Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District

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

Can Dirt Save the Earth?

When John Wick and his wife, Peggy Rathmann, bought their ranch in Marin County, Calif., in 1998, it was mostly because they needed more space. Rathmann is an acclaimed children’s book author — “Officer Buckle and Gloria” won a Caldecott Medal in 1996 — and their apartment in San Francisco had become cluttered with her illustrations. They picked out the 540-acre ranch in Nicasio mostly for its large barn, which they planned to remake into a spacious studio. Wick, a former construction foreman — they met when he oversaw a renovation of her bathroom — was eager to tackle the project. He knew the area well, having grown up one town away, in Woodacre, where he had what he describes as a “free-range” childhood: little supervision and lots of biking, rope-swinging and playing in the area’s fields and glens.

The couple quickly settled into their bucolic new surroundings. Wick began fixing leaks in the barn. Rathmann loved watching the many animals, including ravens, deer and the occasional gopher, from the large porch. She even trained the resident towhees, small brown birds, to eat seed from her hand. So smitten were they with the wildlife, in fact, that they decided to return their ranch to a wilder state. For nearly a century, this had been dairy country, and the rounded, coastal hills were terraced from decades of grazing. Wick and Rathmann would often come home and find, to their annoyance, cows standing on their porch. The first step they took toward what they imagined would be a more pristine state was to revoke the access enjoyed by the rancher whose cows wandered their property.

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Source:  Moises Velasquez-Manoff, New York Times Magazine, April 18, 2018


In a warming world, ticks thrive in more places than ever before, making Lyme disease the first epidemic of climate change

Image result for ticks

Evolution has endowed the big-footed snowshoe hare with a particularly nifty skill. Over a period of about 10 weeks, as autumn days shorten in the high peaks and boreal forests, the nimble nocturnal hare transforms itself. Where it was once a tawny brown to match the pine needles and twigs amid which it forages, the hare turns silvery white, just in time for the falling of winter snow. This transformation is no inconsequential feat. Lepus americanus, as it is formally known, is able to jump 10 feet and run at a speed of 27 miles per hour, propelled by powerful hind legs and a fierce instinct to live. But it nonetheless ends up, 86 per cent of the time by one study, as a meal for a lynx, red fox, coyote, or even a goshawk or great horned owl. The change of coat is a way to remain invisible, to hide in the brush or fly over the snow unseen, long enough at least to keep the species going.

Snowshoe hares are widely spread throughout the colder, higher reaches of North America – in the wilderness of western Montana, on the coniferous slopes of Alaska, and in the forbidding reaches of the Canadian Yukon. The Yukon is part of the Beringia, an ancient swathe of territory that linked Siberia and North America by a land bridge that, with the passing of the last Ice Age 11,000 years ago, gave way to the Bering Strait. All manner of mammals, plants and insects ferried east and west across that bridge, creating, over thousands of years, the rich boreal forest. But in this place, north of the 60-degree latitude, the axiom of life coloured by stinging cold, early snow and concrete ribbons of ice has been upended in the cosmic blink of an eye. The average temperature has increased by 2 degrees Celsius in the past half century, and by 4 degrees Celsius in the winter. Glaciers are rapidly receding, releasing ancient torrents of water into Kluane Lake, a 150-square-mile reflecting pool that has been called a crown jewel of the Yukon. Lightning storms, ice jams, forest fires, rain – these things are suddenly more common. Permafrost is disappearing.

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Source:  Excerpted from Lyme: The First Epidemic of Climate Change by Mary Beth Pfeiffer. Copyright © 2018 Mary Beth Pfeiffer.

This Plastic-Eating Enzyme Could Save The Planet From Pollution

Scientists in Japan have created an enzyme that’s able to eat through plastic. That’s right: This enzyme might be key in eating through the planet’s pollution, including plastic bottles. How does this work? This natural bacteria, formed at recycling centers, is able to digest plastics made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET), and is now able to “chew” through it more efficiently. Findings from American and British scientists were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Monday.

PET has been a common choice for food and beverage packaging. It’s lightweight, can be reused after proper and careful cleaning, and is approved by the FDA. However, if these plastics are thrown away instead of recycled, they can last for centuries before breaking down. Only 25 percent of plastic produced in the United States ends up being recycled.

This is beneficial for two reasons. Many plastic containers can only be recycled once or twice before it’s downcycled into fabric. It can also form more of a closed-loop for fuel-based plastics; instead of using more fossil fuels, they can truly make these plastics sustainable with the enzymes.

