Child in the Wild event celebrates nature and future Southeast Greenway

The Banana Slug String Band.

CONTACT:

Sean Dowdall
President, Landis PR
sean@landispr.com

SANTA ROSA, CALIF. — Sonoma Land Trust is hosting an afternoon of fun activities for the community on June 9 at Howarth Park in celebration of nature, parks and the future planned Santa Rosa Southeast GreenwayChild in the Wild: Family Fun Day is free to the public and will take place from 1 to 4pm at the Howarth Park Lawn and Gazebo located at 630 Summerfield Avenue in Santa Rosa.

This family-friendly event will feature performances by the Banana Slug String Band, De Colores: Music of the Americas, and Safari Encounters, an interactive educational program introducing kids to live wild animals — plus a bounce house, hula hoops, tumbling mats, and more! Children will also enjoy nature-oriented activities led by partners in the Southeast Greenway project: City of Santa Rosa Recreation and Parks, Sonoma County Ag + Open Space, Sonoma County Regional Parks and Sonoma Water, as well as the Land Trust and Santa Rosa Southeast Greenway. 

Members of the Santa Rosa Southeast Greenway, who are planning a 47-acre urban greenway park and open space that will connect Howarth Park to nearby high-density urban neighborhoods, will be there to present a map of the new greenway and update families about the future park.

“We are very excited to be able to offer this wonderful afternoon of fun for families in a park that is so well-loved by the community,” says Ingrid Stearns, Sonoma Land Trust’s on the land program manager. “The performers and environmental educators are top-notch and are not to be missed!”

Funding for this free event is being provided by Sonoma Land Trust, Sonoma Water, Community Foundation Sonoma County and Santa Rosa Southeast Greenway.

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 more than 50,000 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. #ProtectThePicture

In landmark decision, judge upholds law protecting conservation land in Sonoma County

The photo displays the extent of damage during the removal of one of the protected heritage oak trees from the conservation easement property by the Thompsons. There was further damage to the CE property when the tree was dragged 1/3 mile to be placed on the adjacent property to enhance the landscape of their new home.

CONTACT:

Sheri Cardo
Director of Communications
(707) 526-6930 x111
sheri@sonomalandtrust.org

Nina Erlich-Williams
Public Good PR
nina@publicgoodpr.com
O: (510) 336-9566
C: (415) 577-1153

Sonoma Land Trust delivers on its promise to “protect the land of Sonoma County forever”

SANTA ROSA, CALIF. — On April 16, Superior Court Judge Patrick Broderick entered a judgment that forcefully upholds the Sonoma Land Trust’s authority to protect natural resources through conservation easements, and enforces a key law used by land trusts to permanently protect land from development.

In the case of Sonoma Land Trust v Thompson, Case No. SCV-258010Judge Broderick upheld the Land Trust’s actions and claims to restore an environmentally sensitive parcel in an area of Sonoma County known as Bennett Valley, outside of Glen Ellen. The court found that the owners’ unlawful actions killed heritage oak trees and destroyed a portion of the ecosystem on the protected land. The judge ordered payment of $586,289 into an escrow account to fund restoration of the damaged ecosystem. Sonoma Land Trust, which holds the conservation easement, will restore the property.

“Sonoma Land Trust made a promise to the donor and a commitment to the community to protect the integrity of properties covered by conservation easements,” stated Dave Koehler, executive director of Sonoma Land Trust. “Our citizens believe strongly in protecting our natural resources and have demonstrated this belief by providing tax breaks to landowners whose properties include conservation easements. It is essential that both landowners of protected properties and taxpayers can trust Sonoma Land Trust to do our part in ensuring that these conservation easements are honored and the lands are protected forever.”

The land in question was voluntarily placed under a conservation easement in 2009 by the previous owners, Katherine and Peter Drake. In donating the easement to Sonoma Land Trust, the Drakes intended to protect this land in its natural state in perpetuity. “When we purchased this lovely 34-acre parcel, it appeared to have been untouched for many decades. The easement was intended to protect this special land forever, regardless of who owned the property,” said Katherine Drake.

