Our accomplishments from 2023: A year in review

December 20, 2023

Posted in: News Articles

This past year we really ramped into high gear. We closed several projects that conserve critical natural resources for future generations, deepened our commitment to our communities, and began to see the Vital Lands Initiative spring to life. We are ready to build upon this great work in 2024, but thought we’d take a moment to reflect on all that 2023 has brought.

Conservation in action
Caring for the land
  • We have continued our core stewardship work through monitoring visits and reviewing permitted use requests for projects like grazing and vegetation management plans, timber harvest plans, and new structures and improvements like barns, water tanks, pumps, trails, and boat docks.
  • We also continued to care for over 1,200 acres of land that we directly own and manage. This included wildfire fuel reduction, invasive species management, and prescribed fire planning at Saddle Mountain Open Space Preserve, and invasive species management and habitat restoration work at our Oken property.
  • We collaborated with the Laguna de Santa Rosa Foundation at our Haroutunian South property to enhance and oversee populations of endangered plant species including the native Sonoma sunshine. Additionally, we involved the local community in efforts to restore and conserve the vernal pool habitat, utilizing funds from the Coastal Conservancy Prop 68 Bay Area Climate Ready initiative.
Growing Community
  • This year we expanded our team to dedicate additional staff resources to online communications and community engagement. We’re thrilled to make this investment in our work to engage our communities in the work of land conservation.
  • We made major strides in developing a multi-year diversity, equity, and inclusion plan that will put our Commitment to Equity into action. Stay tuned!
  • This year we signed six three-year contracts with community partners to continue to enhance our Public Outings + Youth Education Program. In the prior three years, we grew the program from serving 4,000 people per year to serving over 8,000 per year. Our program partners include the Laguna de Santa Rosa Foundation, LandPaths, Sonoma Ecology Center, Sonoma Land Trust, Sonoma Resource Conservation District, and Friends of the Petaluma River.
  • In preparation for new programs aimed at increasing equity in farming and ranching, we commissioned the Land Access and Land Tenure for Limited Resource Farmers: Assessment of Conditions and Opportunities in Sonoma County study to better understand the needs of limited resource farmers. The study also makes recommendations for actions that we and others can take to support equitable land access, secure land tenure, and more.
  • Through our Matching Grant Program, we awarded funds to support five exciting new urban open space projects: Bounty Farm, Tierra de Rosas, the Sonoma Schellville Trail, Geyserville Community Plaza, and Mark West Community Park. To further center community in open space, and with a focus on reaching historically underserved communities, we’re in the midst of a major review of our Matching Grant Program. The updated program aims to simplify the application process, provide more support to applicants and project partners, and ensure that our communities’ visions come alive in their urban open spaces.
  • We completed a county-wide Park Gap Analysis to determine what communities or areas in our county lack recreational resources, and we will be sharing this information with our public recreation partners to help them evaluate and prioritize conservation projects that have a recreation focus.
  • Stewardship staff continued to support community outreach and regional collaboration efforts, including ongoing work with the Sonoma Valley Wildlands Collaborative, the Upper Mark West Collaborative, the North Bay Bear Collaborative, and more.
Working smarter
  • We took a deep look at the template for our conservation easements, with a focus on making it more streamlined and reader-friendly to help landowners best access how easements inform the management of their land.
  • We updated and streamlined our mapping capabilities to make it easier for our staff to access maps in the field, and maps for us to share with our communities via the web and more.
  • We also formed an internal committee that will be reviewing our guidelines and processes for how properties are appraised.

We’re forever indebted to you, the voters and taxpayers of Sonoma County, for trusting us to do the work of conserving the natural and working lands we all call home. Thank you!