What Does Stewardship Mean?

Stewardship means helping Sonoma County to be resilient in the face of climate change by actively working with the land and the community to protect and restore the different native habitats, creeks, wildlife corridors, productive farms and ranches, and permanently protected private lands under our care. Our experienced staff are using the best and most recent scientific information to develop innovative strategies to manage and heal our treasured landscapes through tidal wetland restoration, managing our forests for wildfire, planting native trees and shrubs along our creeks and streams, and removing barriers to steelhead migration and wildlife movement — in addition to keeping our buildings and roads in good repair, managing vegetation to reduce the risk of wildfire and controlling invasive weeds. We work with our community to keep Sonoma County a wonderful place to live, partnering with landowners to steward conservation easements, providing land for local farmers to grow food and fiber, engaging youth and schoolchildren in restoration work on our preserves, and providing opportunities for volunteers to get their hands dirty.

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The 2019 Kincade Fire

Two of our preserves burned in the October 2019 Kincade Fire. Bear Canyon Wildlands on Pine Flat Road and White Rock on Geysers Road are among our wildest preserves and, according to Bob Neale (former stewardship director), the Bear Canyon Wildlands saw high winds and heavy fire activity.

He says, “By 2:30am on that windy Saturday night, our wildlife cameras on Bear Canyon stopped working. We had been alerted to two photos of wild animals taken around 10pm — and then the next and last image taken, at 2:21am, showed simply bright shades of orange. We believe the fire was burning intensely on our preserve at that time.” Almost all of the underbrush on the 250-acre property is gone and the flames extended high into many of the tree canopies.

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The 2017 Fires

The firestorm that raged across the landscape in the fall of 2017 continues to be a human tragedy. But Sonoma County is strong and we are humbled every day to hear the stories of heroism, strength of character and resilience as we work together to recover. We believe that our community’s best days are ahead of us. Resilience means more than just bouncing back — it also means being better prepared for our future.

Fire has been a part of our landscape for thousands of years. This land we love has and will continue to be shaped by fire, so we must allow it to serve its purpose while managing and reducing the risks to our homes and families. Sonoma Land Trust will continue to manage our preserves for these inevitable wildfires, reducing the amount of fuel in the woods, working with local fire districts to provide access and collaborating with local organizations to manage the landscape to mitigate the effects of future wildfires.

Already, our natural lands our rebounding. By the spring of 2018, the blackened landscape had a green sheen spreading in the spring sunshine. Oak trees that looked burned and dead sprouted spring growth. Native plants displayed a bounty of colorful wildflowers. Birdsong returned to the near moonscape of the chaparral as the manzanita and scrub oak sent new tendrils of growth from their fire-resistant root systems. Mountain lion scat and scratchings reappeared as the animals returned to their normal routines. We are watching and listening to nature to determine what further steps, if any, we need to take as the fire-adapted landscape recovers. We look forward to continuing to share this inspiring experience with our community over the next several years as we lead hikes into the burned landscape and watch nature unfold.

Additional Resources

A hawk injured in fire-damaged fencing at Sears Point Ranch was rehabbed and released.