Just one week ago the Press Democrat featured a story about a mountain lion hit by a car off of River Road. Sadly I was reminded of the plight of mountain lions in southern California where a rapidly growing population fragments the land and makes islands of open space. Because of this fragmentation, the iconic mountain lion has become the impetus for one of the largest habitat connectivity projects to date, a wildlife overpass bridging the Santa Monica Mountains to larger wilderness areas. This bridge allows mountain lions as well as other wildlife to safely traverse the considerable barrier of Hwy 101 to reach new hunting grounds and find new mates.
Though it may feel safe to think that the environmental troubles of Southern California are greater and incomparable to suburban and rural Sonoma County, our dwindling salmon populations tell a different tale. Much like the fragmentation of the southern California wildlands, the Russian River’s rich diverse habitats are fragmented from one another. An increasing numbers of homes, farms, businesses, and vineyards contribute to smaller and smaller areas in which animals are able to access their daily needs.
Though disturbing, it is this fragmentation phenomenon that sparked the creation of the Trek Sonoma program at LandPaths. Trek Sonoma strives to bring awareness and value to large stretches of connected habitat in Sonoma County. To launch this project, two trips were piloted in 2015. The first debuted in August with a three day walking Trek stretching from Shell Beach to Bohemia Ecological Preserve. The most recent October pilot Trek saw 15 participants, 3 work traders, and several guest speakers float down the Russian River for three days.
With the help and support of River’s Edge Kayak and Canoe Trips in Healdsburg, the group launched from the Alexander Valley Bridge and paddled downstream to arrive at Warnecke Ranch several hours later.
In attempt to expand the concept of connectivity Trek Sonoma is also dedicated to weaving private landowners, local businesses, and agriculture into this project. The Warneckes are a 5th and 6th generation Sonoma County family whom have lived on this particular parcel of land for over 100 years and have a long history of contributing to Sonoma County arts and culture. As the group walked up from the river to their campsite on the Ranch, Margo Merck and Alice Sutro- the matriarchs now overseeing the ranch- welcomed the group and shared their long legacy of community involvement.
After setting up their tents, participants indulged in a sumptuous dinner provide by Chef Gary Fleener, who specializes in local fare. To accompany the meal, participant and vintner Darek Trowbridge of Old World Winery offered tastings of his biodynamically grown wines. Craig Anderson rounded out the evening with music and singing.
At a leisurely morning pace the group toured the architectural archives of John Warnecke and met guest speakers Kate Lundquist of Occidental Arts and Ecology Center’s WATER Institute and Don McEnhill of Russian RiverKeeper. These two shared the story of the Russian River, the plight of Sonoma County waters, and offered options for community activism. Don and Kate’s stories continued as they joined the to group to paddle down river.
Along one of the most undeveloped stretches of the Russian River, participants watched birds and looked for signs of beaver, otter, and returning fall salmon. Midway through the day they stopped for lunch on a gravel bar to share their own stories of living near the Russian River, some tales stretching far back into childhood.
By mid- afternoon the group landed on the banks of Front Porch Farms due east of Healdsburg. The farm rests on a bench of rich alluvial soils, surrounded by low hills forming a pocket valley and tends a mosaic of fruit, nut, and olive orchards; fields of grains, alfalfa, and pasture grass; a wide variety of heritage vegetable crops; and wine grapes on the sunny hillsides. In balance, Front Porch also thinks animals have an important role to play in the health and vitality of the land so they raise Boer goats, Italian-origin Cinta Senese pigs, and a United Nations of various chicken breeds.
Participants were treated to a tour and learned the inner workings of this model farm striving for sustainability. As sun set the group returned to camp for a meal composed of the vegetables and pork grown on the farm where they slept. Late night wine tasting accompanied hearty singing, which melded into an early morning chorus of coyotes waking the group from their dreams.
With the rising sun, the group packed up camp and bid farewell to Front Porch Farms. The final day of paddling offered nostalgic memories of what the river was decades ago and quiet reflection only to be disturbed by exciting sightings of steelhead trout zipping beneath their kayaks. As participants hauled their boats onto River’s Edge beach near Memorial Bridge in Healdsburg they gathered for one last meal. With much laughter and tears paddlers offered praise certainly for LandPaths but more so for the River and the opportunity to spend three contiguous days out of car and home in Sonoma County. They shared the realization that the considerable barriers of fragmentation in Sonoma County are not only for our salmon, but also pose a problem for connecting people to the landscape they call home. Via Trek Sonoma participants were able to see the necessity of connected habitat not only for the health of our wildlife, but they also glimpsed the ideal that connection is imperative amongst people, landowners, and community action.
DISCOVER AND EXPLORE IOOBY!
In Our Own Back Yard provides opportunities for your child to learn science, math, and language arts through hands-on activities, immersed in Sonoma County’s big outside. Each outdoor visit reinforces concepts learned in the classroom and introduces new and exciting educational experiences all while fueling the curiosity and imagination of your child!
By the end of the year, your child will be an accomplished recycler, have undertaken a stewardship project to help the land, and used nature as an outdoor classroom to hone skills necessary for academic success. We hope they sleep well after these field days. The adventure will be all the more powerful if you join in by asking questions, being interested, and if you can, getting outdoors to see your child in action.
