019 Land Trust Alliance Award of Excellence and is accredited by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission. For more information, please visit www.sonomalandtrust.org.

Sonoma Land Trust protects large Russian River ranch outside Healdsburg


CONTACT:

Sean Dowdall
President, Landis PR
sean@landispr.com

More than a pretty place, Walter and Jean Foppiano Ranch offers extensive natural benefits

Sonoma Land Trust has protected one of the largest remaining ranches along the middle reach of the Russian River — a cattle ranch on a beautiful peninsula of rolling hills and grasslands one mile east of Healdsburg and bounded on three sides by the Russian River. On April 30, the Land Trust closed escrow on a conservation easement over the 758-acre Walter and Jean Foppiano Ranch belonging to their daughters, Ruth Ann Foppiano and Christine Foppiano Haun.

“My mother and father worked hard their whole life and were both very proud of the ranch,” says Haun. “They would be pleased with this result that my sister and I chose for it.”

“This charismatic ranch is really close to Healdsburg, but feels a world away,” says land acquisition program manager, Sara Press. “With an easement over this biologically rich property, we’re protecting the ecological function of an important stretch of the Russian River.”

The development risk in this part of the county is high. Under the conservation easement, which extinguishes the possibility of up to six estate homes and/or large-scale vineyards, the ranch’s meadows, woodlands and nearly three miles of river frontage and streamside habitat will remain undeveloped forever. The easement allows for sustainable grazing agriculture — a small herd of cattle will continue to graze peacefully there.

Protecting the ranch ensures that this landscape can continue to deliver its ecosystem benefits, including:

  • filtering water that is part of a system that provides drinking water to more than 600,000 residents in Sonoma and Marin counties;
  • recharging groundwater at a rate of 702 acre-feet per year, which is equivalent in volume to the annual water use of 3,600 households (Bay Area Greenprint); and
  • storing almost 14,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas equivalent in the above-ground vegetation and over 40,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas equivalent in the soil (Bay Area Greenprint), which together are equivalent to the annual energy use of over 6,000 homes (EPA).

Recent history of the ranch In the mid-1950s, Walter Foppiano, his brother and sister purchased the original 1,600-acre ranch across from where the Maacama Creek converges with the Russian River. Over time, their families separated their holdings, ultimately leaving Christine and Ruth Ann with their parents’ 758-acre portion. Sonoma Land Trust’s purchase of a conservation easement over the property allows the ranch to remain as it has been for the last 70-plus years and to provide a vehicle to settle the estate.

“I enjoyed going out with my dad to help take care of the sheep and, in later years, cattle,” says Haun. “I learned how to ride a horse, to appreciate what needed to be done when caring for livestock and to have patience — and I came to realize just how lucky I was growing up as a child. My husband and I enjoy immensely being at the ranch every day just like my dad did.”

Property offers extensive biodiversity

The ranch is located within a wildlife movement corridor connecting Fitch Mountain and Modini Mayacamas Preserve, and its protection will provide enduring climate adaptation and resilience benefits for native plants and animals, including intact riparian (streamside) habitat and habitat connectivity. Thanks to unusual geology and hydrology at this site, the Russian River makes a big loop around the property, surrounding it on three sides. The ample water and undeveloped nature of the ranch benefits numerous species of wildlife — even mountain lion tracks have been seen from time to time along the sandy riverbank.

Conserving this prop­erty will also help protect at-risk aquatic species that include Coho salmon, steelhead trout, California freshwater shrimp, red-legged frog and foothill yellow-legged frog. The entire ranch is considered essential for conservation by the Conservation Lands Network, a respected regional conservation strategy for the San Francisco Bay Area.

Loss of the ranch to development would have accelerated degradation of the watershed, diminished biodiversity, increased habitat loss and fragmentation, reduced groundwater recharge, reduced the diversity of working agricultural lands, increased greenhouse gas emissions, and caused other negative impacts to the ecosystem.

Funding for easement purchase

Funding to purchase the conservation easement was secured from the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Agricultural Conservation Easement Program; the California Strategic Growth Council’s Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation program with funds from California Climate Investments, a statewide initiative that puts billions of Cap-and-Trade dollars to work; and the Bay Area Conservation Small Grants Program of Resources Legacy Fund, which is funded in part by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

“Congratulations to the Foppiano family and the Sonoma Land Trust for protecting the Foppiano Ranch forever,” says Jessica Buendia, acting executive director of the California Strategic Growth Council, which supported the land acquisition with an award through its Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation Program. “Protecting these 758 acres is a powerful example of how actions with major local benefits help advance important State goals to reduce and avoid greenhouse gas emissions, to protect and recharge groundwater, and to conserve natural and working lands.”

