Natural Resources

Sonoma County is a globally significant “hotspot” for biodiversity.  The Mediterranean climate supports an amazing array of species and ecosystems.  Redwood forests, coastal prairies, oak savannahs, rivers, estuaries and beaches provide habitat and refuge for birds, mammals, amphibians, insects and more.

Mission

Sonoma County Regional Park’s Natural Resource Program protects, restores and stewards these world class resources. Our goals are to:

1.  Ensure that the parks contribute to the ecological function of natural systems throughout the county.    

North Sonoma Mountain view of patchwork landscape

2.  Use the parks to inform and inspire visitors about nature and the link between environmental health and personal wellness.

Kids playing in the mud at Spring Lake 475

Activities

Sonoma County Regional Parks has an ongoing program to restore and steward our natural resources.  Examples include:

  • Grazing
  • Fuels
  • Invasive Species
  • Biodiversity
  • Climate Change

Grazing

Because Sonoma County’s grasslands are adapted to disturbance from fire and large herds of animals, they quickly lose their vitality without active burning or grazing.

Taylor Mountain cows

We work with local livestock producers to graze in ways that help reduce invasive species, improve carbon sequestration, support groundwater recharge and benefit native wildlife.

Northern Female Harrier

Fuels

All of Sonoma County’s forests and grasslands have enjoyed thousands of years of regular burning.  Our challenge in today’s built environment is to manage increasingly dense vegetation due to the exclusion of fire.

Tolay field

We work to mow and graze grasslands on our park boundaries to provide fuel breaks.  We also work to thin unnatural build-up of shade-tolerant trees like Douglass Fir in some areas.  Currently we are working on shaded fuel breaks in Hood Mountain and Shiloh.

Invasive Species

There are 195 invasive plant species in the county making up 8% of the total vegetative cover.  We engage our staff, and many volunteer groups, in an effort to control the most problematic weeds.

Invasive dune species at Doran

In many cases these species were introduced as ornamental, but just because they are pretty, doesn’t mean they belong. Species such as Acacia, Eucalyptus, Scotch Broom and European Dune Grass quickly overwhelm native vegetation and reduce habitat values for wildlife.

Sonoma County has over 2200 native plant species, 22 of which are endangered. Several plants are “endemic” meaning they only occur here. We partner with the California Native Plant Society to locate rare and threatened populations and protect them from invasive.

Doran iceplant removal

Biodiversity

Sonoma County Regional Parks stewards several populations of threatened and endangered species. We monitor species such as the California Red-Legged Frog, and adapt our management to protect and recover the species.

California red-legged frog

In order to better understand all of the species that depend upon our parks, we are partnering with the California Academy of Sciences. Together we are hosting Bioblitz events, inviting visitors to post observations to INaturalist, and hosting teams of expert scientists to inventory parks.

Finally, we partner with other conservation groups to understand and promote wildlife connectivity throughout the county.

Spring Lake deer

Climate Change

Parks are the first and best line of defense against climate change.  Our more urban parks cool and clean the air, improve and modify local wind circulations, regulate precipitation and mitigate the impact of urban heat islands.

Taylor Mountain city view

Both urban and wildland parks act as refuges for biodiversity, supporting birds, insects, fish, amphibians, mammals, plants and fungus that are the very foundation of our biotic system.  Parks also provide connectivity for these species to migrate and adapt to variable conditions.

Butterfly at Foothill

Finally, parks play a key role in interpreting climate change to residents and visitors, raising awareness and shifting behaviors.

Couple bicycling on trail

At Sonoma County Regional Parks, we believe our parks are an integral part of the solution to climate change.

 

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