2023 Living with Fire: Sonoma County Forest Conservation Conference

June 23-24, 2023

at SRJC Shone Farm in Forestville, 7450 Steve Olson Ln, Forestville, CA 95436

About the event

Register NowWelcome! The Sonoma County Forest Conservation Working Group, in partnership with the County of Sonoma and the Santa Rosa Junior College, is excited to invite you, our community’s forestland residents, landowners, land managers and stakeholders, to a two-day conference centered on managing forestland in these new and challenging times.

While “conference” seems to get at the spirit of the event as a place to convene and learn together, this event could also be called a “workshop” or a “training.” That’s because our goal is to provide those who live and work in Sonoma County’s forests with the practical knowledge they need.

This event comes at an important time. Our forests are facing serious challenges: uncertainties of climate change, conversion, declining activity, diminishing infrastructure, disease, fragmentation, increasing regulation, invasive species, and most recently, increasing risk of wildfire. At the same time, our forests offer many valuable resources worth protecting: carbon sequestration, clean air, clean water, recreational use, timber production, and wildlife habitat, among many others. 

While managing your forestland can seem daunting, the first steps are simple. This event is designed to help you feel confident about what you can do and feel supported where you need help. 

  • You will participate in interactive workshops, covering a wide range of topics that matter to landowners. For example: What is forest health and how do I improve my forestland? What planning and funding resources are available to landowners? How do I do projects like forest thinning, building burn piles, removing invasive species, and making my forest more fire safe? How do I collaborate with my neighbors and join in bigger, regional conservation efforts.
  • You will hear from a range of experts, such as other landowners, resource managers, forest and fire ecologists, community organizations and leaders, public agencies, and conservation organizations.
  • You will walk away from the event with an actionable plan to make changes on your land.

This conference is made possible by a powerful collaboration of dozens of organizations and individuals. It includes Sonoma County Ag + Open Space, the Sonoma County Resource Conservation Districts, University of California Cooperative Extension, WRA Environmental Consultants, Circuit Rider, private foresters, CALFIRE, and many others. These organizations are members of the Sonoma County Forest Conservation Working Group. They have come together to support you.

Program Overview 

Day 1: Workshops at Shone Farm in Forestville

Friday, June 23rd, 8am-5:30pm 

Location: SRJC Shone Farm in Forestville, 7450 Steve Olson Ln, Forestville, CA 95436

Schedule (subject to small changes)

8:00-8:30am   |   Registration & light breakfast

8:30-9:30am   |   Opening Plenary

9:30-12:30pm |   Workshop Sessions 1 & 2

12:30-1:30pm |   Catered lunch

1:30-4:30pm   |   Workshop Sessions 3 & 4

4:30-5:30pm   |   Closing Plenary

5:30-7:00pm   |   Optional social hour!

Workshop Descriptions:

Attendees will participate in each of the following workshops. Attendees will cycle through workshops in groups. Two workshops are held in classrooms and two are held outdoors in the Shone Farm forest. Some walking is required. Let us know in registration if you need accommodations.

Learn about the basics of forest management in Sonoma County, from fire history in oak woodlands, to fuel reduction in overstocked conifer forests. By understanding the historical and current conditions of your forest, you can better manage for the future.

Lightning round of speakers will present the basics on setting your goals, working with a forester to plan and permit your forest management activities, and applying for financial assistance. 

Trained professionals will demonstrate the use of various tools and equipment commonly used in forestry. You’ll see hand tools such as loppers, pruners, pole saws, chainsaws, weed pullers, pulaskis and McLeods, as well as larger equipment like wood chippers and biochar kilns. Techniques for building burn piles may also be demonstrated. 

How do land managers identify problems on the land, like invasive plants, disease or fuel buildup? How do they determine the best solution? How do they evaluate success? This workshop will teach you to watch and learn from the land, take small but strong steps to steward the land, and be proactive about addressing common issues.

Partner organizations will be tabling in a “resource fair.” Take time for one-on-one conversations with dozens of organizations ready to help answer your questions and share useful resources.

Day 2: Field Tours Across Sonoma County

Saturday, June 24th, 8am-5pm

Location: Meet in the morning at the SRJC Shone Farm in Forestville, 7450 Steve Olson Ln, Forestville, CA 95436. We will depart to field tours from there.

Schedule (subject to small changes)

8:00-8:30am     |   Registration & light breakfast

8:30-9:00am     |   Opening Plenary

9:00-10:00am   |   Drive to field site

10:00-12:30pm |   Field Tour

12:30-1:00pm   |   Bagged lunch on site

1:00-4:00pm     |   Field Tour

4:00-4:30pm     |   Return to Shone Farm

4:30-5:00pm     |   Closing Plenary

Field Tour Descriptions:

Attendees must choose one field tour to attend. Groups will be capped at 40 persons per trip. Attendees will be provided van transportation to and from the tour as well as a bagged lunch. Walking and hiking is required. Let us know in registration if you need accommodations.