Conservation easements are voluntary, permanent agreements that private landowners place over their lands to protect important natural resources forever. They are developed in partnership with land trusts, like Sonoma Land Trust, which agree to protect the conservation values and uphold the terms of the conservation easement in perpetuity. The land stays in private ownership and the conservation easement becomes part of the permanent title record. Future landowners are required to follow all the terms of the conservation easement.

Toni and Peter Thompson purchased the Drake property in 2013 with full knowledge of the easement. The court found that they committed numerous violations of the easement while building a compound on their adjoining vineyard. “While we’re disappointed that litigation was required to enforce the easement,” said Drake, “we’re grateful to Sonoma Land Trust for taking the necessary action to protect and restore the land we placed in its care.”

The easement permanently protects the ecological and scenic values of the property, which includes an exceptionally intact ecosystem dominated by undisturbed native vegetation rarely seen in Sonoma County today. It prohibits or significantly restricts most activities on the protected property, including building roads, cutting trees, grading soils, dumping waste, altering drainage and planting new vegetation.

The Thompsons’ illegal actions included hiring contractors with heavy equipment to excavate three heritage oak trees located on the protected property (one very large tree was estimated to have been 180 years old) and then dragging the trees through shallow and sensitive soils to the adjoining Henstooth Ranch, where the trees were to enhance the landscape of a new home and accessory buildings. Additional harm resulted from bulldozing a 1/3-mile road cut to haul the trees, killing and removing 12 more trees in the process, and dumping pond sediment laden with invasive weeds onto the protected property.

The court found that the Thompsons systematically concealed these actions and related damage from Sonoma Land Trust. The Thompsons repeatedly resisted efforts by Sonoma Land Trust to evaluate the extent of the destruction and develop a realistic restoration plan. The court also concluded that, without the Land Trust’s knowledge or permission, the Thompsons regraded the property and planted non-native grass in an attempt to cover up their violations. According to the court, these cosmetic measures, which also violated the easement, failed to restore the ecology of the property and instead caused further damage. Left with no other choice to protect and restore the property, Sonoma Land Trust took legal action to enforce the terms of the easement through the courts.

“The significance of the outcome in this case cannot be overstated,” added Sarah Sigman, attorney with Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger LLP, the law firm that represented Sonoma Land Trust in the case. “Conservation easements are legally binding and people who purchase land under easement must understand that protecting these properties is not optional.”

Today’s decision by the court affirms the validity of the Drake Family Easement and finds that the Thompsons intentionally violated its terms. The remedy is for the violators to pay to restore the property as closely as possible to its condition prior to the destruction that they caused. Sonoma Land Trust will oversee the property’s restoration.

Andrew Bowman, president of the national Land Trust Alliance, emphasized the importance of the court’s decision: “Land trusts across the country have a permanent obligation to hold and protect conservation easements forever, often long after ownership of the land changes hands. The Land Trust Alliance is pleased that the court recognized the importance of this protected place, the strength of Sonoma Land Trust’s conservation easement, and the intent of the donor who so generously protected it.”

Land trusts throughout the United States work together to identify best practices and support each other in protecting conservation easements. Sonoma Land Trust was able to enforce the Drake Family Conservation Easement, in part, due to its participation in, and support from, Terrafirma Risk Retention Group, a conservation defense liability insurance charitable risk pool owned by the 528 insured land trusts across America.

With this court decision in place, landowners and donors can feel confident that Sonoma Land Trust will make good on its promise to protect the land of Sonoma County forever.  

The trial was conducted between July 27 and September 14, 2018 before the Sonoma County Superior Court. Read the court’s decision.

Sonoma Land Trust is a non-governmental, nonprofit organization funded largely by membership contributions. Its purpose is to protect the land of Sonoma County forever. Since 1976, Sonoma Land Trust has protected more than 50,000 acres of scenic, natural, agricultural and open land for future generations. It is accredited by the national Land Trust Accreditation Commission and, like more than 400 land trusts across the country, has adopted the Standards and Practices set forth by the national Land Trust Alliance. For more information, please visit www.sonomalandtrust.org. #ProtectThePicture

Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger, LLP is a law firm specializing in government, land use, renewable energy and environmental law. Since 1980, the firm has provided public agencies, nonprofits, tribes and community groups with the highest quality legal representation, offering an array of litigation, regulatory, counseling and planning services.

