Strategic Plan 2023-2028
A SPOTLIGHT ON THE IMPORTANCE OF BIODIVERSITY
Biodiversity is the extraordinary variety of life on Earth. It encompasses every living thing, from plants and animals to microorganisms and fungi. Each species plays a critical role in maintaining thriving ecosystems that provide the foundation for all life on earth, including our own. Now more than at any time the past 65 million years, nature’s robust interconnected systems of species as we know them are under tremendous threat of being destroyed. The climate is changing at an ever-accelerating pace, and its effects are impacting the health and habitat critical for life to survive. However, many species have shown that they are capable of adapting to change, but they need the space and time to do so.
The loss of habitat and open space poses a great risk to the biodiversity in our region. This decline in the variety and numbers of species has tremendous impact to our lives and our quality of life. It contributes to a reduction in carbon storage capacity, increasing greenhouse gas emissions, and dismantles functioning natural systems that protect communities from rising sea levels, wildfires, droughts, and disease.
Plants, animals, and people need room to move in and through the landscape to find shelter from heat, higher ground from rising waters, fresh water in times of drought, and places to rehome after a wildfire. Without swift action, we will lose these large habitat areas and the benefits they provide to unsustainable development and landscape fragmentation. The cascading effects will accelerate and amplify the negative impacts already occurring in Sonoma County and beyond. Therefore, when we address the biodiversity crisis, we are addressing the climate crisis at the same time!
Conserving and restoring functioning, healthy ecosystems not only protects a variety of species but improves and maintains the natural infrastructure (i.e. forests, wetlands, floodplains, watersheds) crucial for maintaining air and water quality.
Natural infrastructure like biodiversity is also essential for buffering our communities from the worst effects of climate change. When we preserve large, intact landscapes, wildlife corridors, and natural infrastructure that perform irreplaceable roles in supporting the web of life, we create wildlife refuges for thousands of diverse species that call Sonoma County home.
Land conservation is at the core of our work, and we will continue to proactively protect Sonoma County’s rich biodiversity. In alignment with California’s 30×30 conservation goals (30% of all land and water protected by 2030) we will acquire, conserve, and restore lands with the highest capacity to support connected and healthy habitat and ecosystems which provides plants and animals the space for movement, proliferation, and adaptation to a changing climate.
Why this matters
Sonoma County is an integral part of a larger, globally recognized biodiversity “hotspot” that contains a diverse array of plant and animal species, some of which are found nowhere else on earth. Within a few decades, climate change will dramatically reshape the number and variety of species that will inhabit the planet. Addressing the mass extinction crises that has already begun in Sonoma County will have an impact on efforts around the globe.
The most effective strategy for to preserving biodiversity is the one Sonoma Land Trust has developed, implemented, refined, and perfected over the course of almost 50 years. During that time we have successfully protected 57,000+ acres of open space throughout the county putting our fundraising, land acquisition, land stewardship and partner collaboration expertise to work. We are a voice for nature in policy and planning conversations, advancing strategies to protect biodiversity through our advocacy work that informs decision makers on how best to protect our shared natural resources.
What We’ll Do
Acquire lands to bolster biodiversity
It all starts with the land. We begin by identifying properties in high-priority conservation areas that create or expand a resilient and connected landscape to support and enhance biodiversity and wildlife movement. This work includes fundraising for property purchases, transferring property, and placing conservation easements on privately held lands, and is exemplified by our most recent acquisitions of the Sonoma Mountain Vernal Pools in Bennett Valley, and the 1,150 acre Camp 4 in the San Pablo Baylands. To reach California’s 30×30 conservation goals, Sonoma County must protect 78,000 additional acres before 2030. Our biodiversity strategy is in support and alignment with this initiative and accelerates the pace in which we will seek to accomplish this goal.
Preserve biodiversity strongholds for science
Sonoma County’s unique geography and microclimates give it the potential to be a refuge for native species coping with rapidly shifting conditions. Our nature preserves are not only to protect biodiversity, but act as laboratories for conservation science research and development. In partnership with the local research community including bird monitoring projects with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Point Blue Conservation Science, black bear monitoring with the North Bay Bear Collaborative, the Estero Americano Coastal Prairie Enhancement Study with Sonoma State University, and tidal wetland work in the Sonoma Baylands with the Bay Area’s leading scientists, we will focus on innovating new approaches for conservation land management and generating the data to measure progress on biodiversity protection.
Steward lands for biodiversity and climate resilience
We start with acquiring land, but that is the only the beginning of the story. There is almost no place on Earth that hasn’t been reshaped by humans and it is our goal to revitalize and repair the land to bring it back to a productive state. We leverage proven management practices, such as conservation grazing, prescribed fire, and creek and wetland restoration, to enhance native habitat, protect threatened species, and strengthen biodiversity resiliency. Through fostering relationships with co-management partners, we maximize the capacity, funding, and knowledge for conservation restoration programs throughout Sonoma County. At the forefront of this work is our wetland restoration in the San Pablo Baylands, Lakeville creek in Petaluma, and our fire-adaptive forest management program throughout the Sonoma Valley.