A Force for Nature Campaign

Protecting this property along the Russian River is a project of the $80 million “A Force for Nature” fundraising campaign that Sonoma Land Trust will launch publicly on May 25, 2021. The campaign funds land protection work, such as the Foppiano Ranch project, as well as other nature-based projects and programs aimed at fostering climate resilience. Thanks to generous support from individuals, businesses, foundations and government entities, we are more than 70 percent of the way to reaching the goal. Join us May 25 to learn more about the campaign. https://give.sonomalandtrust.org/forcefornature

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About Sonoma Land Trust

Sonoma Land Trust works in alliance with nature to conserve and restore the integrity of the land with a focus on climate resiliency and is also committed to ensuring more equitable access to the outdoors. Since 1976, Sonoma Land Trust has protected more than 56,000 acres of scenic, natural, agricultural and open land for future generations. Sonoma Land Trust is the recipient of the 2019 Land Trust Alliance Award of Excellence and is accredited by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission. For more information, please visit www.sonomalandtrust.org.

About NRCS’ Sonoma County Venture Conservation Regional Conservation Partnership Program

NRCS’ Sonoma County Venture Conservation (SCVC) Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) is a collaboration of partners, funders, residents, farmers and ranchers working to conserve and restore land in Sonoma County to ensure resilience to climate change through healthy soils, high-quality surface and groundwater supplies, healthy habitat for fish and wildlife, and a thriving agricultural industry. The Partnership received a five-year $8,049,000 grant for activities such as protecting agricultural land through conservation easements. For more information about RCPP, visit https://www.sonomaopenspace.org/projects/sonoma-county-venture-conservation-partnership/.

About Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation Program

The Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation Program (SALC), a component of the California Strategic Growth Council’s Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities (AHSC) Program, supports California’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction goals by making strategic investments to protect agricultural lands from conversion to more GHG-intensive uses. Protecting critical agricultural lands from conversion to urban or rural residential development encourages infill development within existing jurisdictions, ensures open space remains available, and supports a healthy agricultural economy and resulting food security. A healthy and resilient agricultural sector is a critical part of meeting the challenges occurring and anticipated as a result of climate change.

Administered by the Department of Conservation’s Division of Land Resource Protection, SALC is part of California Climate Investments, a statewide program that puts billions of Cap-and-Trade dollars to work reducing GHG emissions, strengthening the economy, and improving public health and the environment — particularly in disadvantaged communities. The Cap-and-Trade program also creates a financial incentive for industries to invest in clean technologies and develop innovative ways to reduce pollution. California Climate Investments projects include affordable housing, renewable energy, public transportation, zero-emission vehicles, environmental restoration, more sustainable agriculture, recycling, and much more. At least 35 percent of these investments are located within and benefiting residents of disadvantaged communities, low-income communities, and low-income households across California. For more information, visit the California Climate Investments website at: www.caclimateinvestments.ca.gov.

Sonoma Land Trust deepens its mission to be a force for nature

Force of Nature Logo

CONTACT:

Sean Dowdall
President, Landis PR
sean@landispr.com

Nonprofit launches $80 million campaign to create a climate-ready and resilient Sonoma County

Sonoma Land Trust is taking bold action through our A FORCE FOR NATURE campaign. We’ve paired human resolve with nature-based solutions to build a more resilient Sonoma County. Members of the public are invited to join us at the free virtual campaign launch event on Tuesday, May 25 from 6−7pm. Co-hosts will be nature celebrity Doug McConnell, host of NBC Bay Area’s OpenRoad TV, and Seair Lorentz, co-founder of the new Petaluma River Park. Register for the event at sonomalandtrust.org.

The $80 million A Force for Nature Campaign is raising funds and awareness for our projects and programs, as well as securing commitments for future funding through planned gifts. Thanks to the generous support of our members, business partners, foundations and government funders, we are approximately 74 percent of the way to reaching our goal.

“To make the greatest impact, we have deepened our mission to adapt to the changing climate and reflect the diversity of the communities we serve,” says Land Trust executive director Eamon O’Byrne. “We must start by acknowledging that Sonoma County landscapes are not only breathtaking, but also breath-giving. Nature is not a nice-to-have amenity; it is the infrastructure of all life.”

Because of a growing awareness that land conservation is a key strategy for addressing our climate and extinction crises, California and the Federal government have set a 30 x 30 plan to conserve 30 percent of our lands by 2030. Sonoma Land Trust plans to protect thousands of acres of land rich in biodiversity over the next decade in support of the 30 x 30 goal. These lands will be managed collaboratively and with innovative approaches to build a more resilient Sonoma County.