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Source:  Brian Spaen, Green Matters, April 17, 2018

3 Dogs Are Rebuilding Chilean Forests Once Devastated By Fire

Last year, forest fires in central Chile wreaked havoc in the El Maule region with more than 100 different wildfires sweeping through the area and destroying over a million acres of forest land. It was the worst wildfire season in the country’s history, taking several lives and created an estimated $333 million of dollars worth of damages. The animals were forced to flee to safer areas.

The job to replant endless acres of forests seemed like a daunting endeavor. That is until three unusual workers took up the task. Six-year-old Das and her two daughters, Olivia and Summer are three Border Collies who have been trained to run through the damaged forests with special backpacks that release native plant seeds. Once they take root, these seeds will help regrow the destroyed area.

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Source:  Desiree Kaplan, Green Matters, February 2018

10 ways to have a better conversation

When your job hinges on how well you talk to people, you learn a lot about how to have conversations — and that most of us don’t converse very well. Celeste Headlee has worked as a radio host for decades, and she knows the ingredients of a great conversation: Honesty, brevity, clarity and a healthy amount of listening. In this insightful talk, she shares 10 useful rules for having better conversations. “Go out, talk to people, listen to people,” she says. “And, most importantly, be prepared to be amazed.”

Sudden Oak Death Blitz

Thursday, May 3:  Petaluma

Saturday, May 5:  Graton, Santa Rosa, Sonoma, Yorkville

Sunday, May 6:  Penngrove


Test your trees for Sudden Oak Death disease

At this one-hour meeting you will learn to:

  • Identify symptoms of SOD on bay laurel, oaks, and tanoak
  • Collect symptomatic leaves from bay laurel and tanoak to be analyzed at NO COST
  • Make important contributions to science

Unless otherwise noted, you collect leaves at locations of your choice and drop them back at the meeting site that weekend. We drive leaves to UC Berkeley Lab for analysis on Monday. You get results in late summer.

Learn about what is happening with your trees and your forest. Find out if SOD is present. Contribute data on current disease distribution. Click here for more about the SOD Blitz

Register online for one of these six meetings:

Thursday, May 3 at 5:30 pm

1) Petaluma Community Center

320 N. McDowell Blvd, Petaluma


Saturday, May 5 from 9:00 am – 1:00pm

2) Galbreath Preserve *collect samples during the event at the preserve

Meet at the Yorkville Post Office, 25400 CA-128, Yorkville

In conjunction with Sonoma State University; See registration page for restrictions


Saturday, May 5 at 9:30 am

3) Graton Community Club

8996 Graton Road, Graton

4) Spring Lake Park, Environmental Discovery Center

393 Violetti Road, Santa Rosa

Saturday, May 5 at 10:30 am

5) Sonoma Regional Library

755 W Napa St, Sonoma


Sunday, May 6 from 10:00am – 1:00pm

6) Fairfield Osborn Preserve – NEW location

*collect samples during the event at the preserve

Fairfield Osborn Preserve, Lichau Rd, Penngrove 94951

In conjunction with Sonoma State University; See registration page for restrictions


There is no cost for this activity. Hosted by the UC Master Gardener Program of Sonoma County SOD Specialists and the University of California Cooperative Extension, Sonoma County. Funding provided by the USDA Forest Service.


Path To The 2018 Farm Bill: Legislative Campaign Update

The coming of spring has more than just the bees buzzing; activity on Capitol Hill is also shifting into high gear as the deadline for the 2018 Farm Bill approaches. This week represents perhaps one of the few quiet periods left in the capital as Congress takes a two-week recess back in their districts – a perfect time for farmers and “ag-vocates” to connect with their representatives and discuss their priorities and concerns. Once legislators return to the Hill, farm bill conversations are likely to heat up significantly and things could begin to move quite quickly.

The current farm bill expires in just six months. While farmers have spent the last several months planning for the next growing season, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) has been actively working with our members across the country to elevate sustainable agriculture in the national debate around the farm bill.

As of the publication of this post, NSAC’s advocacy has led to over a dozen farm bill “marker bills” (pieces of legislation intended to signal the importance of certain topics) endorsed by the Coalition. These bills focus on a range of sustainable agriculture subjects, including: beginning farmers, conservation, local food systems, seed breeding, and crop insurance reform.

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Source:  National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, March 30, 2018