Audubon Canyon Ranch has joined with other conservation organizations and public land managers to form the Sonoma Valley Fire and Vegetation Management Collaborative. Here's an overview of The Collaborative and the work we will undertake.
Who are we? We manage 18,000 acres of protected Sonoma Valley lands.
We are a group of six conservation organizations and land management agencies that began working together in the wake of the devastating Nuns Fire of October 2017. Collaborative members have agreed to coordinate fire and vegetation management with each other and with CAL FIRE’s Sonoma Lake Napa Unit (LNU) in the Sonoma Valley region.
Members of the Collaborative are Audubon Canyon Ranch, California State Parks, Sonoma County Ag + Open Space, Sonoma County Regional Parks, Sonoma Land Trust, and Sonoma Mountain Ranch Preservation Foundation. Together the members own and manage about 18,000 acres of protected lands in the Sonoma Valley region.
Why are we working together? We must make our lands more resilient.
A regional approach makes sense because fire knows no property boundaries or jurisdictional lines. In October 2017, the Nuns Fire burned 56,556 acres, killed 3 people, shut down Highway 12, and destroyed over 1000 buildings. Fire history of the Sonoma Valley region demonstrates that high intensity wildfires will happen again—there is no “no fire” scenario. While the first line of defense necessarily lies with the property owner, protected lands can be an important buffer to communities during wildfires. To be most effective in reducing the risk of wildfire and mitigating its impacts, we must work together to make our lands more resilient and our communities safer.
How is the Collaborative working to help communities? We are reducing hazardous fuels and improving emergency access.
We are working closely with CAL FIRE to develop a long term strategy that leverages state and local resources to implement fire and vegetation management on a landscape scale. Our goals are to increase ecosystem resilience to wildfire and to reduce risks to life and property within the wildland-urban interface, including the communities of Oakmont, Kenwood, Glen Ellen, Bennett Valley, Eldridge, El Verano, Fetters Hot Springs, Agua Caliente, and Sonoma.
Vegetation management strategies we are using include reducing hazardous fuels through ecologically appropriate thinning, reducing “ladder fuels” to prevent crown fires, clearing along roadways to improve access for emergency personnel, installing shaded fuel breaks, and improving forest health and resilience through well-planned controlled burning.
Why do we manage vegetation? It improves ecosystem health and modulates the effect of future wildfires.
Appropriate management of wildland vegetation is key to maintaining the ecological diversity and resiliency of our landscapes. Our native vegetation evolved with and is adapted to fire. Many native species, including oaks, manzanita and hazlenut, require periodic fire in order to reproduce and thrive. Fire is a natural process that helps to support biodiversity and, combined with other targeted vegetation management, may help ecosystems adapt in the face of climate change. In addition to supporting these ecosystem values, vegetation management can help provide safe access for emergency personnel, keep evacuation routes open, and modulate the severity of future wildfires.
Why use controlled burning? It improves habitat, maintains water quality and reduces hazardous fuels.
The use of controlled burns (i.e. prescribed fire) restores fire to its historic role in wildland ecosystems, reduces hazardous fuels and may enhance public and firefighter safety. Controlled burning improves soil health and habitat for plants and animals, and helps to maintain water quality. Local communities can benefit in other ways too. When relatively small areas are burned under optimal conditions far less smoke is emitted than would occur during a major wildfire and the potential for post-fire erosion is reduced. Fire management professionals, scientists and land managers concur on the benefits of controlled burning and the State of California is supporting significant increases in its use in the coming years.
We welcome your questions about The Collaborative. Please contact any of the following organizations:
Audubon Canyon Ranch
Director, Fire Forward
California State Parks
Natural Resource Program Manager
(707) 769-5652 ext. 208
Sonoma County Ag + Open Space
Sonoma County Regional Parks
Sonoma Land Trust
Sonoma Valley Program Manager
(707) 526-6930 ext. 120
Sonoma Mountain Ranch
Jeff Wilcox, Managing Ecologist