Milestones and mile markers at the Jenner Headlands

December 17 marked exactly a decade since we acquired the Jenner Headlands — 10 years of hard work fulfilling our conservation and recreation promises. At the time, this was the largest land protection project in Sonoma County history at $36 million for the 5,630-acre coastal landscape threatened with subdivision into 40 estate homes. The five-year conservation effort was led by ace acquisitions director Amy Chesnut, who facilitated partnerships with several funding agencies, including Sonoma Ag + Open SpaceCalifornia State Coastal ConservancyCalifornia Wildlife Conservation BoardNOAA and The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, and the support of generous donors and friends like you. Protection of this historic ranch enabled the preservation of the natural and cultural history of the area and provided the opportunity for public recreation and stewardship of the preserve on a landscape scale.

The Jenner Headlands project also emphasized a growing shift in the land conservation community — one that is becoming more and more important today in the face of climate change impacts — restoring the ecological function of our natural lands. The Land Trust completed a robust integrated resource management plan that is the blueprint for the stewardship of this iconic coastal ranch. This plan focused on jump starting the shift from cutover timberlands to old growth redwood characteristics, with all the carbon sequestering and wildlife habitat qualities that go with it. Simply put, the strategy was to take advantage of the coastal redwoods unique qualities to grow big trees faster. The plan also called for modifying our livestock grazing so the rare coastal prairie grasslands would benefit.

A few of the major projects completed over the past 10 years include:

  • starting work on the century-long process of restoring the iconic coastal forests
  • establishment shaded fuel breaks along the ridgelines to protect the forests and adjacent communities
  • reintroduction of prescribed fire to reduce fuel loads and improve forest health
  • restoration of the streams and creeks that included removal of log jams created from clear-cut back in the 1950s
  • providing fish passage to three miles of upstream salmonid spawning and rearing habitat
  • implementation of a well-managed rotational livestock grazing program for coastal grassland management
  • providing public access to 14 miles of trails along one of the most spectacular landscapes our county has to offer

In 2013, Sonoma Land Trust transferred the Jenner Headlands to The Wildlands Conservancy for long-term management and public access coordination. Then, in 2014, the Land Trust completed the acquisition of the adjacent Pole Mountain property and created a 6,368-acre protected landscape. Thanks to our partnership with The Wildlands Conservancy, hikers can now trek from the shores of the Pacific to the Pole Mountain summit at 2,204 feet, where they can witness firsthand the thriving coastal grassland, riparian and forested ecosystems and spectacular views of the rugged Sonoma Coast. Our collaborative efforts over the past 10 years are one small step towards “…protecting the land forever” and a big step toward responding to the challenge of caring for Sonoma County’s natural and agricultural landscapes for the children of today and the children of tomorrow.