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Land trust gets grant for wildfire mitigation

Land trust gets grant for wildfire mitigation

By Tracy Salcedo

As the weather warms, minds tip toward preparing for fire season, an all-consuming and expensive task for most large landowners. Fortunately, the money jar has tipped open as well: The Sonoma Land Trust (SLT) has received a generous grant to reduce fire fuels on open space land throughout the Sonoma Valley.

The $319,364 grant was awarded to SLT to fund “vegetation management and fuel reduction activities across 18,000 acres of protected lands” in the valley, according to an announcement in a recent land trust e-letter. The Sonoma Valley Wildlands Collaborative, which pools the land management expertise and experience of Audubon Canyon Ranch (Bouverie Preserve), California State Parks, Sonoma County Ag + Open Space, Sonoma County Regional Parks, the SLT, and Sonoma Mountain Ranch Preservation Foundation, will oversee the work. The 18,000 acres cover 11 parks and preserves impacted by the 2017 Nuns Fire, including Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, Hood Mountain Regional Park, Calabazas Creek Preserve, and Glen Oaks Ranch. Development of “public education activities” to help residents countywide become more resilient to the threat of wildfire is also funded.

The grant was awarded by the Resilient Communities Program, a collaboration between Wells Fargo and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation that “aims to help communities better prepare for and respond to climate-related natural disasters by investing in green infrastructure.” The Resilient Communities Program has nationwide reach, but one of its focuses, according its website, is helping communities prepare for wildfire throughout the west. This synchronizes with the mission of the local wildlands collaborative, which works to “maintain and improve ecosystem health, increase resilience to wildfires and climate change, and reduce future impacts of wildfire [on] communities in the Sonoma Valley.” According to the SLT announcement, the grant will enable the collaborative to reduce fuels on 720 acres of wildland through prescribed burns, creation of shaded fuel breaks, selective and ecologically sound thinning, reduction of ladder fuels, and road clearing. These prescriptive measures help reduce the threats posed by wildfire to property and lives, and also promote the health and wildfire resilience of a variety of habitats.

Another chockstone in the collaborative’s work is connecting with community members through educational programming, including workshops and fire ecology walks. Over the long term, working with CalFire, the group hopes to generate a strategy to protect communities on a “landscape scale.”

“Fire management and the impacts of climate change are pressing challenges that transcend property boundaries or jurisdictional lines and that require us to work together,” says Tony Nelson, a stewardship program manager for SLT, in the e-letter announcement.