Ecology Blog | Sonoma Ecology Center

Ecology Blog

  • Montini Sheep Munch Flammable Grasses
    Locals out for a hike saw them on the slopes of Montini Open Space Preserve earlier this month: several sheep (and a few goats) brought in to “reduce fuel loads” to a more manageable level. Because Sonoma Ecology Center manages Montini for the City of Sonoma, we hired a grazing business to bring their animals to designated parts of the preserve (see this map). As Restoration Program Manager David Morgan explained, the shepherds “brought in a mix of mostly sheep and some goats. This tactic was used because sheep only feed on herbaceous material while the goats will also eat woody material.” David also noted that “Grazing, especially in larger landscapes, is more beneficial than just mowing and can be more cost effective.” According to the city, the grazers were expected to eat about 80 […]
  • Creek Camps Offer Watershed Fun
    Our Summer Science Camps have been a blast – but summer’s not over yet! And we still have a few open spots in our two upcoming Creek Camps for kids ages 8-12. Scholarships are available too. Creek Camp – from July 15-19 and again from July 29 to Aug. 2 – is a five-day exploration of the Sonoma Creek watershed at Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day. Creek Camp transforms campers into junior scientists, starting with morning hikes on the park trails, exploring waterways for insects and amphibians, and enjoying plenty of games, arts & crafts, and storytelling. Each camp is $260 for Sonoma Ecology Center members or $300 for non-members – and scholarships are available for those needing financial assistance. (See below for information on obtaining scholarships.) […]
  • Biochar Goes to Hollywood (and Forestville, and Sonoma Garden Park)
    These are exciting times for our biochar program and its director, Raymond Baltar, who is currently having a minor brush with fame due to his appearance in “Ice on Fire,” an HBO documentary on climate change solutions produced and narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio. Raymond doesn’t seek the spotlight, but he is always ready to discuss the merits of biochar, and HBO “is surely the biggest platform I will ever have since they are releasing the film internationally,” he said. He was interviewed for the film while working under contract with the Redwood Forest Foundation in 2017 at a biochar project near the town of Percy in Mendocino County. Last month “Ice on Fire” was accepted into the Cannes Film Festival, and it premiered this month on HBO, which made it available for free online streaming […]
  • Workshop Gives You a Say in Eldridge’s Future
    The upcoming Eldridge Vision Workshop will be an important step towards guiding the future of Eldridge and the recently closed Sonoma Developmental Center. This free community workshop, hosted by SDC Coalition, is Saturday, June 15, from 9 a.m. to noon in the Hanna Boys Center auditorium. Children are welcome and light refreshments will be provided. Speakers at the event will include Supervisor Susan Gorin, SEC Executive Director Richard Dale, Permit Sonoma Deputy Director Milan Nevajda, Tracy Salcedo of Glen Ellen Forum, and Mickey Cooke of Sonoma Mountain Preservation. SDC Coalition is looking for more community feedback on the future of Eldridge – and crafting a vision statement to help guide that future. According to the group, “The vision statement and guiding principles, provided in […]
  • Sonoma Ecology Center Named Nonprofit of the Year
    Sonoma Ecology Center is thrilled to be named Nonprofit of the Year by state Sen. Bill Dodd in acknowledgment of our 30-year history of environmental stewardship in Sonoma Valley and, most recently, for our leadership role in post-fire recovery and the closure of SDC. Thank you Sen. Dodd! An awards ceremony was held in Sacramento on June 5, and Sonoma Ecology Center Executive Director Richard Dale and board president David Morell traveled to the Capitol to receive the honor alongside other recipients from around the state. Dodd’s office picked a top nonprofit from each of the six counties in his district, and selected Sonoma Ecology Center as top among them. In total only 100 nonprofits, out of more than 75,000 in California, are selected each year. Dale underscored the importance of […]
  • Fifty Fabulous Years
    Memorial Day was especially memorable for us fans of Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, as the park celebrated 50 years of being open to the public. Many people joined us throughout the day, taking part in guided nature hikes and history hikes, great food, and a lovely reunion event during which park leaders old and new recalled a half-century of improvements, challenges and successes. Those challenges included two recent closures, and Sonoma Ecology Center played a central role in both reopenings. In 2011, a budget shortfall led the California State Parks system to shutter several of its parks, including Sugarloaf. In answer to this problem, Sonoma Ecology Center formed Team Sugarloaf – a group of five nonprofits with SEC as the lead entity – and took over operations under the auspices of State […]
  • Get Ready for Sugarloaf’s 50th Anniversary Celebration
    Guided hikes, down-home barbecue and a Sugarloaf Reunion are among the Memorial Day festivities planned for Sugarloaf Ridge State Park’s 50th Anniversary Celebration, happening all day at the park on Monday, May 27. Sugarloaf became part of the California State Park system in 1964, and fully opened to the public during a Memorial Day Weekend celebration in 1969. Over the next 40 years, State Parks expanded Sugarloaf’s trails, built campgrounds and an amphitheater, added more land and crafted a master plan. The park now encompasses over 4,000 acres in northern Sonoma Valley. It hosts 25 miles of hiking trails offering diverse experiences from panoramic vistas to redwood canyons with a 25-foot waterfall. It hosts the Robert Ferguson Observatory, one of the largest volunteer-run astronomical […]
  • The Real Numbers on Rattlesnake Bites
    This is the time of year when our region’s only common venomous snake, the northern Pacific rattlesnake (Crotalus oreganus), appears in greater numbers in Sonoma Valley. Individuals are emerging from their winter dens to mate and hunt in the fields and meadows – and people are seeing them as they walk along Montini and other local trails. The sightings invariably cause some worry – but don’t worry! As the data show, rattlesnake bites are vanishingly rare, and only the egregiously incautious tend to get bit. According to the CDC there are between 7,000 and 8,000 bites per year in the U.S. – this counts all venomous snakes, all across the country – resulting in approximately five deaths per year. That is already a miniscule percentage, but looking closer at the data shows who’s really at […]
  • Best Way to Stop French Broom? Hold a ‘Broom Pull’
    With the arrival of spring, the invasive shrub called French broom, with its long woody stalks and pretty yellow flowers, is popping up all over Sonoma Valley. But French broom is unwanted here because it’s environmentally destructive, a fire hazard, and very hard to control. And according to Sonoma Ecology Center Restoration Program Manager Jason Mills, French broom (Genista monspessulana) has been especially virulent this spring in Sonoma Valley’s post-fire areas. To slow its spread, Mills and the Restoration Department are inviting the public to take part in two outdoor “broom pull” events this month, on April 13 and April 22. These are family-friendly events where volunteers join us in a beautiful outdoor location – in Sonoma Developmental Center on sites where fire swept through in […]
  • Join Us for an Earth Day Celebration at Larson Park
    Sonoma Ecology Center is hosting a neighborhood festival on April 20 to celebrate our favorite day of the year: Earth Day. The goal of our Earth Day Celebration at Larson Park is to build community and reconnect people to the land around us. Activities include an organized clean-up of the banks of Sonoma Creek, a recycling workshop, traditional dancing by Ballet Folklórico dancers, booths, children’s activities, and delicious offerings from the Picazo Cafe food truck – all under the banner Tu Planeta, Tu Futuro. This all-ages event, held on Saturday, April 20 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., is organized by Sonoma Ecology Center in partnership with La Luz Center, Boys and Girls Club of Sonoma, Recology, Picazo Cafe, Sonoma Valley Health Center, Sonoma County Regional Parks, Sustainable Sonoma, the […]