An investment in natural solutions

We have developed six natural solutions, as part of our recent strategic planning process, that consider the health of our land, water and community members. These solutions work in alliance with nature to preserve our land and resources, and ensure safe access to nature and an equitable distribution of its benefits to all members of the community.

Protecting Our Biodiversity

Million-acre Sonoma County sits at the core of a biological hotspot, which means we have some of the world’s richest ecosystems, but also some of the most threatened. To support our vital biodiversity, Sonoma Land Trust is conserving lands threatened by development and preserving large, intact landscapes and wildlife corridors so that vulnerable populations of animals and plants can thrive.

Living With Wildfire

Working with the community, local government agencies, nonprofits and Indigenous tribes, we are working toward the goal of restoring fire’s ecological role on the landscape through improved forest management practices and the return of controlled burns on up to 50,000 acres in Sonoma County. These efforts will help mitigate the effects of climate change, promote ecosystem health and biodiversity, and improve fire resilience and safety for our communities.

Adapting to Rising Waters

We are working to adapt and mitigate the impacts of flooding from sea level rise and intense storms through the acquisition and restoration of wetlands, creeks and tidal marshes in the Sonoma Baylands. Wetlands, which act like sponges, are critical buffers to sea level rise, slowing down waves and storm surges to prevent flooding from extreme downpours.

Securing Freshwater Flows

Water and land are inextricably linked as water flows over, through and across our landscapes. Using innovative science, we have identified the most strategic parts of the Russian River system to acquire, protect and restore. Our goal is to expand essential habitats for fish, birds and other wildlife while simultaneously building community resilience to severe storms, droughts, flooding and sea level rise.

Preserving Nature Nearby

Parks can make cities healthier by lowering temperatures, improving air quality, reducing GHG emissions and providing opportunities for recreation. Through acquisition and transfer of land to county and city parks, we are expanding access in areas that lack nearby open space and facilitating innovative park-planning processes that meets the needs of all our communities.

Empowering Our Communities

We approach our work with an equity lens to ensure access and distribution of nature’s benefits to all community members. Through inclusive educational programming, we are supporting diverse and equitable communities and cultivating the next generation of nature advocates for Sonoma County.

As we say at the Land Trust, the solutions are right under our feet! From the Russian River watershed to the dramatic Sonoma Coast to the tidal marshes along the Sonoma Baylands, the land that Sonoma Land Trust is preserving has the power to fight climate change.

Leaders of the Campaign

Volunteers are at the heart of the campaign. Three co-chair couples lead the Campaign Steering Committee, which works in partnership with staff to ensure the campaign’s success. Our Board of Directors has also been instrumental to this campaign through their generous donations of time, talent and treasure.

Campaign Steering Committee Co-chairs:

  • Simon and Kimberly Blattner
  • Tim Portwood and Jim Lauber
  • Harry and Dee Richardson

Campaign Steering Committee Members:

  • Scott Hafner
  • Steven Hightower
  • Nancy Otto
  • Ellie Rilla
  • Allison Sanford

Supporters can participate in the campaign by continuing to make their annual gifts. Many will let us know about their intention to make a planned gift to Sonoma Land Trust — another great way to participate in the campaign. And some will make special gifts in support of ambitious goals spelled out in the strategic plan.

To be a force for nature by making a donation, or to learn more about the campaign, visit our campaign microsite at weareaforcefornature.org.

To speak with a member of our staff about making a gift or to learn more about our Legacy League, please contact Shannon Nichols, director of philanthropy, at (707) 933-7220 or shannon@sonomalandtrust.org.

“This is the most consequential decade for our planet; climate change and consequent wildfires, drought and species extinctions threaten our safety, resources, biodiversity, and physical and mental health,” says O’Byrne. “Nature is the most powerful tool we have for meaningful climate action.

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About Sonoma Land Trust

Sonoma Land Trust works in alliance with nature to conserve and restore the integrity of the land with a focus on climate resiliency and is also committed to ensuring more equitable access to the outdoors. Since 1976, Sonoma Land Trust has protected more than 58,000 acres of scenic, natural, agricultural and open land for future generations. Sonoma Land Trust is the recipient of the 2019 Land Trust Alliance Award of Excellence and is accredited by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission. For more information, please visit www.sonomalandtrust.org.

