Oct 9, 2019
Preparations began September 24, 2019 for a long-awaited project that will remove standing dead fuel on two large properties in the heart of the Tubbs fire footprint. This project, funded by the CA Department of Fish and Wildlife with cost share from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and managed by the Sonoma Resource Conservation District (RCD), will improve forest and watershed health while reducing fuel loads and future fire risk. By implementing forest management prescriptions on over 160 acres, and subsequently conducting erosion reduction treatments on over 3 miles of hydrologically connected roads, the project will improve summer streamflows and prevent an estimated 3,225 cubic yards of sediment from entering Mark West Creek, home to endangered coho salmon and threatened steelhead trout.
The participating landowners, neighbors Lynn Garric and Karen Arroyo, have long been active and dedicated stewards of their land, conserving water, preventing erosion, and fighting invasive weeds in their forest and grasslands. Prior to the Tubbs fire, they had each been working with the RCD to develop projects that would capture rainwater off of their roofs, to use in place of creek water or groundwater during dry summer months. The fires changed these plans, burning to the ground the roofs on which rainwater would have been captured. But the owners’ commitment to land stewardship didn’t change. If anything, it became stronger. “While we are still surrounded by vestiges of the Tubbs Fire wherever we look, the extent to which this land is reclaiming itself is nothing short of miraculous,” says Karen Arroyo. “Regeneration is powerful, dramatic and somewhat magical. And while the scope of the work is enormous, it is also exciting. We have the opportunity to assess and amend, to encourage and support and to work in concert with the land itself towards its recovery.”
“While the October 2017 fires were still burning, one of the first things we did was to take stock of our existing landowner partners,” said Valerie Quinto, Executive Director of the Sonoma RCD. “How badly had their properties been impacted? What could we do to help them recover the land that they love?” The Garric and Arroyo properties were among those where the RCD found opportunities to assist. At the Arroyo property, the RCD helped with the emergency replacement of burned culverts, in order to maintain property access and prevent erosion into the creek. Meanwhile, Lynn Garric opened her property to her neighbors and community to learn from a Forester brought in by the RCD to who provided insight on how to read the landscape and what concerns to look out for in the months following the burn.
Prior to the fire, the landowners had also worked with a Registered Professional Forester to develop forest management plans that would guide the stewardship of their properties. After the fire, the RCD worked with them to update these plans to reflect the new realities on the ground, and went to work finding grant funding to help implement the plans’ prescriptions. Funding now in hand, the RCD and consultants will be in the field over the next two weeks, conducting surveys of sensitive resources and charting out the work ahead. Field crews from Conservation Corps North Bay will begin vegetation management work on October 7, just one day before the second anniversary of the Tubbs fire. “The prospect of getting this grant was the boost I needed to renew my commitment to this land after the fire,” reflects Lynn Garric. “I’ve lived here for 35 years, but I’ve never felt more supported or motivated to do the work. This RCD partnership has taught me how I can maintain this property for the future, and I’m thrilled to get started.”
This work is part of the LandSmart Planning and On-the-Ground programs, through which the RCD helps landowners plan for and conduct voluntary conservation best practices. As much as the RCD’s work is about conservation of natural resources, it is ultimately about our community and the people we serve. Since the October 2017 fires, the RCD has provided information and advice to hundreds of rural and agricultural landowners, and conducted fire recovery projects on over 20 properties. The RCD is currently in the process of ranking potential projects for another round of grant funding, which will fund projects that mitigate post-fire water quality impacts at 9 or more sites within the Tubbs and Nuns fire footprints. The RCD continues to seek additional grant funding to assist fire-impacted landowners with watershed recovery efforts on their land.
Christine Kuehn, Education and Communications Manager
Sonoma Resource Conservation District
1221 Farmers Lane, Suite F
Santa Rosa, CA 95405
707.569.1448 ext 114
Visit us at https://sonomarcd.org/
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