Prior to the Sonoma Complex Fires of October 2017, Ag Innovations and the Sonoma County Water Agency came together to address fire and forestry management in the Lake Sonoma watershed. The steep, heavily forested hills surrounding the lake have experienced more than 10 fires since 1940, and remain vulnerable to catastrophic wildfire. A major fire within the 83,000-acre watershed could result in catastrophic effects on homes, businesses, roads, water quality, and critical down-stream fisheries habitat. Since Lake Sonoma is the primary water supply for more than 600,000 people and businesses in the region, reducing fire risk in the watershed is critical to the public safety of our region.
Landowners in the watershed include a mix of vineyards, ranches, private homes, and public lands. Each group holds unique knowledge about adapting to fire and managing lands for fire preparedness. Each group likely experiences different barriers to implementing fire-smart strategies. The FireSmart initiative will bring together the people who live and work in the Lake Sonoma watershed to share insight and develop collaborative solutions for a fire-resilient watershed. In 2018, we conducted four workshops in the Lake Sonoma Watershed, and now in 2019 are ‘jumpstarting’ other fire resiliency efforts in the critical watershed of Hopland in Mendocino County, and in Napa County.
We are now in Phase 2 of the grant, which is replicating this effort in Napa and Mendocino. In Napa, we are working with community advocates, firesafe councils and RCDs in Mendocino and Napa to help bolster their efforts around planning and coordination. In Hopland, (Mendocino County) a critical watershed of the Russian River (which again provides source drinking water) they do not currently have a Firesafe council. On June 2, we will bring together the community for information, understanding, and collective awareness. In Napa, where they have a range of Firesafe councils, the goal will be to connect agencies around a community wildfire protection plan and other collective actions on May 4. Finally, in May or June we will be hosting a final climate-friendly pile burn workshop to reinforce learning, relationships and action in the Lake Sonoma Watershed. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in joining any of these workshops!