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Sheri Cardo
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Sonoma Land Trust sets its sights on Sonoma Coast’s highest peak

The race to save Pole Mountain and the Fire Lookout Tower is on!

Pole Mountain

(SANTA ROSA, CALIF., June 27, 2013) — Sonoma Land Trust

The nonprofit Sonoma Land Trust has just secured the rights to purchase Pole Mountain, which, at 2,204 feet, is the highest peak along the Sonoma Coast. A longtime conservation priority, Pole Mountain consists of 238 acres connecting Sonoma Land Trust’s Jenner Headlands with its Little Black Mountain Preserve near Cazadero. Still wild and scenic, with the only development being an historic fire lookout tower critical to the local community, the Trust has until November 28 to raise the $2.35 million needed to prevent the land from being sold as four estate home sites with vineyards. With public funds for land conservation being much harder to come by, Sonoma Land Trust will be reaching out to the community and relying on private donations to help save the mountain.  

“We’ve been waiting a long time for this opportunity,” says Amy Chesnut, acquisitions director, Sonoma Land Trust. “The property is truly one of a kind. There is only one Pole Mountain — and now is the time to protect it. With its extraordinary panoramic views and connectivity for wildlife and hikers, we started working on an agreement with the landowners the minute they indicated it was available.”

Ultimately, Pole Mountain will serve as an exciting recreational destination from the Jenner Headlands property. As the highest point along the Sonoma Coast, Pole Mountain offers visitors and hikers unobstructed, 360-degree views of Sonoma County and beyond, including Sonoma Mountain and the Santa Rosa Plain, the Cedars and the Mayacamas. On a clear day, it is possible to see Mt. Diablo (79 miles away), Mt. Tamalpais (49 miles away) and the Farallon Islands (56 miles away).

Primarily a mature oak woodland habitat, the landscape also consists of open grasslands, pockets of coniferous forest and ancient madrones. It is home to the headwaters of Kidd Creek and Pole Mountain Creek, both of which feed into Austin Creek (and, ultimately, the Russian River), and also to the East Branch of Russian Gulch, which drains through the Jenner Headlands to the Pacific. In terms of wildlife, the landowners have seen mountain lion, bobcat, badger, golden eagles, and numerous other birds and wildlife species.

During fire season, the local volunteer fire department uses the two-story fire lookout on the summit to watch for and report wildfires. This community service will continue under Sonoma Land Trust’s ownership.

“Since 2004, the Pole Mountain LLC has managed the property with two goals in mind: to preserve this incomparable open space and to facilitate the Pole Mountain Fire Lookout, which performs an invaluable service for our community. I am confident that Sonoma Land Trust can continue working on both these fronts for the good of the community and for future generations,” says Morgan Elliott, manager of Pole Mountain LLC.

“We look forward to working with the Sonoma Land Trust for our continued operation of the Pole Mountain Lookout. It’s a win-win situation for the Lookout and the Land Trust,” says Marshall Turbeville, board president, Pole Mountain Fire Lookout.

The property is under contract for $2.35 million. In addition to needing to raise the purchase price by the end of November, the Land Trust will also need to raise additional funds to steward the land: maintaining the roads, culverts, fences, and planning for the long-term goal of creating recreational connections to the Jenner Headlands and Little Black Mountain Preserves.

Pole Mountain map

“Connectivity is the key theme in land conservation and, with Pole Mountain, we will have a continuous protected landscape from sea level to the highest point, which will provide wildlife with room to adapt to the effects of climate change,” says Ralph Benson, executive director, Sonoma Land Trust. “And what a great hiking destination.”

Donations to the Pole Mountain LOOKOUT! Campaign may be made here, or sent to: Sonoma Land Trust, 966 Sonoma Avenue, Santa Rosa, CA 95404. For more information, please call (707) 526-6930, ext. 108.





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