Sonoma Land Trust

Dear Friends of Sonoma Land Trust,

We are now several days into the firestorm that continues to hit hard our community and county. During this difficult time, we are sending you, our members, supporters, partners and friends, our most heartfelt wishes for the safety and well-being of you and your family. This tragedy has touched each of us here deeply. Safety is our focus right now — like many in the community, some of our staff have been evacuated and at least one is believed to have lost his home. We stand with our colleagues and the families of our local conservation partner organizations that have been impacted by the tragedy and, yet, are reaching out to help each other and provide services to the community at large.

We still don’t know the extent of damages to our land trust’s preserves, conservation easement lands and properties in our land protection portfolio. We know the loss is significant as many of these lands are located in active burn areas. It will likely be several days before we are able to reach them to assess damages. As soon as authorities give us the “all clear” signal, we are prepared and ready to get out into the field to begin our evaluations.

Though limited, we do have news that we want to share with you:

— Many have been asking about the historic stone mansion and barn at our iconic Glen Oaks Ranch, where the fire was intense. Unfortunately, the historic barn was lost, all of its wood was turned to ash and only the stone walls now remain standing.

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The historic stone barn at Glen Oaks Ranch after the fire.

However, on Monday night, after the worst of the fires up to that point had raced through the Glen Ellen area, we learned from our neighbors at Bouverie Preserve that the grand old house was still standing — and they just reaffirmed that news a few hours ago! You can imagine how that has buoyed our spirits — and we hope it will still be the case when the fires are finally and fully extinguished.

— Our Sears Point Ranch north of Highway 37, which is all grassland and includes Cougar Mountain, has extensively burned. The part of the ranch across Highway 37, which now belongs to the San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge, also sustained major damage — but the buildings, including our cherished Ralph Benson Center at the Baylands, are still standing.

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Sears Point Ranch looking north post-fire and featuring the Benson Center (center) and Cougar Mountain (top right). Photo by Julian Meisler.

— We were relieved to hear that the residents of the Sonoma Developmental Center were safely evacuated earlier this week and that the fire has not reached this property with its 700 acres of wild land on Sonoma Mountain. This is good news for wildlife because it means that this significant part of the Sonoma Valley Wildlife Corridor is providing refuge and is still open for animal passage — especially important as many wild animals are also fleeing the fires and because some nearby parks and wildlands, such as Sonoma Valley Regional Park, ACR’s Bouverie Preserve and Sonoma Land Trust preserves did not escape the fire.

Sonoma Land Trust is in such a dynamic situation and has suffered significant loss of natural and cultural resources. Our management team responded to the firestorm immediately, first by checking on the safety of our people and then organizing for stewardship of our properties. On Wednesday, when our office reopened for business, our terrific staff team was in place and is now coordinating all elements of our organization’s response to the fires. We have been in contact with the landowners of our conservation easements and, as soon as they can, our stewardship crew will be out to check on the several properties we hold in the fire areas.

The land is the heart of our community and our purpose is to protect the land of Sonoma County forever. At this moment, we are focused on people’s safety and providing the immediate response for the stewardship of our protected lands.

Please continue to look for updates from us.

We will be sharing more information with you in the coming days about how all of the land that we’ve protected together as a community is faring.

Until then, stay safe and enjoy this photo of hope:
A burrowing owl emerges at Sears Point Ranch after the fire. Nature endures.

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 Photo by Don Brubaker, USFWS - Refuges