Conservation landowners join to coordinate fire and land management efforts in Sonoma Valley


CONTACT:

Sean Dowdall
President, Landis PR
sean@landispr.com

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.

Read more about the Collaborative’s plans here.

Sonoma Land Trust protects farm, wild lands at Starcross Monastic Community


CONTACT:

Sean Dowdall
President, Landis PR
sean@landispr.com

SANTA ROSA, CALIF. —  A beautiful 90-acre property just inland from the Sonoma Coast is now permanently protected with a conservation easement thanks to a generous donation by landowners of the Starcross Monastic Community. Located east of Annapolis in the Gualala River Watershed, this stunning landscape has been used by the independent, ecumenical community as a farm, residence and nature retreat since the 1970s, and boasts 70 acres of intact wild lands that the community maintains.

“We believe the land is sacred,” says Brother Toby McCarroll, co-founder of the Starcross Monastic Community. “We’ll do everything we can to protect it.”

The community has an orchard and gardens where they grow and process organic olive oil, as well as a variety of fruits and vegetables for their food pantry and farmstand open to the community. Beyond the farm and monastery, the property includes an abundance of natural resources, including redwood and Douglas-fir forest and open grassland, locally uncommon stands of sugar pines and hybrid manzanita, and a stretch of Grasshopper Creek, a tributary of Buckeye Creek in the Gualala River Watershed.

The landowners have contemplated an easement for years and are eager to ensure that the land remains undeveloped for future generations. The conservation easement, which is a voluntary agreement between the landowners and the nonprofit Land Trust for the purpose of conservation, will prohibit subdivision and limit residential and commercial use of the land in perpetuity — ensuring that the property’s intact habitat and productive farmland is protected forever. Sonoma Land Trust possesses 45 easements around the county and, as with each easement it holds, will monitor the property annually to ensure compliance with the agreement.

“The Starcross Community has shown the way by living and farming in balance with nature for decades,” says Dave Koehler, Sonoma Land Trust executive director. “We are honored and thankful that they chose to partner with Sonoma Land Trust to protect their beautiful forest and farmland in perpetuity.”

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 more than 50,000 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. #ProtectThePicture

Sonoma Land Trust protects biodiverse property in Mark West watershed for coho salmon recovery


CONTACT:

Sean Dowdall
President, Landis PR
sean@landispr.com

SANTA ROSA, CALIF. —  A beautiful 60-acre property in the upper Mark West watershed has been permanently protected with a conservation easement thanks to a generous donation by landowners Ray Krauss and Barbara Shumsky. Named by the landowners as the “Sunsrays Conservation Easement,” the project closed escrow today. Located northeast of Santa Rosa in the foothills of the Mayacamas Mountains, this biodiverse property boasts a landscape rich in natural resources, with clear, clean springs that provide year-round water flow to Mark West Creek, a priority stream for recovery of endangered coho salmon.

“As you look around, what’s happening to the land overall is fairly discouraging,” says Ray, who with his wife Barbara, purchased the parcel in two pieces, one in 1972 and one in 1986. “Even if it’s just one piece of the puzzle, protecting this property will provide a refuge in the face of an uncertain future.”

The landowners had contemplated an easement to protect their land for years, and the Land Trust was excited for the opportunity to add this biodiverse property to the network of protected lands and waterways in the Mark West watershed. Krauss was one of the County of Sonoma’s first environmental planners, and he and Barbara have methodically and lovingly stewarded their property over the years to restore its native oak woodlands. Its diverse vegetation also includes Douglas fir and mixed hardwood forest, chaparral and grassland. The property’s mosaic of habitats, part of the Lake to Marin County wildlife corridor, is suitable for numerous species, including mountain lion and black bear.

Knowing that fire can be beneficial to California’s natural landscapes, Ray has been managing his property with fire in mind. For decades, he has incorporated fire ecology and vegetation management into his stewardship.

The Sunsrays Conservation Easement, which is a voluntary agreement between the landowners and the nonprofit Sonoma Land Trust for the purpose of conservation, will prohibit subdivision and sharply reduce residential, commercial and agricultural use of the land in perpetuity — ensuring that the property’s undeveloped habitats are protected forever. The Land Trust possesses 45 easements around the county and, as with each easement it holds, will monitor the property annually to ensure compliance with the agreement.