Sonoma Land Trust to purchase historic Fitzsimmons Ranch to expand Hood Mountain Regional Park and Open Space Preserve


CONTACT:

Sean Dowdall
President, Landis PR
sean@landispr.com

Meda Freeman
Sonoma County Regional Parks meda.freeman@sonoma-county.org

Longtime ranching family chooses to make their land available for open space

On April 21, Sonoma Land Trust will close escrow on the 200-acre Fitzsimmons Ranch, which is an inholding of private land within 2,000-acre Hood Mountain Regional Park and Open Space Preserve. The expansion of the park has been a key priority for Sonoma Land Trust, ensuring that future generations of visitors and wildlife can thrive and adapt in this important corridor of the Mayacamas Mountains. Immediately upon acquiring the $1.13 million ranch, Sonoma Land Trust will convey the property to Sonoma County Regional Parks for inclusion into the park. The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors voted on March 16 to accept the Land Trust’s donation of Fitzsimmons Ranch to Regional Parks.

Fitzsimmons Ranch has a rich modern history. Homesteaded in 1912 by Max Arthur Fitzsimmons and his wife Maud William Fitzsimmons, the couple received a land grant that was signed by the U.S. President in 1913. While they returned to Santa Rosa to live shortly thereafter, Max, Maud and subsequent generations of their family maintained the ranch for cattle grazing and family visits. It is this faint footprint on the land that has made it so compelling to Sonoma Land Trust and Regional Parks.

“This is the epitome of wild land, which is rare to come by in our county anymore,” says Land Trust acquisitions director John McCaull. “We are very grateful to this family for keeping the land intact and undeveloped — and to their commitment to making sure the land becomes part of the park for everyone to enjoy.”

The Fitzsimmons Family

“There is a lot of history up there,” says Maud and Max’s granddaughter, Marda Mitchell Gallagher of Santa Rosa, who, along with her sister and brother, is selling the property to Sonoma Land Trust. “When our grandfather was homesteading it, he planted a cottonwood tree that grew to be 75 feet tall and was a key landmark on the property.” Unfortunately, last year’s Glass Fire burned the century-old tree to the ground. “It was devastating, such a beautiful old tree and now it’s gone,” says Marda.

The recent Nuns and Glass fires were hard on the property and led to the family selling it a little earlier than anticipated. The Nuns Fire of 2017 burned through most of the fencing, requiring the family to sell off their cattle (“We were too old to rebuild 200 acres of fences,” says Marda). Then, the Glass Fire last year burned every remaining fencepost — along with the barn.

“It is hard to give up the ranch, but we are all very happy to be selling it to Sonoma Land Trust. It’s the perfect answer for us,” says Marda. “My siblings and I all want it to remain open space — that was never in question. We’re thrilled that it’s going to such good caretakers and that other people will be able to enjoy it as part of the park,” proudly pointing out that Fitzsimmons Ranch plays the very important role of connecting Hood Mountain Regional Park with Sugarloaf Ridge State Park.

The path to parkland

Fitzsimmons Ranch has been a high-priority acquisition target for Regional Parks for many years and they are an enthusiastic partner in this acquisition process.

“We are incredibly grateful to the Fitzsimmons Family for contributing a vital inholding within Hood Mountain Regional Park,” says Sonoma County Regional Parks director Bert Whitaker. “With their contribution, we are able to expand one of the largest swaths of preserved wilderness and intact wildlife habitat in the Mayacamas Mountains in very close proximity to Santa Rosa. Additionally, this region has proven to be a critical buffer for firefighters defending neighboring communities from wildfires. Strategically placed and managed parks and undeveloped natural lands have become critical to our community’s resiliency as we experience impacts from climate change.”

Natural resources and development threat

Blessed with stunning views as far away as San Francisco, the ranch is part of an 85-mile wildlife movement corridor that connects Point Reyes on the Marin Coast to the interior mountains of Lake and Napa counties. It also possesses rare plant communities and is a significant source of water resources.

With over a mile of steelhead-supporting Bear Creek running through the property and numerous springs, “We never had to haul water up there — hay, yes,” laughs Marda, “but not water. There is pure water bubbling out of the mountain even in drought years.”

Fitzsimmons Ranch lies in the Sonoma Creek watershed of the Mayacamas Mountains, with mountain meadows, chaparral and rare serpentine areas. Protecting this L-shaped ranch is critical to protecting and expanding the linkages for wildlife habitat across the Mayacamas. Rapidly increasing development is increasingly stressing wildlife and fragmenting open space and natural habitats in this range. If this property is not protected, the current zoning would allow for homesite or other development that would threaten watershed health, biological diversity, climate resiliency and management integrity of Hood Mountain Regional Park and Sugarloaf Ridge State Park.

“Fitzsimmons Ranch is a beautiful property with substantial water resources that can only be fully appreciated by visiting and experiencing it directly,” says Dan Winterson who manages the Bay Area Conservation Portfolio at the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. “I’m so grateful that the landowners and Sonoma Land Trust were able to work together to protect this important habitat and allow for public access in the future.”

