Fire—it is on everyone’s mind in northern California. We all, likely, know someone who has a friend or family member affected by the recent Valley Fire. And, fire is closer to home in more ways than simple geography. The recent rains dampened the ground – but failed to dampen our worry as the temperatures climb again and the drought looms.
Fire is an extremely relevant factor for all land managers - including LandPaths - with our charge to steward over 1,400 acres comprising five Preserves across Sonoma County. For LandPaths, fire connects directly to our work beyond managing land — to including a reckoning of how we are intertwined with nature surrounding our cities and rural homes. All the ways fire impacts our work might be surprising to some – from conversations with volunteer leaders around BBQs and campfires, to multi-year fuel load reduction as part of our standard stewardship work, and emergency response when out in the field with our county’s youth.
Last week, at a Bohemia Action Team (BAT) meeting, LandPaths staff and volunteers decided to relocate the fire ring, and discussed revisions to a draft campfire protocol. Our work at Bohemia Preserve is relevant to our neighbors next door at the Bohemian Grove - who are also working towards a fire safe(r) forest, old growth characteristics and in the context of human habitation. Our work is a balancing act of fire safety on one side and connecting people with nature through a primal experience gathering around the hearth. Needless to say, right now, safety of people-structures-trees is paramount. And yet the dynamic tug in our minds and actions continues: are we part of nature or separate from it?
Reducing the risk of catastrophic crown fire is not in any ways news to Jim and Betty Doerksen – our partners at Rancho Mark West. They have been hard at work for nearly 50 years working their land so that native species can thrive (including fish), while reducing the fuel loads and ladders that can transition a slow-moving, and in many ways beneficial ground-fire into what incinerated portions of the forest to the northeast of us this past week.
Just this month, LandPaths Stewardship Coordinator Erin Mullen presented our Fuel Load Reduction work on Fitch Mountain to the City Council of Healdsburg. This summer LandPaths employed a crew of teens from the Summer Youth Ecology Corps program – in addition to four seasonal interns - from the Santa Rosa Junior College to address fuel load accumulating at several of our preserves. Needless to say, despite the heat and (for most, likely) the hardest physical work they ever dreamed they’d encounter in their young lives, mountains of exotic broom were pulled, ground level fuel was chipped and distributed, and an incredible service was provided to both the native wilds and the humans that live in proximity to it.
This week, Erin again will join the quarterly Friends of the Grove (FOG) meeting, discussing fuel load reduction at the Grove of the Old Trees. LandPaths has worked with neighbors for the past 10 years reducing fuel ladders in the Grove. Properties such as the Grove and Fitch are particularly sensitive, as they are close and surrounded by homes, families, pets - things we hold dear as humans—home.
Infused with this work is also the idea that one day we may consider fire as part of our management, as in the carefully applied use of controlled burns. As many of us have begun to realize and Native People practiced for hundreds (thousands?) of years, fire has long been a part of our continent’s ecological functioning. We can see it at the Grove of the Old Trees in the fire scarred trees, made more palpable because you can walk inside a tree as a result. Just as wildlife corridors and watersheds are ecological processes that cross boundaries regardless of land use, fire is also. The goal is how to manage land to be more resilient to wildfire. Ultimately, LandPaths' work must continue to encompass whether by direct partnership on the ground or the sharing of information, not only the acres and parcels so legally defined as ‘ours’, but on the lands surrounding these acres. This is nature’s scale, interconnected, continually changing and adapting – and a lesson for us as land stewards and students of the natural world.
This year LandPaths’ Owl Camp collaborated with beloved local theatre collective The Imaginists for a week of theatre, storytelling and BIG fun. Campers spent a part of each day working with the Imaginists in preparation for a Friday performance. The traditional play, Rain Finds a Home in the Sky was taken from a Southern Pomo/Coast Miwok story adapted by Greg Sarris. Each camper took on the role of an animal, or “Rain” itself and enacted important lessons regarding living in community. In the end, Rain speaks to the cast of creatures from above: “The village must rely on each other, sharing their memories and stories on how to tend to the
lands and to each other.” This story was perfectly resonant with one of the most important outcomes of Owl Camp over the summer and years– the building of community. With a 44% rate of returning campers, Owl Camp is a place many young people have come to rely upon year after year for expanding and strengthening their social structure. As one parent of a longtime camper told us, “Owl Camp has taken the pressure off of school friendships.”