“Protecting this property and its rich water resources is a wonderful legacy that will contribute to the ecological health of the upper Mark West Creek watershed for all time,” says Ariel Patashnik, land acquisition program manager for Sonoma Land Trust. “We are grateful to Ray and Barbara for their vision and generosity in conserving this special place and expanding an important network of protected land in the watershed.”

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 more than 50,000 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. #ProtectThePicture

The Point Reyes of Sonoma County – Jenner Headlands and Pole Mountain Preserves to Open September 7


CONTACT:

Sean Dowdall
President, Landis PR
sean@landispr.com

JENNER, CALIF. — The Wildlands Conservancy’s Gateway to Jenner Headlands Preserve will enjoy its public opening September 7. Visitors to Sonoma County’s stunning coast will now have the opportunity to explore at their leisure and free of charge the trails of this spectacular 5,630-acre nature preserve, and to climb to the top of the highest peak along the coast — on Sonoma Land Trust’s Pole Mountain Preserve.

Located two miles north of the town of Jenner on the east side of Highway 1, the much-anticipated Gateway to Jenner Headlands includes a 30-space parking lot, interpretive signage, restrooms and a trailhead inviting visitors to 14 miles of trails and breathtaking scenery. Following years of careful design and planning, The Wildlands Conservancy and its partners, including Sonoma Land Trust and Sonoma County Ag + Open Space, have struck a balance in design and management to embrace recreation, restoration, and preservation.

David Myers, The Wildlands Conservancy’s executive director, acknowledges the effort involved and impact made by protecting the Jenner Headlands and opening the Preserve to the public. “We would like to thank all of the partners and participants whose dedication and hard work have helped to protect this magnificent landscape — a landscape that will enrich visitors’ lives with beauty and inspiration for all time to come.”

The opening of the Gateway to Jenner Headlands Preserve, much like the complex, five-year-long acquisition of the property, would not have been possible had it not been for the generous support of project partners, including the State Coastal Conservancy, Wildlife Conservation Board, Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, The Wildlands Conservancy, Sonoma Land Trust, Sonoma County Ag + Open Space and others.

Opening the gates to the Jenner Headlands Preserve is the culmination of more than a decade of work that started in 2005 when Sonoma Land Trust began raising $36 million to acquire the property for conservation. The Land Trust closed on the Jenner Headlands deal in 2009 thanks to the collaboration of 10 public and private funding partners, including Ag + Open Space, which holds a perpetual conservation easement ensuring protection of the land forever, and The Wildlands Conservancy, the permanent steward of the property since 2013. Management of the land and its recreational opportunities are guided by an Integrated Resource Management Plan developed by the Land Trust and the Conservancy.

Shortly after The Wildlands Conservancy took ownership of the Jenner Headlands, Sonoma Land Trust again partnered with Ag + Open Space, among others, to purchase Pole Mountain in 2014. Situated between Jenner Headlands and Sonoma Land Trust’s Little Black Mountain Preserve, the acquisition connects more than 6,300 acres of wild land — for wildlife and for recreation. As the highest peak along the Sonoma Coast at 2,204 feet, Pole Mountain presents unobstructed, 360-degree views of Sonoma County, from the coast to the Cedars, and far beyond.

“A hike from the Jenner Headlands to the top of Pole Mountain is to explore coastal fields, forests and vistas that have drawn people here for millennia,” said Dave Koehler, executive director of Sonoma Land Trust. “The success of our partnership to protect this special place and open the public trail will be measured in the years ahead by visitors of all ages whose hearts and minds become connected to the land and are inspired onward to care for its future.”

“The opening of the Jenner Headlands Preserve and Pole Mountain is the culmination of more than a decade of hard work from a group of dedicated individuals and organizations,” said Ag + Open Space general manager Bill Keene. “We are so proud to have been able to contribute $10 million on behalf of Sonoma County residents to protect these two amazing natural and recreational gems, and look forward to watching our community explore this magnificent area for generations to come.”

The Gateway to Jenner Headlands will be open daily from 8 a.m. to sunset starting Friday, September 7. Parking and access to Jenner Headlands Preserve and Pole Mountain are provided free of charge by The Wildlands Conservancy. Hikers taking up the challenge to summit Pole Mountain from the Gateway parking lot are encouraged to head out early to complete the strenuous, 14-mile round-trip hike by sunset.