Philanthropy is making this acquisition possible

It is a testament to the high natural value of this land and the passion of Land Trust supporters for its protection that this $1.13 million project has been made possible through private donors Mary Love, Jake Warner and Toni Ihara, and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, instead of the more usual state and federal funding sources.

Mary Love, who first became aware of Sonoma Land Trust through its work to identify and protect wildlife corridors, says, “I wanted this gift to the Land Trust from my late husband David and myself to help save our natural wild lands from urban sprawl, which can have such a negative impact on our wild animals and their natural habitat. Without wildlife and their rightful environment, none of us can thrive or survive because we are all a part of the whole.”

This is how parks grow

At the completion of this project, Sonoma Land Trust will have contributed three properties in recent years to expand Hood Mountain Regional Park and Open Space Preserve:

  • 162-acre Santa Rosa Creek Headwaters in 2017
  • 40-acre Santa Rosa Creek Redwoods in 2018
  • 200-acre Fitzsimmons Ranch in 2021

“Through this pandemic, we’ve learned that nature is not an amenity, but a deep-rooted need,” says the Land Trust’s McCaull. “People have a tremendous desire to get their feet on the ground and breathe in the scents of the forest and catch a view of the Golden Gate Bridge. The owners of Fitzsimmons Ranch are creating a beautiful and healthful legacy for us all.”

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About Sonoma Land Trust

Sonoma Land Trust works in alliance with nature to restore the integrity of the land for climate resiliency and is also committed to ensuring more equitable access to the outdoors. Since 1976, Sonoma Land Trust has protected more than 56,000 acres of scenic, natural, agricultural and open land for future generations. Sonoma Land Trust is the recipient of the 2019 Land Trust Alliance Award of Excellence and is accredited by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission. For more information, please visit www.sonomalandtrust.org.

About Sonoma County Regional Parks

Sonoma County Regional Parks includes more than 50 parks and beaches from Petaluma to Gualala and Sonoma to Bodega Bay. Many offer wild landscapes and miles of trails. Others feature sports fields, playgrounds and campgrounds. Regional Parks also manages the county’s largest ocean marina and largest extracurricular environmental education center. Visit www.sonomacountyparks.org.

Sonoma Land Trust receives Resilient Communities Grant generating $1.1 million for wildfire resiliency in Sonoma County

CONTACT:

Sean Dowdall
President, Landis PR
sean@landispr.com
(415) 286-7121 (cell)

Today, Sonoma Land Trust announces that it has received a $319,364 grant on behalf of the Sonoma Valley Wildlands Collaborative to implement vegetation management and fuel reduction activities across 18,000 acres of protected lands and conduct countywide public education activities to increase wildfire resilience in Sonoma County, California. The grant will be used to treat 720 acres of wildlands to reduce risk to life, land and property, grow prescribed burning capacity, and increase health and wildfire resilience of diverse habitats. The grant comes from the Resilient Communities Program, a collaboration between Wells Fargo and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), that aims to help communities better prepare for and respond to climate-related natural disasters by investing in green infrastructure. A unique aspect of the Resilient Communities Program is its focus on unlocking additional matching funding from federal, state or private initiatives that also support resiliency project outcomes. The program was able to source  an additional $820,000 in matching funds to support this vegetation and fuels management work, bringing the total conservation impact to more than $1.1 million.

The Sonoma Valley Wildlands Collaborative is a group of six conservation organizations and land management agencies that is coordinating the management of natural lands in the Sonoma Valley region in Northern California. Members include Sonoma Land Trust, Sonoma County Regional Parks, Sonoma County Ag & Open Space, Audubon Canyon Ranch, California State Parks and Sonoma Mountain Ranch Preservation Foundation. Working closely with CAL FIRE, the Collaborative maintains and improves ecosystem health, increases resilience to wildfires and climate change, and reduces future impacts of wildfire to communities in the Sonoma Valley. More information is available at https://www.svwildlandscollaborative.com.

“Fire management and the impacts of climate change are pressing challenges that transcend property boundaries or jurisdictional lines and that require us to work together,” said Tony Nelson, stewardship program manager for Sonoma Land Trust. “Homes and communities have their work to do and we’re grateful that this funding will help the Sonoma Valley Wildlands Collaborative use proven methods that contribute to community safety while also promoting ecological health and resilience in our natural landscapes.”

“We continue to see and experience the devastating effects of extreme weather and a changing climate on the communities in which our customers and employees live and work,” said Mary Wenzel, head of Sustainability & Corporate Responsibility at Wells Fargo. “By enhancing and strengthening native ecosystems and building capacity at the local level, we can help minimize the impact of climate-related natural disasters on our customers and communities. We are proud to be working with NFWF on this important national program.”

