- (Focus Area) Natural Resources
- Author: Phil McRea, Master Gardener
- Contributor: Karen Giovannini
Updated links and republished Oct 2019.
Many residents in Sonoma County live in or near fire danger. For those who do live in a high fire area, knowing what to do when conditions are ideal for a forest (or urban fire) is essential.
Red Flag Warning
- Sustained wind speeds averaging 15 mph or greater
- Relative humidity 25% or less
- Temperature over 75 degrees F
Fuel Moisture Index
The fuel moisture index is a tool used to understand fire potential. 10-hour fuel moisture also known as Dead Fuel Moisture; when fuel moisture is <30%, it is essentially considered dead. 10-hour fuel moisture applies to grasses and bushes up to 1 inch in diameter. Learn more at NOAA.
The US National Weather Service warning is to inform area fire fighters and land management agencies that conditions are ideal for wild-land fire combustion. Cal Fire and local fire agencies all go on a high alert status under these conditions.
The Wind Cries...Santa Ana or Diablo?
The Santa Ana and Diablo winds occur throughout the year, but are extremely dangerous during dry periods (which, in Southern CA is practically year round). Santa Ana occurs in Southern CA, Diablo in the north. Winds come from the east from hot surfaces (deserts) and are compressed and speed up as they head towards the ocean. Learn more from SFSU. Check out current wind conditions at Windy.com.
Here are some things you can do when Red Flag Warnings are issued. State and local news agencies usually announce Red Flag Warning 24-48 hours in advance on TV and radio, so there is time to act on short-term fixes.
During Fire Season
- Make sure garden hoses are hooked up and ready to use with spray nozzles attached; best practice is to never leave a garden hose randomly piled up as it will always tangle – if you want it coiled, coil it in equal sized oval loops with each successive loop offset few inches in the same direction.
- All portable propane tanks (BBQ, smoker, etc.) should be turned off and moved away from your house.
- If you have a pool: in an emergency, a pressure washer can be used to pump water from your pool and should be left in an available location; fire fighters should have clear access to your pool.
- Decks should be cleared above and below of flammable objects.
- Gas cans – for lawn mowers, chippers, whatever – should be moved away from house or garage/barn.
- Cover firewood stacks next to house with a fire resistant cover.
- Make sure cell phones are charged and ready for alerts and within hearing at all times.
- Close exterior doors and windows. Leave doors unlocked. Leave lights on inside and outside of house.
- If you have a ladder, leave it available outside, next to the house, in case fire fighters need to access roof.
- Have all your evacuation supplies such as flashlights and a good portable radio ready to go.
- Make sure your cars have plenty of gas and are parked outside, or garage door is capable of manual operation and all capable family members know how to open it.
- If appropriate, shut off gas supply line at the meter.
- Make an evacuation plan and collect all necessary supplies.
- Clean gutters and roof debris regularly.
- Where possible, install mesh screening under decks to prevent burning material from blowing.
- Move firewood piles away from house.
- If you have a pool, research the special pump systems that are available for fire fighting.
- For more information obtain a free brochure: “Living with Fire in Sonoma County” from fire agencies of Sonoma County.
Learn more about disaster preparation and recovery on Disaster Recovery Resources./h3>/h3>/h2>/h3>/h3>/h2>
On April 13, 2019, 28 4-H members and volunteers from Sonoma, Marin, Napa and Alameda counties convened with Cooperative Extension staff at the Las Posadas 4-H Camp for the 2019 4-H Environmental Science Institute. The purpose was to improve the competence and confidence of youth 4-H camp staff (affectionately called staffers), and their adult coaches, to facilitate high quality outdoor environmental education during their 4-H camp.
The goal was to help staffers be able to use best practices in hands-on environmental education, improve their content knowledge of a nature subject, and then lead environmental education short courses/education/adventure time sessions during their 4-H camp.
Marisa Coyne, Volunteer Engagement Coordinator for Statewide Master Gardeners, facilitated a session on best practices in outdoor environmental experiential education. Maggie Gunn, 4-H Youth Development Advisor in San Mateo and San Francisco, lead a workshop on the ecologies of Las Posadas including a flower exploration hike. Steven Swain, Environmental Horticulture Advisor in Marin, lead a workshop on animal commutes and tracking animal movement and behavior in the forest, chaparral, and riparian zones. Michael Jones, Forestry Advisor in Mendocino, Lake, and Sonoma counties led a workshop on forests and insects.