LandPaths offered 44 campers a scholarship this year, and provided a van service from Roseland for those campers most in need. We partnered with the local Migrant Education chapter to offer the Owl Camp Experience to five youth whose families travel for work. The scholarship and transportation program combined allow Owl Camp to become accessible to pretty much everyone, and allows our camper body to take on a true reflection of the vibrant cultural diversity of Sonoma County. Many thanks to the following donors and sponsors, who helped to bring the experience of Owl Camp within reach to these 44 youth:
Amy’s Kitchen, Active 20-30 Club of the Redwood Empire, Santa Rosa Sunrise Rotary, W.S. Badger Company Inc, The Heck Foundation, Calpine, Western Farm Center, Karen Clark, Elaine Gutsch, Michele Larkin, Marcela Ronan, Judy Bellows, Rick and Sue Kavinoky, Meg Beeler and Tom von Tersch, Lee Hackeling and Craig Anderson, Kathy Laffan, Jane Lang, Jack and Tracy Mattson, Abigail Zoger and Jedd Parker, Richard and Darla Radcliffe, Jean Forsyth Schulz, Jane and Mike Witkowski, Alyson Butler, Griffin Okie and Cyrie Barnes Okie, Craig Meltzner, James R. Greene, Harriet Buckwalter, Alicia Nourse, Margaret Hamill and Theodore Keller, Dan Nuebel and Karen Thompson Nuebel , Paula Hackeling, Fran Du Melle, Julie Davidson, Colleen Pedrazzi, Cheryl A. Maynard and J. Anthony Mountain, Ron and Judy Douglass, Sheridan and Jon Rapolla, Anne Iocco, Charles Wear, John and Johanna Knight, Mary Anna Maloney, Mirin Lew, Dru Ann Parks, Gary Abreim, Leslie Lihou, Kristen Robinson, Melva Freeman
Setting out early to beat the heat, LandPaths hosted two separate groups on Wednesday for the local United Way’s annual Day of Caring event. At LandPaths-owned Rancho Mark West, 20 employees from Keysight Technologies prepped the kids' garden for winter, dismantled the Owl Camp teepee, watered native redwood plantings and mended a section of the historic barn. At LandPaths' Bohemia Ecological Preserve, 21 volunteers from Sonoma County and US Bank pulled up 15 bags of invasive periwinkle from the banks of Duvoul Creek and cleared a section of Duvoul Creek Trail.
With this boost of mid-week "people power," critical corners of Rancho Mark West and Bohemia Ecological Preserve were tended to, explored and healed. Many volunteers commented that they learned something new: the importance of native plant species to an ecosystem, how seed saving works, and more. The change from the normal workday scenery was much appreciated by all participants- including all of LandPaths staff.
In total, an estimated 1,200 volunteers from at least 30 distinct companies and groups spread out across Sonoma County at 50 different locations as part of the Day of Caring. LandPaths is both grateful and proud to have been a part of such a monumental day of service. Many thanks to United Way of the Wine County, Keysight Technologies, Sonoma County, and US Bank for your enthusiastic collaboration yesterday! We also thank Mombo's Pizza, Lagunitas and Guayaki for helping us keep our volunteers fueled and hydrated on a very hot day!
Job Title: Bilingual Education Assistant
Classification: Full-time, Non-Exempt
HOURS: 40 hours per week, Occasional Weekend and Evening Hours Required
SALARY: $14-$16 Per Hour; Competitive Benefits Package
Reports To: In Our Own Backyard (IOOBY) Education Manager
LandPaths is seeking a self-motivated, energetic, and creative individual who excels in a fast- paced, creative working environment and loves the outdoors. The Bilingual Education Assistant will assist in day-to-day operations of LandPaths’ elementary school-based environmental education program, In Our Own Backyard (IOOBY), LandPaths summer Owl Camp for kids 5 to 12 years old, and other LandPaths’ education and field programs as available. The ideal candidate has a passion for: the outdoors, sharing your passion with others, working in a team setting and community building.
OWL CAMP (20%)
Education & Skills:
Send a BRIEF AND SPECIFIC cover letter and resume, by Thursday July 30, 2015 to HR at email@example.com
LandPaths' Owl Camp is delighted to announce our Owl Camp Tee Shirt Contest 2015 winner and runners up! This was a very difficult decision that took much longer than anticipated. Our deepest thanks to all the youth artists who participated. And thanks also to all who cast a vote!
Second Place: Olyana Foege