The Sonoma Land Trust grant is among 11 Resilient Communities Program grants awarded nationwide in this latest round, totaling $3.6 million and generating an additional $4.5 million in matching contributions for nonprofit organizations and tribes across the U.S. to help communities address and mitigate the impact of impact of natural disasters and a changing climate. By investing in green infrastructure and providing conservation and resilience training for community leaders, the funded projects aim to enhance the protections naturally provided by healthy ecosystems.

To date, the Resilient Communities Program has supported 37 projects in Puerto Rico and U.S. states with $12.6 million in program funding distributed and $30 million in federal and local matching funds. These projects are restoring and protecting more than 175,000 acres of land and engaging 136,000 people in conservation and capacity building.

“This program continues to demonstrate how local communities can use the benefits of natural ecosystems to provide for a more resilient future for our nation,” said Jeff Trandahl, executive director and CEO of NFWF. “These 11 grants in partnership with Wells Fargo will work to build resilience locally, to help communities meet future challenges through natural systems and resources, and to benefit habitats for birds, fish and other wildlife.”

About Sonoma Land Trust

Sonoma Land Trust believes land is the foundation of our economy and our community’s health and well-being. Since 1976, Sonoma Land Trust has protected 56,000 acres of scenic, natural, agricultural and open land for future generations, and is accredited by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission. For more information, please visit www.sonomalandtrust.org.

About Resilient Communities

In 2017, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and Wells Fargo Foundation created the Resilient Communities program to boost community capacity to prepare for impacts associated with coastal sea level rise, water quantity and quality issues and extended wildfire seasons. The program empowers communities to advance and employ natural features like urban tree canopies, wetlands, healthy upstream watersheds, resilient shorelines and forests that provide natural protections against extreme weather events. The Resilient Communities program prioritizes inclusion and aiding historically underserved, low- and moderate-income communities.

Wendy Eliot retires from Sonoma Land Trust after 21 years

As conservation director, she protected 18,000 acres of land — and much more

Wendy Eliot, retiring after serving 21 years as conservation director of Sonoma Land Trust, was born with an appreciation for land conservation in her blood. Landscape architect Charles Eliot (1859−1897), brother of her great grandfather, established the first land trust organization in the United States in 1891 in Massachusetts. “He believed everyone should have access to nature,” says Wendy. “This was during the Industrial Revolution and Charles thought people needed open space close to urban areas.” 

Wendy Eliot

For that very reason, four generations and 130 years later, Wendy convinced Sonoma Land Trust to pivot from solely protecting large rural properties to working to acquire the Santa Rosa Southeast Greenway in the heart of the city and to save the Sonoma Developmental Center land for the surrounding community. “I have to admit, I’ve always loved having Charles Eliot’s vision as part of my legacy,” says Wendy.

She also inherited a love of the land from her parents, the late Ted and Pat Eliot, well known in Sonoma County for protecting the land in their own ways. Ted, a former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, was one of the key proponents for passing the sales tax measure that created Sonoma County Ag + Open Space and Pat was a co-founder of LandPaths. But their biggest contribution, by far, was their daughter, Wendy, who has protected more than 18,000 acres around the county during her tenure at the Land Trust, and whose imprint on the San Pablo Baylands, in particular, includes the 1,000 acres at Sears Point restored to tidal marsh and another 10,000 acres in the planning phase. 

Impact on Sonoma County

After graduate school, Wendy worked for the California Coastal Conservancy (SCC), the Washington State Department of Ecology and the Capitol Land Trust in Olympia, Washington, before she and her family returned to the Bay Area. She became Sonoma Land Trust’s eighth staff member in 1998.

“It’s hard to imagine many people having left such a mark on Sonoma County like the one Wendy has realized over the years,” says Eamon O’Byrne, executive director, Sonoma Land Trust. “I’m in awe of her accomplishments and the plans she is leaving to achieve significantly more land acquisition and restoration. What she has set in place will help our community deal with climate change and also get more people out on the land.”

“Wendy has had one of the most significant environmental careers of anyone I have known while working in the field for over 40 years,” says Neal Fishman, former Sonoma Land Trust board chair and retired deputy executive officer of the California Coastal Conservancy. “She is a bright light, not only for her skill, patience and dedication that so often has paid off with extraordinary land conservation projects, but for her sense of humor and fun. She is a joy to be around and will be missed by the entire Bay Area conservation community.”

