Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District

We inspire and partner with our community to protect the natural resources and agricultural future of our District.

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Living with Fire in California’s Coast Ranges

  Photo credits from left to right 1. Coffee Park, Tubbs fire - John Burgess 2. Nuns fire - Kent Porter 3. Pocket fire - Kent Porter

Promoting Fire-Resilient Communities and Landscapes in an Era of Global Change

May 7-9, 2018

Sonoma State University Student Center, Rohnert Park

More information here:

About this Event:

In October, 2017, wildfires devastated communities in the wine country of Sonoma, Napa, and Mendocino Counties. Large, destructive wildfires are not novel in California’s Coast Ranges – remember the Berkeley Hills and Marin County fires in 1923, the North Bay fires in 1964, the Oakland Hills fire in 1991, Lake County in 2015; the Monterey Coast/Big Sur fires in 1977, 2008, and 2016 – but their episodic occurrence and the short memory of humans lead to surprise at the ferocity of nature, and tragedies ensue that education, foresight, and planning might have forestalled. Large, destructive fires will occur again in the future, and their probability may be increasing with the warming climate and expanding human footprint. Preparedness requires that we understand the causes and the nature of wildfire in the region, and how human communities and infrastructure might better interact with the ecology of fire.

The Living with Fire symposium will bring together experts in fire ecology and management, community planning, fire safety and preparedness, and global change. The intended audience includes property owners, the general public, policy makers, planners, managers, scientists, educators, and any others who are interested in the intersection of human communities and fire. The event is sponsored by a coalition of educational, fire and resource management, and extension organizations.

May 7-8 will be devoted to presentations by subject experts, with question-and-answer sessions and ample opportunity for audience participation during structured discussions.

May 9 will feature a series of field trips to fire-affected communities and landscapes in Sonoma and Napa Counties.

Space is limited and pre-registration is required.


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Healthy Habitat


The bad news is that the drought is back and that’s not good for spawning fish. The good news better habitat awaits coho salmon and steelhead in two North Bay creeks.

In Sonoma County, the Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District worked with the Thomas Creek Ranch Homeowners Association to restore lower Green Valley and Thomas creeks in Forestville as a winter coho salmon wetland habitat several years ago. Only recently, in the aftermath of the last drought, have those efforts borne fruit. In Marin County, meanwhile, officials are cheering the performance of newly restored floodplains on Lagunitas Creek, one of the most productive salmon creeks in the state.

The Forestville project began in 2014 when the conservation district constructed a 220-foot side channel and wetland along Green Valley Creek, and realigned a section of Thomas Creek to create a deep backwater “alcove” for fish. The drought made it difficult to tell if the construction was making a difference in the coho salmon population, due to the sluggish winter flow.

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Source:  Alex T. Randolph and Tom Gogola, The Bohemian, March 6, 2018

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How dedicated Sonoma County volunteers are re-sprouting oak trees burned in the fires


Image result for north bay oak tree

Consider the acorn. By kindergarten, most children know that the smooth, brown shell hides a secret: it’s a ‘baby oak with a lunch box,’ recalls Brent Reed, now Ecological Program Manager with Laguna de Santa Rosa Foundation. Inside its weather and insect-resistant coat, every acorn is a live packet of waiting pre-programed cells, primed for growth, surrounded by a dense store of energy-rich carbohydrates and minerals. When conditions finally trigger its cells to begin growing, there’s enough food in the acorn’s pantry to build and drive a tap root as much as four feet down into the soil, create and unfurl a set of sugar-making leaves, and hoist them on a rigid mast into the sunlight.

Scattered among the wine country’s hillsides, mountains and valleys, the oaks that produce these acorns are part of the unique defining character of Sonoma County. But to naturalists, they’re also something more. Essential to the health of the local environment, mature oak trees are a combination of high-rise condominium, supermarket, water management and superhighway systems. In short, they are teeming centers of life.

The towering and ancient oaks are also part of the human community. Once a primary food source for native people, today they provide shade for homes, backyards and parks. They line neighborhood streets, bridge urban and rural boundaries, clean the air, sequester carbon and shelter wildlife.

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Source:  Stephen Nett, The Press Democrat, March 7, 2018


Can the Fern That Cooled the Planet Do It Again?

Can the Fern That Cooled the Planet Do It Again?

Fifty-five million years ago, when scientists believe the Earth was in a near-runaway state, dangerously overheated by greenhouse gases, the Arctic Ocean was also a very different place. It was a large lake, connected to the greater oceans by one primary opening: the Turgay Sea.

When this channel closed or was blocked nearly 50 million years ago, the enclosed body of water became the perfect habitat for a small-leaved fern called Azolla. Imagine the Arctic like the Dead Sea of today: It was a hot lake that had become stratified, suffering from a lack of exchange with outside waters. That meant its waters were loaded with excess nutrients.

Azolla took advantage of the abundant nitrogen and carbon dioxide, two of its favorite foods, and flourished. Large populations formed thick mats that covered the body of the lake. When rainfall increased from the changing climate, flooding provided a thin layer of fresh water for Azolla to creep outward, over parts of the surrounding continents.

Azolla bloomed and died like this in cycles for roughly 1 million years, each time laying down an additional layer of the thick blanket of sediment that was finally found in 2004 by the Arctic Coring Expedition.

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Source:  Jennifer Huizen, Scientific American, July 15, 2014

Mark Shepard, manager of New Forest Farms and author of the book Restoration Agriculture, will offer a critique of annual crop-based staple food production, while laying the ecological framework and reasons for designing a perennial staple food crops farm.

You will gain the basic skills to begin the transition from annuals to a permanent, perennial agriculture incorporating everything from nuts and berries, to livestock and fruits and vegetables.

Shepard’s talk will introduce the concept of ecosystem mimicry, Keyline water management and will help you to chart a path forward to a truly ecologically designed farm.

This was presented by Mark Shepard at PV1 in March 2014.

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What the Budget Deal Means for American Agriculture

Image result for budget deal

After months of negotiations, the House and Senate have finally reached a two-year budget deal to keep the government running, increase annual discretionary spending caps for defense and non-defense programs ($300 billion), and provide disaster relief ($89 billion). The Senate passed the bill 71-28 around 2am this morning, and the House followed shortly thereafter with a vote of 240-186. The agreement paves the way for the next critical step in the government funding process, appropriations.

The budget deal sets the parameters within which Congress can fund particular programs, but it does not dictate how much money each discretionary program will receive – the allocation of funds is left to the congressional appropriators. In a normal budgetary cycle, new appropriations bills would be passed annually before September 30, which is the end of the federal fiscal year. However, when appropriations are delayed, Congress typically passes a “Continuing Resolution” (CR), which keeps federal programs running at the previous fiscal year’s funding levels. Because there has been no overall budget deal until this week, the government has been operating under a series of CRs for the past four months, since the beginning of FY 2018. By raising the discretionary funding caps for two years, Congress has dramatically improved the odds that congressional appropriators will be able to finalize appropriations legislation for FY 2018, as well as for FY 2019 later this year.

In addition to raising spending limits, the deal includes yet another CR, the fifth since last October, extending FY 2017 funding levels through March 23. This timeline should give the Appropriations Committees time to hammer out the details of an omnibus appropriations bill that adjusts spending upward to the new budget caps.

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Source:  National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, February 9, 2018