Staff spotlight: Monica Delmartini, Stewardship Specialist

June 24, 2024

Posted in: People & Places

Monica grew up on California’s Central Coast and spent years living and working in the southern Sierra Nevada before moving to the North Bay Area more than a decade ago. Before joining Ag + Open Space, she worked for the National Park Service at Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Park and Point Reyes National Seashore, where she assisted with prescribed burning, fuel and vegetation monitoring, and fire history research across a wide array of habitats. A botanist and fire ecologist by training, she also has worked as a pastry chef and is an avid cook and gardener. Monica stewards our Saddle Mountain Open Space Preserve in addition to working with conservation easements, easement landowners, and community and conservation partner groups.

Monica sitting outside with mountains in the background

What’s your favorite Sonoma County place to get outside and why?
It’s impossible to pick a favorite, but one of the great privileges of living in Sonoma County is the incredible diversity of landscapes and sheer number of protected open spaces we have to choose from. I do have particular soft spots for the coast, and for the Mayacamas mountains – both feel like home to me.

What’s one fact, statistic, or interesting tidbit about land conservation that you enjoy sharing with others?
I work a lot with intentional burning and it’s important to understand that this isn’t some new-fangled idea but something that humans have been doing here for millennia – for so long that our vegetation communities, wildlife, everything that calls this land home have come to rely on this periodic disturbance. Ideally, when land is being conserved, we aren’t just setting aside acreage to protect from development, but are also conserving the processes that support the land’s health, and healing the broken connection between people and the land by restoring opportunities for Indigenous access and stewardship.

What’s your proudest moment working in land conservation and why?
My work is incredibly gratifying, but honestly, pride wouldn’t be the right word for how it makes me feel. Working with the community to steward natural lands feels instead like an act of service, care, and reciprocity. My little hands touch a little part of this landscape and this work for a little while, and I only hope that I’m being as careful and helpful as possible. I’m especially grateful for the chance to spend time on recently burned properties with easement landowners – in the immediate post-fire environment, landowners can be dealing with so much stress, loss, and overwhelm, and often by helping them understand the ecological impacts and likely outcomes on their land we’ve been able to lighten that load for them a bit.

What compelled you to pick a career in land conservation?
I was fortunate to be raised with an incredibly strong connection to the natural world, and in a place that, like Sonoma County, allows ample opportunities to nurture that connection. Once I fell in love with fire and disturbance ecology, there really wasn’t any more compelling option!

What’s your favorite ice cream flavor and why?
I’ve never understood why hazelnut ice cream isn’t more of a thing in this country.