Sonoma Valley Wildlands Collaborative
A Public-Private Partnership
The Sonoma Valley Wildlands Collaborative is a group of six conservation organizations and land management agencies that is coordinating the management of 18,000 acres of natural lands in the Sonoma Valley region in Northern California. Together we aim to maintain and improve ecosystem health, increase resilience to wildfires and climate change, and reduce future impacts of wildfire to communities in the Sonoma Valley.
The Sonoma Valley Wildlands Collaborative is part of California Climate Investments, a statewide program that puts billions of Cap-and-Trade dollars to work reducing GHG emissions, strengthening the economy, and improving public health and the environment--particularly in disadvantaged communities.
The lands of the Sonoma Valley Wildlands Collaborative comprise 18,000 acres in 11 individual parks and preserves. Together these properties make up a significant portion of the wildlands that burned in the 2017 Nuns Fire and previous high-intensity wildfires in the region. Managed by our partners for ecological benefit, open space, outdoor education, and recreation, these properties share Sonoma Valley with the communities of Oakmont, Kenwood, Glen Ellen, Bennett Valley, Eldridge, El Verano, Fetters Hot Springs, Agua Caliente, and Sonoma.
How we are working to help communities
The Collaborative came together in the wake of the 2017 Nuns Fire that had devastating consequences for the communities of the Sonoma Valley and surrounding hills. Now we are working closely with CAL FIRE to develop a long term strategy on a landscape scale. By managing our own lands for ecological health and resilience, the Collaborative is doing our part to help protect the communities of the Sonoma Valley in the event of future wildfires.
Fire prevention and forest health
We are using proven strategies to achieve forest health and to help prevent fires. These include ecologically-appropriate thinning in forests and woodlands, reducing ladder fuels, installing shaded fuel breaks, clearing roads to improve access for emergency personnel and provide safer evacuation routes in the event of wildfire, and controlled burning.
The use of controlled burning restores fire to its historic role in wildland ecosystems, reduces hazardous fuels, and may enhance public and firefighter safety. Because conditions are carefully monitored, far less smoke is emitted than would occur during a major wildfire. Controlled burning was used for millennia by Native Americans to manage lands for the benefit of habitat and forage value.
Ecological challenges like wildfire and climate change know no property boundaries or jurisdictional lines. This is why a growing number of public-private partnerships throughout California and the world are embracing a cooperative landscape-based approach to land management.
Engaging community members
Public outreach and education are core values of the Collaborative. Through this website and other media, we notify the community of upcoming projects and provide updates on project milestones. We also offer periodic site tours and public meetings. In addition, several Collaborative members provide regular educational opportunities such as fire ecology outings and workshops that focus on how our lands are responding to fire.
Frequently asked questions
Why a regional approach?
Our largest and most pressing ecological challenges--such as climate change, fire management, and need for clean air and water--are happening at a pace and scale that demand we work together to solve them. Increasingly, groups across California and the world are coming together to develop innovative partnerships across boundaries to address these challenges at a landscape scale. The Sonoma Valley Wildlands Collaborative is a member of the California Landscape Stewardship Network, which is working to help groups like ours build this new cooperative movement.
Why do we manage vegetation?
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. 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. By removing excessive understory and fostering the growth of larger, healthier and fire-resistant trees, vegetation management activities can help maximize carbon sequestration on natural lands. 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.
What can homeowners do to make their properties safer?
What is a controlled burn?
A controlled burn (also called “a prescribed fire”) is a fire that is intentionally set and managed under specific conditions to meet certain goals on the landscape. Goals of controlled burning may include restoring ecosystem health, reducing excessive fuel buildup, recycling nutrients, or reducing invasive species and pests. By setting and managing more frequent, low intensity fires in a controlled setting, fire managers can help prevent large destructive wildfires.
What is a shaded fuel break?
A shaded fuel break is a strip of land where the density of vegetation is reduced in order to improve fire control opportunities. Unlike a firebreak (in which all vegetation is removed to bare soil), a shaded fuel break retains larger trees to provide shade, cooler temperatures and wildlife habitat. Flammable vegetation near the ground is minimized and smaller trees and low branches that can provide ladder fuel are reduced. Shaded fuel breaks are typically located in strategic areas to reduce the rate of spread and intensity of wildfires and to improve firefighter access.
What is ladder fuel?
Ladder fuel is comprised of low-lying tree branches or flammable vegetation under the canopy of taller trees that is capable of carrying a fire from the ground into the canopy of a stand of trees or a forest. Reducing ladder fuels can prevent low intensity surface fires from becoming more dangerous fires in the canopy, also called “crown fires.” Activities such as limbing trees up to a certain height above the ground, and removing small trees and shrubs under the canopy of larger trees help reduce the risk of crown fires.
How does thinning help?
Thinning is the selective removal of some vegetation in order to improve the overall health of a forest or woodland. Thinning can improve forest health by reducing competition for resources in overgrown stands, providing diverse wildlife habitat, and promoting the growth of larger, fire resistant trees. By breaking up the horizontal and vertical continuity of vegetation, thinning can also reduce the rate of spread, duration and intensity of wildfires.
What is right-of-way clearing?
Right-of-way clearing involves reducing flammable vegetation along public roads to provide for safer evacuation routes for residents and better access for firefighters in the event of wildfire.
News and media
March 9, 2020
October 7, 2019
April 18, 2019
Contact Sonoma Valley Wildlands Collaborative
c/o Sonoma Land Trust, 822 Fifth Street, Santa Rosa, CA 95404