Remarkable Diversity

Sonoma County is the largest of the nine Bay Area counties and its landscapes and communities are remarkably diverse, with redwood forests, a major river and dramatic coast, the broad Santa Rosa plain, the craggy Mayacamas Mountains and Sonoma Mountain framing Sonoma Valley, and wide-open tidal marshes along the bay. Along with vineyards, orchards, ranches and farmland, these natural landscapes create a mosaic that define a unique sense of place for our communities. At Sonoma Land Trust, we approach our work regionally — developing and implementing conservation strategies that are tailored to the unique qualities of the Sonoma Coast, Russian River watershed, Sonoma Valley and Mountains, and the Sonoma Baylands.

Sonoma Valley/Sonoma Mountain Region

The Sonoma Valley/Sonoma Mountain region is recognized as a landscape of supreme natural beauty and land use diversity. This narrow, 17-mile-long valley is framed by several mountain ranges and includes over 130,000 acres of wildlands, farms and ranches, vineyards, and communities that are home to over 40,000 people. The prominent scenic and natural features of the region begin with the distinctive Sonoma Valley itself, an extraordinarily productive agricultural area that was the birthplace of California’s wine industry in the 1850s.

The Sonoma Land Trust got its start in the Sonoma Valley in the mid-1970s when a group of local landowners and citizens grew concerned that the pace of growth and development could have a lasting negative impact on the valley’s rural character and biodiversity. Since that time, we have protected over ____ acres in the region by managing a network of Land Trust preserves that are critical to wildlife movement, developing conservation agreements with private landowners to link valuable wildlife corridor areas on both sides of the valley, and expanding state and county parks.

Additional resources:

Sonoma Region Conservation Plan 

Sonoma Valley Wildlife Corridor Project: Management and Monitoring Strategy

Transform SDC

Sonoma Developmental Center Draft Resource Assessment

Sonoma Baylands Region

Serving as the southern gateway to Sonoma County, the Sonoma Baylands are unique in their beauty, history and rare potential for conservation. This area, which extends from the northern arc of the San Francisco Bay shoreline east to the Napa River, west to the Petaluma River and north to Schellville, was once an expansive tidal marsh. Fed by the branching estuaries of the Petaluma and Napa Rivers, the marsh provided habitat to an abundance of species and was home to the Coast Miwok people.

Beginning in the 1800s, the region was diked and drained for agriculture, which supplied crops and livestock to fuel the settlement and development of Sonoma County and beyond. Today, this region is relatively undeveloped except for agriculture, and has fairly intact natural processes compared with other parts of the San Francisco Bay. This presents significant opportunities to reestablish the historical connections between the baylands and the Sonoma Creek, Petaluma River and Tolay Creek watersheds. The restoration process has already begun with the acquisition of the Sears Point and Haire Ranches and restoration of their diked agricultural baylands to tidal wetlands, along with Tolay Creek Ranch and restoration of Tolay Creek.

Sonoma Land Trust and our partners will continue this important work in the region, seeking solutions to address sea level rise, flooding and salt water intrusion, while providing habitat for threatened and endangered species, restoring fisheries, establishing new recreation opportunities, and preserving ranch and farmland.

Sonoma Coast Region

The beauty and biodiversity of the Sonoma Coast is world-renowned: It’s a wild and rugged shoreline flanked by marine sanctuaries and dotted with rich estuaries where our rivers meet the sea. Our coastline extends from the mouth of the Gualala River, at the north, down to the Estero Americano at the south. Just inland lies a mosaic of lush redwood and Douglas fir forests, open grasslands, oak woodlands and unique geological formations.

The coast is home to an abundance of native California wildlife species, including coho salmon, steelhead trout, northern spotted owl, bald eagle, mountain lion and black bear. The biggest threat to the ecological and economic viability of this region is fragmentation and parcelization of land into rural estates. In response, Sonoma Land Trust is using a variety of land protection and stewardship tools to ensure that our iconic coastline and coastal forests remain intact, productive and working for generations to come.

Additional resources:

2017 Forest Conference program

Russian River Watershed Region

Only a handful of locations around the world are as rich in biodiversity as the landscape through which the Russian River flows, from the headwaters in the Laughlin Mountain Range 15 miles north of Ukiah, to its mouth at the Pacific Ocean near the town of Jenner, 53 miles north of San Francisco. Draining an area of approximately 1,485 square miles, the watershed hosts a diversity of rare and endemic animal and plant species, and provides critical ecosystem services, including purifying water and controlling flooding. The watershed also provides drinking water for more than 600,000 residents.

A sundry of habitats can be found in the Russian River watershed’s valleys, meadows and mountaintops, including Sonoma County’s iconic oak woodlands and majestic redwoods, mixed evergreen forests, lush willows and alder, serpentine chaparral and grasslands. These diverse habitats support animals that need large, undeveloped areas to roam, such as bear, mountain lion and ringtail cat. The river and its tributary creeks are home to coho and chinook salmon, steelhead, and California’s tiger salamander and red-legged frog.

Additional resources:

Evaluating and Protecting Environmental Water Assets: A Guide for Land Conservation Practitioners