About The Wildlands Conservancy

Since acquiring its first preserve in 1995, The Wildlands Conservancy as remained dedicated to preserving important and remarkable landscapes and opening them to the public free of charge for passive recreation and outdoor education. Wildlands owns and stewards nearly 150,000 acres across fifteen nature preserves and reserves across California—the largest nonprofit preserve system in the state. Ultimately, saving our treasured landscapes means educating and instilling a love for nature in future generations. For this reason, Wildlands is also the state’s nonprofit leader in providing free outdoor education opportunities for California youth. Through these programs and our reverent stewardship of preserves—visited by more than a half million people per year—we foster a love and respect for life in all of its magnificent forms. For more information, please visit www.wildlandsconservancy.org.

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 over 50,000 acres of scenic, natural, agricultural and open land for future generations, and is accredited by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission.

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 district is responsible for the perpetual protection of over 114,000 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.

Allison Sanford named chair of Sonoma Land Trust board of directors


CONTACT:

Sean Dowdall
President, Landis PR
sean@landispr.com

SANTA ROSA, CALIF. ­— Allison Sanford of Santa Rosa has been named the new chair of the Sonoma Land Trust’s board of directors. A board member since 2009, Sanford brings to the position a wealth of experience in public administration and marketing, most recently working for the County of Sonoma where she served as chief of staff to former county supervisor Tim Smith for 17 years. Prior to that, she served as marketing director for KFTY broadcasting and Rosenberg’s Department Store. Sanford replaces outgoing board chair, Neal Fishman.

“Allison has a fun and infectious passion for conservation in Sonoma County; we’re excited that she’s grabbed the baton and is running with it,” says Dave Koehler, Land Trust executive director. “Her energy and leadership are coming at just the right time for us as we’re poised to complete key land protection projects and serve our community in new ways over the next couple of years.”

Sanford said she’s excited to work more closely with the Land Trust staff and Koehler, who she sees as a strong leader with a meaningful vision for the organization. During her term as chair, she plans to focus on expanding the organization’s reach and visibility throughout Sonoma County by building on existing programs and implementing new ones, such as the Russian River Watershed initiative. As the Land Trust reaches the halfway point of its current strategic plan, she said that renewing the strategic plan will be a crucial project for her as chair in determining the organization’s future.

“I really believe it’s a critical time for the preservation of the heart of Sonoma County, which is the land,” Sanford said, citing increasing development pressure and fire suppression as among the top issues facing the Land Trust today. “It’s a critical time to have the conversation about conservation and development.”

Sanford said she has always been a nature lover, having grown up camping with her family in the summers. When she was approached to join the Land Trust board after retiring from the County, its mission resonated with her and it turned out to be exactly what she wanted to do. She is also board member and past president of Tomorrow’s Leaders Today, a nonprofit focused on youth development issues.

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 over 50,000 acres of scenic, natural, agricultural and open land for future generations, and is accredited by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission.

Sonoma Land Trust acquires land with redwoods and steelhead in wildlife corridor — will be added to Hood Mountain Regional Park


CONTACT:

Sean Dowdall
President, Landis PR
sean@landispr.com

SANTA ROSA, CALIF. — ­Sonoma Land Trust has closed escrow on a 40-acre property next to Hood Mountain Regional Park and Open Space Preserve that contains the last stand of redwoods in the upper Santa Rosa Creek watershed, and that is part of a major regional wildlife linkage. Accessible only through the eastern boundary of the park, the newly named “Santa Rosa Creek Redwoods” property is completely undeveloped and contains the steep and wild Santa Rosa Creek canyon high up in the Mayacamas Mountains.

The Land Trust plans to donate the property to Sonoma County Regional Parks later this year as a much-needed wildlands buffer between the park and the growing estate-home development along Los Alamos Road. While there was interest in purchasing the property from neighbors whose development plans would have endangered the wild nature of this parcel, the landowners, whose family has farmed and run cattle on the western slopes of Hood Mountain since the late 1800s, wanted their land protected forever.