- Author: Stephanie Larson
- Author: John Gorman
Along with prescribed fire, grazing of domestic livestock may be the earliest vegetation management tool employed by humans. We suggest that the challenges of vegetation management on working landscapes may be addressed with the careful sharpening of this old tool. Prescription grazing is the application of livestock grazing at a specified season, duration and intensity to accomplish specific vegetation management goals. Controlled grazing of this type is being employed throughout California on public and private land and is proving to be a promising tool in reducing the fire fuels and unwanted, excessive vegetation.
Furthermore, livestock grazing has one distinct advantage over other control methods; in the process of controlling an undesirable plant, grazing animals convert it into a saleable product.
Steps in Developing a Grazing Prescription
Selecting the Right Species
The species of livestock best suited for the specific vegetation management goals depends on both the plant species of concern and the production setting. Cattle have large rumens that are well adapted to ferment fibrous material and are classified as grass and roughage eaters. They are therefore generally superior to goats or sheep to manage fibrous herbaceous vegetation such as dormant grasses. Goats have narrow and strong mouths well designed for stripping individual leaves from woody stems and for chewing branches. Goats also have a large liver mass relative to cattle or sheep and may therefore more efficiently process plants that contain secondary compounds such as tannins or terpenes. Sheep are generally considered an excellent species to accomplish control of herbaceous weeds. Sheep possess a narrow muzzle and a relatively large rumen per unit body mass. These characteristics allow them to selectively graze and yet tolerate substantial fiber content, and results in diets generally dominated by forbs. Sheep are also small, sure-footed, and well suited for travel in rough topography which may not be easily accessible for chemical weed control.
Grazing Workshops for Working Landscapes in Sonoma & Marin Counties
Creating resiliency in the rural landscape of Sonoma and Marin Counties is critical in preparing for the next natural disaster, managing biodiversity or achieving ecosystem service goals such as carbon sequestration, wildlife habitat and viewsheds. This growing recognition of the ecological benefits livestock grazing is important to our County's resiliency. However, grazing can be difficult to landowners that have never grazed their properties before. UC Cooperative Extension will hold several workshops on prescriptive grazing techniques to address the sustainability of our working landscapes while reducing the vegetation that leads to catastrophic wild fires. Private land owners manage the majority of the open spaces in Sonoma and Marin Counties and these workshops are aimed at those private citizens and other public land owners that are interested in using grazing as a vegetation management tool. Increasing the number of agriculture land grazed will benefit both public and private open space and the residents that benefit from them. The goal of the workshops is to increase understanding, interest and acceptance of using grazing as a vegetation management tool. Upcoming workshop held at SRJC Shone Farm:
DAY 1 – FRIDAY, May 17 (8:30 am - 7pm)
- Setting Achievable Grazing Goals
- Basic Principles of Managed Grazing
- Animal Nutrition, Body Condition Scoring
- Selecting the right grazer
- Animal Husbandry Basics
- Grazing 101
- Electric Fencing
- Drought & Flood Management
DAY 2 – SATURDAY, May 18 (8: 00 am - 5 pm)
- Graze Planning
- Pasture & Range Ecology
- Livestock Protection Tools
- Health Issues-Parasite Control
- Livestock Economics, Leasing
- Carbon Plan
- Monitoring, meeting grazing goals
Sonoma and Marin County's working landscapes, properly managed with prescription grazing, could prove to be a winning solution for all parties involved. Grazing not only provides a service to land owners and managers that may not be easily achieved in other ways, but it can also provide an income stream to aspiring livestock grazers just starting their grazing businesses. These workshops will provide educational opportunities for all parties to learn the “how to” in grazing, landowners who what to graze themselves, landowners who want to hire grazes and grazers who are looking to start or increase their grazing business enterprise. Let's work together to sharpen the “old” tool of “livestock grazing” into the “new vegetation management tool” for working landscapes./h3>/h3>/h3>/span>
To promote the exchange and sharing of agricultural extension information, several U.S. Land Grant institutions have formed an alliance with 10 Chinese agricultural universities. From June 17 to 22, UC Agriculture & Natural Resources took a group of scientists from Chinese agricultural universities on a tour of agriculture in Northern California.
Extension in China
As Anne Megaro, director of governmental and community relations for UC Agriculture & Natural Resources explained “They have extension in China, but it is not like ours. They are looking to strengthen their advisor positions and develop a mechanism for career advancement, similar to what we have in the U.S.”
