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Welcome to the Sonoma County Gazette ARCHIVE of PAST EDITIONS. Our NEW WEBSITE is up and running, so GazExtra is serving as your path to archived articles. Thanks for being part of our Sonoma County community...stay in touch...e-mail me - VESTA

Monday, July 12, 2010

Coastal Prairie in Bodega Bay Marine Reserve

Below is a web link to another great
KQED “perspective” from Michael Ellis 
passed along from Brock Dolman
of the Occidental Arts & Ecology Center.

If we don’t collectively better understand & implement the right kinds of disturbance regimes (grazing, mowing, fire, combo, re-seeding w/ natives, other??, etc...), in tandem with the optimum levels of intensity and frequency custom to each unique grassland setting, then we’ll surely continue to lose our wonderful native prairies.

‘Undergrazing’ can be as eco-egregious as ‘over-grazing’. Simply ‘pulling & fencing out the offending cows off’ these disturbance dependent &  highly invaded eco-systems so that “nature will heal itself” and they can become “wilderness again” is a sure prescription for their extinction!

Succession is dynamic change, and if ‘change is the only constant’, it is clear that our our landscapes are constantly changing – for better or worse. The challenge is to move from eco-illiterate degenerative disturbance regimes into eco-efficacious regenerative disturbance regimes!

Thankfully in our Sonoma/Marin area we have some exciting efforts towards Native Prairie recovery going on via our Sonoma Marin Coastal Prairie Working Group, therefore along with many other efforts...

Have a look at these proceeding from our 2006 workshop at Bodega Marine Lab:

- and this Short Brochure:

Here is a short description found on the SSU Field Station website:
Coastal Prairie Enhancement Feasibility Study
Coastal grasslands are some of the least well-known and least protected of California's plant communities. The Coastal Prairie Enhancement Study will prepare educational materials, undertake new approaches to grassland mapping, and target the control of velvet grass (Holcus lanatus) at five sites in Sonoma and Marin counties. The SSU Preserves are assisting in the development of coastal grassland education materials.

The Sonoma Land Trust has a number of interesting projects in the works or in the planning stages at many of their properties, such their Estero Americano, Jenner Headlands and Pitkin Marsh Preserves with their knowledgeable Stewardship Project Managers - Tony Nelson &  Shanti Wright!!

Here is a link to the pdf for a wonderful resource guide book called: Grazing Handbook: A Guide for Resource Managers in Coastal California. Both Sotoyome and Gold Ridge RCD’s have copies of this guide, if you want a printed hardcopy.

Thankfully we have a number of rangeland ranchers & Grass-Fed Meat producers that understand many of these ideas and are using their animals to both produce better habitat while providing food and economic viability. Some are still not and many grasslands and not being managing at all as they slowly smother under the thatch of invasive! So what are you gonna do about it?

Check out the Marin Carbon Project:

Check out the work down in Santa Cruz &  Monterrey Counties with their Rangeland Coalition:

For a vision of the historical context of what has been lost certainly get a copy of and read - M. Kat Anderson’s amazing book Tending the Wild: Native American Knowledge and the Management of California's Natural Resources!

Too many projects to keep listing – but hopefully folks will see that we can participate in the recovery of our once majestic ‘evergreen’ and kaleidoscopically colorful grasslands!

From my ‘perspective!

Fri, Jul 9, 2010 -- 7:35 AM

How Our Hills Got Golden
Every year as the rains end and the grasses turn, California hills take on their golden character. But it wasn't always this way. Naturalist Michael Ellis explains why.

By Michael Ellis

When I'm out hiking this time of year I am constantly reminded, especially as I look at the golden hills of California, of how much the landscape has been altered since the Europeans first arrived in the New World.

Five hundred years ago, the sunny, baked hills above Livermore would have been greenish, not yellow. Perennial bunch grasses with taproots penetrating down 18 feet took full advantage of permanent groundwater. And the plants would continue to photosynthesize throughout the extended drought of our Mediterranean climate, maintaining their vibrant living color until the first invigorating rains of the autumn arrived.

Grazing animals certainly existed here 20,000 years ago, and impacted the grasslands. There would have been mastodons, giant ground sloths, as well as modern animals such as tule elk, pronghorn, and black tailed deer. When the Native Americans arrived, they also encouraged the grassland by periodically burning it. Grass has evolved to not only tolerate but often thrives under continued grazing and periodic fire.

Agronomists suspect that some of our native grasses regularly live to 200 years, and perhaps as long as 1,000 years!

The most significant change in California's biodiversity was the transformation of these bunchgrass-dominated ecosystems to the near total replacement by Eurasian annual grasses. The Spaniards brought horses, cattle, sheep and their attendant European barnyard weeds into California in the late 1700s. These aggressive, non-native, annual grasses could germinate, flower and fruit in the short growing season -- and were already adapted to the heavy grazing of domesticated animals.

Wherever livestock was introduced, the new grasses quickly out-competed and replaced the perennials in an incredibly short period of time. This occurred so rapidly that there were basically no scientifically trained witnesses to record the startling conversion.

Ninety-nine percent of the native grasses in California are gone. California’s early settlers transformed this place in so many ways -- culturally, economically, ethnically -- and they even gave us our golden hills.

This is Michael Ellis with the Perspective.

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