This tour will take attendees to the north coast Fort Ross/Cazadero area to two private properties working collaboratively within the larger Coast Ridge Forest Council (CRFC). CRFC is a non-profit community forest organization, consisting of mostly private landowners. They are working to improve forest health, increase resiliency in the face of climate change, and reduce future impacts of wildfire in our rural communities. We will tour a roadside shaded fuel break project, funded by the County’s Vegetation Management Grant Program, along Fort Ross Road that aids community emergency evacuation. We will then head to the Gualala Ranch Fern Field where attendees will meet local resident grazers and their herd to learn about the council’s plans to bring back grazing for fuels reduction by starting a “Grazing School” in partnership with UCCE. The council will also describe their prescribed burn program, with assistance from Fire Forward and other local groups, their future projects, and discuss the importance of collaboration in all of their work. After lunch we will head to Muniz Ranch to meet with Craig Hayes and tour the recently completed Phase 4 of the Muniz Ranches Shaded Fuel break Project begun in 2017, a part of their 70 acre grant funded project. CRFC works closely with their forester, Matt Greene, their local fire departments, partners, and local volunteer and HOA road groups to make this work possible

This tour will take attendees to two properties in West County. First, just west of the town of Graton is Green Valley Farm + Mill, a 172-acre land project committed to ecological stewardship, education and regenerative farm enterprises. Part of the land’s stewardship activities includes the management of 85-acres of mixed evergreen forest as well as the revival of the property’s historic mill. Co-owners Temra Costa and Jeremy Fisher will discuss the property’s forest management plan, tour attendees along a small wildfire scar (which is now used as a fire break for controlled broadcast burns in partnership with Fire Forward), and introduce their mill project being implemented by their business Forestree Collective and affiliated nonprofit Regenerative Forest Solutions. Forestree won the Sonoma County Bio Biz competition in 2021, and is turning wood from forest restoration and fuel load reduction projects into furniture and other wood products with the support of a US Forest Service grant. Forest work on-site has been supported by Gold Ridge RCD, Fire Forward, RPF Estelle Clifton, and CAL FIRE’s California Forest Improvement Program.

After lunch, attendees will travel to Bodega to the family ranch of Algeo “Che” Casul, the seventh generation rancher, born and raised on the same ranch his great, great, great, great-grandfather settled in 1851. Spending much of his free time in his youth with his grandmother, Che was taught the deep importance of caring for the land generationally as she would highlight ranch projects that previous generations had carried out that were beneficial and was not shy of pointing out and naming those bygone family members whose actions had a negative effect on their current landscape and livelihood. Through this long-view lens, Che believes that it is imperative to nurture and grow the natural resources of Sonoma County for the generations that come after. Attendees will hear about current practices including forest thinning, rotational grazing in the forest understory, pile and broadcast burning, fuel break creation and maintenance along a ridge, forest mushroom foraging, grassland restoration and wildlife habitat enhancement. Che has received financial and technical support from Gold Ridge RCD and NRCS’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).

This tour will take attendees east to the Mayacamas Mountains to Pepperwood Preserve, a 3,117-acre preserve dedicated to conservation science managed by the Pepperwood Foundation. Assistant preserve manager Devyn Friedfel will tour attendees through four different fuels management units in the preserve’s Douglas-fir and oak woodland forests: 1. No fuels management, 2. Thinning with lop and scatter, 3. Thinning and pile burn, 4. Thinning and broadcast burn. Lessons learned from each approach will be explored. The site has also experienced two of the County’s most recent wildfires: the 2017 Tubbs Fire and the 2019 Kincaid Fire. Fire recovery, salvage logging and oak restoration (oak resprout protection and monitoring) will be topics of discussion. Additionally, attendees can visit the nursery where grass plugs and oak seedlings are propagated for restoration plantings. Finally, Devyn will explain Pepperwood’s monitoring techniques to evaluate success and provide suggestions for simple monitoring approaches all land managers can use. Projects toured are funded by CAL FIRE, NRCS’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), the County’s Vegetation Management Grant Program, and other grant programs and funding sources. Read more about Pepperwood’s fire mitigation and forest health efforts here.

This tour will take attendees east of Santa Rosa to Saddle Mountain Open Space Preserve, a 960-acre preserve managed by Sonoma County Ag + Open Space. Stewardship Specialist and resident fire ecologist Monica DelMartini will discuss the strategy for recovering this extraordinary property after the 2020 Glass Fire and prepare it for future fires in this fire-prone part of the county. She will discuss land management in a post-fire setting including, wildfire ecology, forest resiliency and the benefits of fire on California landscapes. The preserve’s forest health and fire resiliency projects include a 60-acre understory thinning project with pile burning, two shaded fuel breaks, and preparations for future prescribed burns. These projects were developed in consultation with several registered professional foresters, a fuels management specialist, a Tribal representative, local botanists, and Ag + Open Space staff with expertise in fire ecology and forest restoration, as well as dialogue with regional conservation partners and Cal Fire. The design for these projects includes robust protections for sensitive natural and cultural resources, soil health, natural post-fire vegetation regeneration, water quality, wildlife, and forest understory species, and is intended to support maximum biodiversity, carbon sequestration, and forest health on the Preserve. The projects do not involve logging or removing any material off site, nor any use of equipment other than chainsaws off road. Read more about Saddle Mountain O.S. Preserve here.


Register by May 31st. Space is limited. In registration, you will be asked to choose which field tour you’d like to attend, as well as a few other questions about your interests and background. These questions are designed to help us understand our audience.

Contact Us

Have a question? Contact the event organizer at hello@topocollective.com.

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