Proudest accomplishments

Along with her groundbreaking work in the Baylands, also resulting in the new 2.5-mile section of Bay Trail being named the “Eliot Trail” in her honor, her other favorite acquisition is Tolay Creek Ranch. She crafted the deal for purchasing this 1,665-acre ranch in 2007 and, after the stewardship team performed extensive restoration work along Tolay Creek, Wendy transferred it in 2017 to Regional Parks to expand Tolay Lake Regional Park, making it the largest park in the system. 

“Wendy has been a mentor and inspiration to generations of conservation professionals,” says Bert Whitaker, director, Sonoma County Regional Parks. “Her gift is her grace and practicality conserving countless thousands of acres that are forever protected and cherished by our community. Thank you!”  

She also acquired 1,000-acre Haire Ranch on Skaggs Island, which unlocked the door to restoring 4,000 acres of wetlands; saved the summit of Sonoma Mountain for the public to access; protected key properties in the Sonoma Valley Wildlife Corridor to retain wildlife movement; and raised $54 million dollars for these and numerous other land conservation projects.

“Throughout her tenure at Sonoma Land Trust, Wendy has been a cornerstone of the land conservation community in Sonoma County,” says Bill Keene, general manager, Sonoma County Ag + Open Space. “Smart, passionate and indefatigable, Wendy has truly helped to shape the landscape of our region and we are all beneficiaries of her tireless efforts to preserve what we love about Sonoma County. Her legacy is undeniable and is visible in the scenic vistas, rolling grasslands, oak woodlands and pristine natural areas throughout our county — protected forever for us now, and for future generations.”

Other accomplishments of which she’s most proud include helping to grow the organization from eight to 27 staff members and leading the charge to become an accredited land trust that received the National Award of Excellence last year.

During Wendy’s tenure, the organization moved from accomplishing one-off projects to putting together large, connected systems. “Under her conservation leadership, the organization evolved to encompass a sense of what’s happening on those acres and how they are contributing to the landscape for wildlife, people and water to create more resiliency over time,” adds O’Byrne.

Succession plan

Wendy forged a strong acquisitions team of talented and knowledgeable staff. John McCaull, who joined the Land Trust in 2013, is being promoted to land acquisition director. John, who is also an attorney and former lobbyist, has managed key projects, such as the Sonoma Developmental Center and McCormick Ranch, and has led the organization’s campaigns for major funding measures, like AA for the Bay and M for Parks. In addition, while Wendy’s last day on staff was October 16, she is continuing on as a consultant through March to ensure a smooth transition and to handle some special projects.“I have loved my time at Sonoma Land Trust and the opportunity to work with landowners and colleagues throughout the county who share a love of Sonoma County,” says Wendy. “We face unprecedented challenges — for Sonoma Land Trust and the planet. Nonetheless, I’m confident that under Eamon’s leadership and with our brilliant staff, partners and supporters, we will continue to save land and focus on the important challenges, like climate change, that face us.”

Wild and scenic Gloeckner-Turner Ranch soon to be protected forever

The view from Gloeckner-Turner Ranch

CONTACT:

Sean Dowdall
President, Landis PR
sean@landispr.com

Amy Ricard
Ag + Open Space
Community Relations Specialist
(707) 565-7261
amy.ricard@sonoma-county.org

3,364-acre ranch boasts significant natural resources and scenic values, offers climate change resilience

SANTA ROSA, CA – Sonoma County Ag + Open Space is pleased to announce the upcoming conservation of Gloeckner-Turner Ranch – a sprawling 3,364-acre property along Rockpile Road near Lake Sonoma – through the purchase of a conservation easement from the Gloeckner-Turner family. The ranch, which has been in the family for decades, will soon be protected forever from development thanks to combined contributions from the family itself, Ag + Open Space, Sonoma Land Trust, Sonoma Water, and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. The Gloeckner family, led by twins Robert Gloeckner and Jean Turner, offered a $4.44 million discount, donating nearly half the value of the easement. Sonoma Land Trust contributed $500,000, which includes $250,000 from the Moore Foundation and $250,000 from their donors; Sonoma Water offered $15,000; and Ag + Open Space contributed $4.5 million in public funds toward the discounted purchase price of $5.015 million. The deal is expected to close next week.

The easement will preserve a highly visible scenic corridor, as well as the property’s diverse habitats that include Oregon white oak and mixed hardwood forest, chaparral, Douglas fir and redwood forest, riparian woodlands, grasslands, and the Wheatfield Fork of the Gualala River. With 29 of the possible developable parcels eliminated, development will be limited to four designated areas clustered near the road so the interior of the ranch remains in open space. The easement will prohibit commercial timber harvest but allow for up to 53 acres of planted vineyard and continued cattle grazing, using best management practices to protect the riparian areas and natural resources.