“We are delighted that the Land Trust will be able to add our family’s land to the park,” says one of the previous owners, who wishes to remain anonymous. In addition to protecting this parcel, Sonoma Land Trust and the Sonoma Ag + Open Space District are working with these owners and other private landowners along Los Alamos Road to further protect this wilderness area just 20 minutes from downtown Santa Rosa.

The quarter-mile stretch of Santa Rosa Creek on this rugged property also provides ideal conditions for the spawning of threatened steelhead trout and for the rearing of juvenile steelhead. “Because this parcel is so important to fish and wildlife, we will work with County Parks to put an emphasis on protecting the wildlife corridor and critical fish habitat,” says Tony Nelson, Sonoma Valley stewardship manager for the Land Trust. “This property is wild and undisturbed, and we hope it will remain that way.” 

“Literally, today, just over the boundary into this property from the park, I saw an 18-inch steelhead in Santa Rosa Creek!,” exudes John McCaull, Sonoma Land Trust’s acquisitions manager for Sonoma Valley. “This mature fish came back from the ocean via the Russian River, through the Laguna, through downtown Santa Rosa, and then five miles up the slopes of Hood Mountain. This is the first time in over a decade that a steelhead has been documented in the upper reaches of Santa Rosa Creek and it gives our protection of this property even more importance.” 

Although a majority of Hood Mountain burned severely in the Sonoma Valley fires last fall, Santa Rosa Creek Redwoods escaped the flames. With no legal road access, it was a relatively inexpensive acquisition at $90,000, with funding provided by Wine Country Weekend, the San Francisco Foundation and major donors of the Land Trust. Sonoma Land Trust added another 162 acres and a half mile of Santa Rosa Creek to the Hood Mountain/Sugarloaf Ridge park complex in 2016.

“We are always looking for opportunities to protect more of Santa Rosa Creek and to connect Hood Mountain Regional Park to Sugarloaf Ridge State Park,” says McCaull. “Putting together an integrated park system can take decades of work. That’s why Sonoma Land Trust is in the business of ‘forever.’”

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 over 50,000 acres of scenic, natural, agricultural and open land for future generations, and is accredited by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission.

DONE DEAL! Estero Ranch has been protected forever

Advancing their shared missions to protect scenic, agricultural and biologically significant landscapes, Sonoma Land Trust (SLT), the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation & Open Space District (District) and The Wildlands Conservancy (TWC) teamed up with the California Coastal Conservancy and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation to purchase the 547-acre Estero Ranch, located south of Bodega Bay. The acquisition, which closed on December 24, permanently protects a rugged section of the iconic Sonoma Coast where the Estero Americano meets the Pacific Ocean, and will enhance SLT’s adjacent 127-acre Estero Americano Preserve. It will also increase the number of District-protected properties in the coastal agricultural belt of Sonoma County, and will serve as a companion to the TWC-owned and managed Jenner Headlands Preserve to the north. Watch video flyover here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KUERF0lKB9c.

“This is a very exciting property to be able to protect,” says Land Trust executive director Dave Koehler. “Collaboration is the key, and each partner brings a unique set of tools to help get the job done. The estuary is where life begins for hundreds of fish and wildlife species, and the working ranch is a cornerstone in the scenic landscape of the Sonoma Coast. Its permanent protection has been a conservation goal of all of the partners for more than 20 years.”

We’ve acquired a 162-acre property in the wildlife corridor

Sonoma County parks officials and county land acquisition partners are finalizing a deal this month that will add an additional 162 acres to Hood Mountain Regional Park and Open Space Preserve, unlocking for the first time a privately owned and largely untouched wilderness in the Mayacamas Mountains to public access.

The $319,000 deal for the private property by Sonoma Land Trust, a Santa Rosa-based nonprofit that acquires land to preserve it as open space, will allow Sonoma County Regional Parks to expand its network of hiking trails and overnight camping destinations, as well as protect a slice of highly coveted wildlands between Hood Mountain and Sugarloaf Ridge State Park from the possibility of future development.

“We’re only a half hour away from Santa Rosa, but this place still feels so wild and pristine,” said Wendy Eliot, conservation director for Sonoma Land Trust. “And it protects that gap between Hood Mountain and Sugarloaf. It’s very exciting.