Saving the environment by starts in your own backyard

On a beautiful day like today with the Pacific Ocean sparkling in the early spring sunshine, I am once again reminded of how lucky we are to live in this place of such natural beauty. This past weekend as we headed for a family hike, many folks were headed out to enjoy the Coast or the River. As mustard blooms and spring rolls through the County, we are re-doubling our efforts to restore and protect our natural assets. The best place to start on the big topics of climate resiliency and environmental protection is here in our own backyard. Here in the Fifth District office, our team is working on projects to restore and protect the Russian River, to reduce trash and visitor impact along the Coast, to support ongoing development of new parks and preservation lands, and to protect our trees throughout the County.

  • The Russian River. In 2017 Districts 4 and 5 came together with a group of collaborating entities to launch the Russian River Confluence, a collaborative organization with the vision of ensuring A Russian River watershed that is healthy, vibrant, accessible and is the economic, environmental, recreational and spiritual heart of the region. After a few years focused on disasters, our teams have come together again to reboot the Confluence and to refocus on the mission of Driving community action towards a healthy, resilient and regenerative Russian River watershed. Protecting and stewarding the river is a task that will take all of us. We need to reduce trash and waste, address watershed health issues, and educate visitors, businesses, and residents how to be good stewards of this critical natural resource.

Here are some of the ways the Confluence is making a difference in our environmental resilience:

1) Creating a branding/education/marketing campaign along the lines of the successful “Keep Tahoe Blue” project. A call for proposals launched in February for agencies that can give us the tools to raise awareness and provide ways for ongoing engagement from funding to volunteerism.

2) Collaborating on developing and promoting projects for river health such as the recently launched Adopt A Road program and other programs designed to reduce trash, addressing runoff, invasive species, low flows, and many projects to support the ecosystem and all the flora and fauna that depend on it.

3) Reaching out to businesses as Russian River Brand ambassadors, providing educational and merchandise materials that will keep plastics out of the river, educate visitors on responsible recreation, and provide small business eco-promotion that will help businesses thrive.

4) Bringing together a powerful group of river advocates to work together towards key environmental priorities. The launch organizations include the Sonoma County Water Agency, Russian Riverkeeper, the Sonoma Land Trust, County departments such as Ag & Open Space, Regional Parks, Economic Development, and Transportation and Public Works, Resource Conservation Districts, Sonoma County Tourism, Landpaths, Tribal representatives and Conservation Works. We will be adding more as our organizational grows to engage and include more.

5) Establish a website and social media presence that provides ways for everyone to get involved – how to volunteer, donate, express your concerns, get engaged in topics that you can contribute to, sponsor, and learn about the River and its ecosystem. It’s early days yet and you can follow the development of the committees and projects by following the Russian River Confluence website, on Facebook, signing up for the newsletter. http://russianriverconfluence.org/

  • I am meeting with Supervisor Rodoni as well as Senator Mike McGuire this month on ways to reduce trash along the Coast and mitigate visitor impact. Many of the tools being piloted along the River will be reviewed with communities along the Coast for use in addressing their environmental issues as well.
  • Regional Parks has taken over two exciting properties that are part of our long term plan to create parks and pathways from Santa Rosa along the Russian River and out to the Coast. The Torr property in Monte Rio and the Carrington Ranch along the Coast just opposite Salmon Creek will be County of Sonoma jewels providing opportunities for enjoyment of residents and visitors alike, ecosystem restoration, and climate resilience.
  • We speak for the Trees! Donning my Lorax hat, I am an advocate for the Comprehensive Tree Ordinance underway through Permit Sonoma. Permit Sonoma’s Comprehensive Tree Ordinance Update will take a holistic approach to evaluate and revise existing tree protection regulations to address current needs, adapt to a changing environment beset with challenges such as climate change, Sudden Oak Death, drought and wildfire.

The Sonoma County General Plan calls for the protection and enhancement of Sonoma County’s natural habitats and diverse plant and animal communities by establishing standards and programs to protect native trees, plant communities, riparian corridors, and timber resources.

Learn more about the Tree Ordinance and sign up for updates here: https://sonomacounty.ca.gov/PRMD/Regulations/Comprehensive-Tree-Ordinance.

Let’s work together to preserve and protect our environment for generations to come.

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