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$1.1 million for vegetation thinning in Sonoma Valley

The Sonoma Valley Wildlands Collaborative

The Sonoma Valley Wildlands Collaborative (svwildlandscollaborative.com) includes Sonoma Land Trust, Sonoma County Regional Parks, Sonoma County Ag & Open Space, Audubon Canyon Ranch, California State Parks and Sonoma Mountain Ranch Preservation Foundation.

An environmental-thinning project was recently completed in the eucalyptus grove at Jack London State Historic Park, and another is underway at the Bouverie Preserve’s iconic oak woodlands and mixed evergreen forests in Glen Ellen. Both are examples of the vegetation management strategies undertaken by the Sonoma Valley Wildlands Collaborative, a group of six conservation agencies working on fuel reduction in the wake of the 2017 fires that burned so much of the Sonoma Valley.

Thinning entails the selective removal of some vegetation in order to improve the overall health of a forest. Other methods of fire-risk management include the construction of shaded fuel breaks - such as those created in November 2020 at Sonoma Valley Regional Park near its Glen Ellen access - and the clearing of flammable vegetation along access roads at Jack London and other state parks in the area.

These efforts were rewarded with a grant from Resilient Communities, a National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and Wells Fargo Foundation program to help communities prepare for impacts of coastal sea level rise, water quantity and quality issues, and the extended wildfire seasons that global warming produce.

The $319,364 grant adds to matching funds of an additional $820,000 that Resilient Communities secures from federal, state or private initiatives to support resiliency projects, bringing the total conservation impact to more than $1.1 million for wildfire resilience in Sonoma County.

Jennifer Potts, a resource ecologist at Audubon Canyon Ranch, which operates the Bouverie Preserve, said the 95-acre thinning operation is badly needed.

“Since the Nuns Fire, dead trees are coming down left and right. Plus there has been an explosion of resprouting that is crowding the habitat,” Potts said. "We are going in to selectively remove some of that to promote the growth for larger, fire-resistant trees while maintaining diverse native species and structure for optimal wildlife habitat."

Tony Nelson, stewardship program manager for Sonoma Land Trust, described fire management and the impacts of climate change as “pressing challenges that transcend property boundaries or jurisdictional lines and that require us to work together.”

The Sonoma Land Trust grant is among 11 Resilient Communities Program grants awarded nationwide.

To date, the grant program has supported 37 projects in Puerto Rico and U.S. states with $12.6 million in program funding distributed and $30 million in federal and local matching funds.

The Sonoma Valley Wildlands Collaborative

The Sonoma Valley Wildlands Collaborative (svwildlandscollaborative.com) includes Sonoma Land Trust, Sonoma County Regional Parks, Sonoma County Ag & Open Space, Audubon Canyon Ranch, California State Parks and Sonoma Mountain Ranch Preservation Foundation.

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