The classes first visit was dedicated to Discovery and Exploration. On this field day students got to know their adopted property, right down to choosing their own special sit spot. Most of our trips included a LOT of hiking as we explored a new landscape. Other activities that your child may have participated in include:
Duplication scavenger huntsengage your child’s memory and identification skills as groups find duplicates of collected natural objects. We come together for discussion and comparison.
Garbalogy is an interactive way to teach your child about where our trash goes; how to sort recycling, compost, re- useable, and trash items, and our “leave no trace” policy.
Sit Spots are a time for your child to find solace in nature. We hope to dedicate up to 30 minutes each trip to quiet, solo observations. Your child will return to the same spot on each visit and develop their own, personal relationship with the big outside.
Song and Dance gets your kids moving each morning. Ask your kids if they remember the Roots, Stems, Leaves song or the Energy in our Ecosystem Skit.
Garden activities were accomplished at Rancho Mark West and Bayer Farm. A beautiful spread of salsas, chips, and fresh garden salads and veggie quesadillas were prepared by and for your child to enjoy!
What is IOOBY?
IOOBY stands for In Our Own BackYard. IOOBY is LandPaths' premier environmental education program that aims to cultivate a level of comfort in, connection to, and informed appreciation of the outdoors for students involved. Through four theme- based field trips, we hope to awaken each students' senses to the world around them. Through discovery and exploration we enliven their curiosity about the natural world, including fun- filled investigations of their own watersheds and local habitats. We ultimately strive to inspire them to respect, protect, and steward the land.
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LandPaths' mission is to foster a love of the land in Sonoma County through access, education and stewardship. Find more ways to love the land at www.landpaths.org.
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Love IOOBY? see more FREE LandPaths events on our outings calendar here.
Thanks to SCAPOSD for ongoing programmatic support!
DESCUBRIR Y EXPLORAR
In Our Own Backyard
El programa de LandPaths, en nuestro propio patio (IOOBY), ofrece la oportunidad para que su hijo(a) aprenda conceptos de ciencia, matemáticas, y escritura usando espacios naturales de el Condado de Sonoma. Cada excursión afuera usaran los conceptos que aprendieron en su salón, y también presentar nuevos conceptos que darán energía a su curiosidad y imaginación.
Al terminar el año, su hijo(a) tendrá conocimiento de como reciclar, como trabajar para ayudar y mantener la tierra, y como usar la naturaleza como una herramienta para tener éxito el la escuela. Esperamos que después de 4 visitas al mismo lugar (aunque algunas escuelas visitan sitios múltiples) su hijo tendrá mas interés en comprensión, aprecio y deseo de cuidar del mundo natural. Su hijo(a) dormirán tranquilos después de estos viajes. La experiencia será mas grande su usted le hace preguntas sobre el día, empeñe interés o tal vez acompañara a su hijo(a) si es posible.
El tema de la primera visita fue de descubrimiento y exploración. El objetivo de esta primera visita es conseguir que los alumnos se familiaricen con el lugar. La mayoría de los viajes incluyeron una gran cantidad de caminatas para conseguir un sentido de lugar. Aquí están algunas otras actividades en las que su hijo ha participado:
• Canción y Danza consigue que sus niños bailen y canten cada mañana. Pregunte a sus hijos si pueden recordar la canción de las raíces, tallos,hojas.
• Las actividades del Jardínse llevaron a cabo en el Jardín Rancho Mark West y Granja Bayer. Una variedad de salsas, papas fritas, ensaladas frescas del jardín y quesadillas con verduras fueron preparadas y compartidas con otras clases.
• Duplicación caza tesoros ejercita la memoria de su hijo y habilidades de identificación y genera grupos para encontrar duplicados de los objetos naturales recogidos. Nos reunimos para la discusión y comparación.
• Carrera de basura de relevos es una manera interactiva para enseñar a su hijo acerca de dónde va nuestra basura, la forma de ordenar el reciclaje, abono, reutilizable, y artículos de basura, y nuestra política "no dejar rastro".
• Sitios para sentarse es un tiempo para que su hijo encuentre consuelo en la naturaleza. Esperamos dedicar unos 30 minutos en cada viaje a la tranquilidad, y observación. Su hijo volverá al mismo lugar en cada visita para desarrollar su propia relación personal con la naturaleza.
¿Qué es IOOBY?
En nuestro propio patio por sus siglas en Ingles IOOBY. IOOBY es el programa principal de LandPaths de educación ambiental que tiene como objetivo cultivar un nivel de comodidad, conexión, y aprecio ala naturaleza en los estudiantes involucrados. A través de cuatro excursiones temáticas, esperamos despertar los sentidos en cada uno de los estudiantes para el mundo que les rodea a través del descubrimiento y la exploración, avivar su curiosidad acerca del mundo natural a través de divertidas investigaciones de cuencas y vida natural, Por ultimo, inspirar a respetar y proteger la tierra
La misión de LandPaths es de promover el amor a la tierra en el Condado de Sonoma. Visite landpaths.org para ver como puede tomar el primer paso hacia el “gran afuera."
¿Interesado en ver fotos de los estudiantes IOOBY en el campo? ¡Visite iooby.shutterfly.com
para ver, agregar e imprimir las fotografías!
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