Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District

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Fire-safety inspections starting on 3,500 rural Sonoma County properties

From left, Cal Fire’s Brennen Maldonado, Matt Newberry and Ben Smutney walk the Chapman Lane neighborhood in Petaluma, Wednesday, May 22, 2019, as they look for fire hazard areas around homes with flammable vegetation and weed choked lots. Record rainfall has created a bumper crop of annual grasses. (Kent Porter / The Press Democrat) 2019

For the first time, Sonoma County fire officials are inspecting thousands of rural properties this spring for compliance with tree trimming, grass cutting and other guidelines to create a firebreak around homes.

The goal of the vegetation management inspections is to establish “defensible space” around homes, making them easier to protect from wildfires.

State and local firefighters have long endorsed the concept, and Cal Fire has conducted inspections for years, but relied on voluntary compliance by landowners.

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Source:  Guy Kovner, The Press Democrat, May 27, 2019

Growing fire threat puts Sonoma County’s wooded towns on high alert

In an area of Camp Meeker redwoods scarred by wildfires in the past, Richard Seaman, the founder of Fire Safe Camp Meeker, is promoting ways to keep the community fire safe by restoring the forest back to health, eliminating dead tan oak and bay laurels and thinning of trees, Wednesday, May 22, 2019. (Kent Porter / The Press Democrat) 2019

Standing on the south slope of Healdsburg’s Fitch Mountain, Cal Fire Battalion Chief Marshall Turbeville surveyed a distressing scene.

Above him, a towering fir tree was close enough to fall across two roads, blocking access and bringing down power lines that could remain live and dangerous on the ground. To one side, the roof and gutters of a residential structure were full of leaves ready to ignite from a windblown wildfire ember in dry weather.

On the way up Spring Street, Turbeville’s four-wheel drive pickup had met a descending UPS truck, forcing him to pull off the substandard, single-lane road. In an emergency, fire engines and evacuating residents could be at a similar standoff.

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Source:  Guy Kovner, The Press Democrat, May 25, 2019

After contest win, Davis company will start producing animal feed from insects – from the Sacramento Business Journal

Image result for After contest win, Davis company will start producing animal feed from insects

The BioMilitus team won $22,000 and in-kind services valued at $3,000 in the 2019 Big Bang! Business Competition at UC Davis. Shown left to right are UC Davis researcher Jesus Fernandez-Bayo and graduate students Lydia Palma and Matthew Paddock. Photo by Jose Villegas for the Sacramento Business Journal

A Davis company is buzzing after winning big at University of California Davis’ annual innovation and business competition.

BioMilitus, which studies the use of insects in reducing agricultural waste and creating animal feed, took home a total of $22,000 in prize money from the Big Bang! Business Competition last Thursday.

The company, a team of four UC Davis graduate students and one researcher, won a total of five awards, including the $10,000 Central Valley Innovation Award and the $7,500 People’s Choice Award. It also won $3,000 in services at the UC Davis-HM.Clause Life Science Innovation Center, an off-campus business incubator with biochemistry, molecular biology and chemistry lab space.

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Source:  Sacramento Business Journal.

Vineyard manager uses bluebirds to control blue-green sharpshooters

Image result for sonoma county bluebirds

If you build it they will come — or words to that effect — is what a friend told Spring Mountain Vineyards Manager Ron Rosenbrand a year ago.

The friend was “Amigo Bob” Cantisano, a sage of organic farming, and he wasn’t talking about laying out a baseball diamond in the middle of an Iowa cornfield to attract the ghosts of Shoeless Joe Jackson and Ty Cobb, et al. Cantisano was talking about building birdhouses to attract bluebirds to the Spring Mountain vineyards to combat the blue-green sharpshooter, which, as a smaller cousin to the more notorious glassy winged sharpshooter, is sometimes called “the wine bug.” Sharpshooters spread Pierce’s disease, which dehydrates the vines and kills them within two or three years.

What Cantisano told him, Rosenbrand recalls, was that there isn’t a good natural insect predator to attack the sharpshooters, but he might try bluebirds.

“I said, ‘OK, that sounds great, but where do I buy bluebirds?’ He said, ‘You don’t buy them — you just build houses for them and they will come,’” said Rosenbrand.

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Source:  John Lindblom, St. Helena Star / Napa Valley Register, April 16, 2019

Carbon Farming: Harnessing The Power of The Soil

John Wick, co-founder of the Marin Carbon Project, was just trying to find a way to get rid of weeds on his ranch when he stumbled upon a powerful climate change solution. He learned about an approach to farming helps sequester carbon in the soil.






Sources: [i] How rotational grazing improves pasture health. April 19 2016.…

[ia] Carbon Farming. Accessed: Mar 29 2019.…

[ii] PubMed.Gov. Greenhouse gas emissions from liquid dairy manure: Prediction and mitigation. Jul 18.…

[iii] Compost. Accessed: Mar 29 2019.…

[iv] EPA.Gov. Global Greenhouse Gas Emissions Data. Accessed: Mar 29 2019.…


Change on the Range: Is a New Generation of Young, Female Ranchers Ready to Adapt to Climate Change?

Female rancher in field

First-generation grazier Ariel Greenwood manages cattle and land on Freestone Ranch in Sonoma County. UC Davis graduate student Kate Munden-Dixon is surveying new rangeland managers like Greenwood to make sure they have the resources they need to thrive. (photo Brittany App/Brittany App Photography)

A new breed of ranchers is bringing diverse demographics and unique needs to rangeland management in California. These first-generation ranchers are often young, female and less likely to, in fact, own a ranch. But like more traditional rangeland managers, this new generation holds a deep love for the lifestyle and landscapes that provide a wealth of public benefit to California and the world.

“When first-generation ranchers succeed, we all succeed,” says Kate Munden-Dixon, a Ph.D. student working with Leslie Roche, Cooperative Extension rangeland specialist with the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences.

Munden-Dixon and Roche recently discovered that many new livestock managers aren’t plugged into information networks such as UC Cooperative Extension and rancher coalitions that provide science and strategies for making sustainable rangeland management decisions. This lack of connection can make first-generation ranchers more vulnerable when dealing with challenges like drought and climate variability, according to their study findings, which was recently published in Rangeland Journal.

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Source:  Ann Filmer, October 16, 2018.  UC Davis, Department of Plant Sciences – College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.