Jul 17, 2018
Sonoma County Regional Parks has recruited some assistance for fire prevention and invasive species removal: sheep. A flock of sheep will spend the next five weeks grazing along the Laguna de Santa Rosa Trail near Sebastopol, removing dry vegetation and non-native plant species.
“Grazing reduces the use of pesticides and need to mow,” said Regional Parks Natural Resources Manager Hattie Brown.“It also helps restore the wetlands to their natural state and keeps the sheep well-fed doing what they instinctively do best.”
Grazing also reduces wildfire risk by clearing excess vegetation, promotes plant viability, and supports local agriculture. Regional Parks uses grazing at several parks, including Helen Putnam, Tolay Lake, Taylor Mountain, and Crane Creek.
For the Laguna, grazing is part of a larger plan to encourage natural resources to flourish on site. The invasive perennial pepperweed and reed canary grass are both found in the Laguna. Through this program, sheep will eat the invasive species, and their presence also will help break up the thatch that accumulates on the soil surface.
“Vegetation buildup is detrimental to many native plants that evolved to thrive in landscapes that had large herds of animals periodically migrating through,” Brown said. Park Managers hope the grazing program will promote the growth of the critically endangered Sebastopol meadowfoam that grows in the Laguna.
Regional Parks partnered with the city of Santa Rosa, the city of Sebastopol, the Laguna de Santa Rosa Foundation and the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District, Sonoma County Water Agency, and Sonoma County Regional Parks Foundation, to bring grazing to the popular trail that connects Highway 12 to Occidental Road, just east of Sebastopol. The sheep will be in the area through late August, 2018 and the project is supported by the Sonoma Regional Parks Foundation and the Sonoma County Water Agency.
About Sonoma County Regional Parks
The Regional Parks system includes 56 parks, beaches, and trails throughout Sonoma County. Regional Parks’ mission is to create healthy communities and contribute to the county’s economic vitality by acquiring, developing, managing, maintaining parks. Regional Parks preserves natural and cultural resources and offers opportunities for recreation and education that enhance the quality of life and well-being of residents and visitors.
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