“We’re so grateful to the Gloeckner family for working with us over the past several years to conserve their family ranch, which represents a real win for both our human and natural communities,” said Fifth District Supervisor Lynda Hopkins, who sits on the Ag + Open Space Board of Directors and whose district includes the ranch. “The mosaic of habitat types across the property are critical for wildlife movement and survival, and the diverse habitats not only provide a stunning landscape for all to enjoy, but also provide opportunities for climate change adaptation and resilience.” 

The ranch has been in the Gloeckner family since the 1970s and was originally a sheep ranch that is now used for cattle grazing and as a family retreat. Views looking west over the property are stunning and the interior offers similarly spectacular views of multiple ridgelines. The ranch also boasts rare serpentine hardwood areas and serpentine grasslands. 

Joining nearly 40,000 acres of public and/or protected lands in the immediate area, nearly all of the property is identified by the Conservation Lands Network as “essential” or “important” to protect biological diversity in the Bay Area. The ranch is part of a network of wildlife corridors that crisscross Sonoma County and allow wildlife to move safely through the landscape, and these critical habitat corridors link habitat in western Marin to Lake Sonoma and beyond. These wildlife linkages, the varied elevations, and the large habitat “transition zones” on this property offer a wide variety of opportunities to adapt to climate change by allowing both flora and fauna to move in response to climatic shifts. 

In addition to the numerous springs and waterfalls scattered throughout the ranch, the headwaters of the Wheatfield Fork of the Gualala River run northwest 2.1 miles through the property, and 3.6 miles of the headwaters of Rancheria Creek run south into Lake Sonoma. The Gualala River is an anadromous stream with threatened steelhead trout and Lake Sonoma supplies drinking water to cities and towns throughout Sonoma County.

“While Ag + Open Space is protecting this property because of its vast natural resources and scenic landscapes, we were also able to allow for agricultural use on the ranch through continued cattle grazing and up to 53 acres of planted vineyards,” said Louisa Morris, a Land Acquisition Specialist with Ag + Open Space. “We are always so thrilled to work on these types of projects where we can achieve multiple benefits on one property – protection of water and wildlife resources, preservation of unique scenic landscapes, continued agricultural use, and resiliency to climate change.”

The Gloeckner-Turner Ranch has been long been on land conservationists’ radar, with the expectation that the purchase price would be significant given the property’s size, development potential, and the values of other properties in the area. Last year, Ag + Open Space was working to reach agreement on a purchase price that met the landowners’ needs while staying within the agency’s budget. Fortunately, Sonoma Land Trust was willing and able to make a pivotal contribution toward the purchase that helped consummate the deal. Through the work of their staff and with the agreement of their board, they made the unprecedented move to put $250,000 from their Land Protection Fund into the ground. Additionally, they brought in the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation to match their commitment.

“We were so pleased to provide the additional funds to get this project over the finish line,” said conservation director Wendy Eliot. “This is a phenomenal deal for the people of Sonoma County, which will provide numerous natural benefits for generations to come.”

The Gloeckners are an active local family with deep roots in Sonoma County. With several firefighters in the extended family, the Gloeckners plan to work with CAL FIRE to implement a forest management plan that will include fuels management and prescribed burning. The family also agreed to sell the conservation easement at a 47% discount and to allow up to four public tours annually, in coordination with Sonoma Water.

“We are very happy to partner with Ag + Open Space to protect our family ranch in perpetuity. Having the privilege to own such a large and beautiful ranch comes with a special responsibility to always conserve and protect the property and maintain open space to the extent possible,” said the Gloeckner Turner family. “The easement will provide the protection the ranch deserves while allowing agriculture to provide for family financial sustainability. We offer many thanks to Ag+ Open Space, including all of the funding partners and Supervisor Lynda Hopkins for facilitating the negotiation of the easement.” 

About Sonoma County Ag + Open Space

Sonoma County Ag + Open Space permanently protects the diverse agricultural, natural resource and scenic open space lands of Sonoma County for future generations. The agency is responsible for the perpetual protection of over 118,000 acres of land throughout our region. These agricultural and open space lands are protected through a quarter-cent sales tax approved by voters in 1990 and reauthorized in 2006. For more information, please visit www.sonomaopenspace.org

About Sonoma Land Trust

Sonoma Land Trust believes land is the heart of the community and that when the land is healthy, the community is healthy. Since 1976, Sonoma Land Trust has protected more than 50,000 acres of scenic, natural, agricultural and open land for future generations. Sonoma Land Trust is the recipient of the National Land Trust Excellence Award 2019 by the Land Trust Alliance and is accredited by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission. For more information, please visit www.sonomalandtrust.org.