Visit to Sonoma County
On June 19 and 20, the delegation visited Sonoma County to learn about our Ombudsman, Master Gardener, 4-H and Rangeland programs in Sonoma County. Photos at end of the story.
The evening of June 19, Agriculture Ombudsman, Karen Giovannini, shared how she helps farmers and ranchers navigate permitting and regulations. She explained how, at their most refined, regulations are in place to protect resources, that is, people and the environment. China also has many ‘rules' as the delegates called them. Karen shared locally made sheep, goat and cow cheeses with the delegates as an example of how a dairy operation could expand their product offerings to help them stay viable. Although cheese is not a ‘traditional' product in China, Karen explained that it could be a way to help keep some of the younger generation in rural areas.
China is continuing to experience the largest migration in world history. The rural population is migrating into the urban areas for better pay and opportunities raising concerns about the negative impacts on their agriculture sector and food security. Fun fact, in 2013: “Roughly one out of every 25 people in the world was a resident of a Chinese city who arrived, or was born, since the current round of [Chinese] economic reforms began in 1978.” Like United States, labor shortages in agriculture in China are creating a need for more agriculture technology. By the way, of the delegates that tried the cheeses, their favorite was the goat cheese.
Master Gardener and Bayer Farm Programs
On morning of June 20, Master Gardener Food Gardening Specialists and Jonathan Bravo from Bayer Farm kindly hosted the Chinese delegation. Jonathan, the garden manager, showed the delegation the community garden at Bayer Farm and talked about the programs there and then the FGS team led the delegation through the demonstration garden and discussed the sustainable food gardening principles being shown in the garden, such as integrated pest management and square foot gardening, and discussed their educational outreach programs in the garden. Because so much of China's population lives in the cities, this example of urban farming is of interest to the delegates.
The delegates were also very interested in the bilingual interactions. In China, there are many dialects and it will be important for youth extension programs to reach out to the rural population in their native dialects. The delegation was also quite interested in 4-Hers selling market livestock at the fairs as they observed when visiting Shasta County fair earlier that week.
Final stop in Sonoma County was a visit to Taylor Mountain Regional Park. Dr Stephanie Larson shared the experiences she had with setting up grazing on public lands and the many benefits it provides, including exposing the non-farming community to livestock on working lands. They hiked to one of the educational signs along the trail that UCCE advisors developed, along with videos and fact sheets, to educate the public about the importance of maintaining proper livestock grazing and rancher stewardship on California's rangelands with public access.
Although China has the third largest population of cattle, they import most of their beef to meet the increasing demand due to increasing standard of living of the Chinese people. As recent as 2016, “small farms with 9 or fewer cattle slaughtered per year are responsible for a major portion of Chinese beef production.” Plus, their native cattle breeds far underperform when compared to fast growing beef cattle breeds in the United States and other countries. Developing grazing programs on public park lands in China will keep their heritage alive while producing the many benefits grazers provide. The delegates were fascinated to see the cattle enjoying the grasses.
The delegates loved their visit to Sonoma County. Next stop was UC Davis and the Russell Ranch Sustainable Agriculture Facility, UCD's living laboratory.
Glenda Humiston, VP of UC ANR summed up the visit best, “The Chinese face many of the same issues that we do here in the U.S. The Chinese universities want to improve rural economic development to lift up the quality of life for people in rural communities. They are also responding to global climate change, drought and pests while trying to improve food security and water use efficiency. They see UC Cooperative Extension as an effective research model; we hope that scientific collaborations will accelerate solutions and help maintain relations for California agriculture with China.”/h3>/h3>/h3>/h3>/h3>/h3>/h3>
- Author: Karen Giovannini
Decision makers and the public have little knowledge of animal agriculture production or the ecosystems services provided by livestock grazing on western open space lands, according to Larson and Barry. To address the issue, they created an information campaign promoting the value of cattle grazing and ecosystem services on open space through curriculum and interpretive trail signage.
The advisors collaborated with the California Rangelands Conservation Coalition and three park districts (East Bay Regional Park Districts, Mid-Peninsula Regional Open Space District, and Sonoma County Regional Parks) to produce signage, factsheets and videos describing ecosystem services and how they relate to California rangelands. The print materials can be found at Grazing on Public Lands.
The three videos are posted on UC ANR's YouTube channel:
Susie Kocher, UCCE forestry and natural resources advisor in the Central Sierra area, will accept the award on behalf of Larson and Barry during the awards ceremony May 2 at the ANREP conference in Biloxi, Miss./table>