Land Stewardship

Sonoma SASS Provides a Healthy Alternative to Dangerous Pesticides

Our West County Community Grazing Cooperatives for Healthy, Fire-Safe, and Climate Smart Land Stewardship Project is an innovative, grassroots, community oriented solution that addresses the risk of fire, a warming planet, and social equity in our West County, Sonoma County, CA neighborhoods

 ​By providing a healthy alternative to using dangerous pesticides to reduce fuel load, this project delivers a win-win solution for the landowner, the soil, community and the planet!

The Context

The question is not ​if​ a fire will hit West County it is ​when​. Our West County is full of unmanaged forests, with massive understory and ladder fuels. There are few roads out and many small driveways, which could make it very difficult for residents to escape during a fire, creating a potentially catastrophic event with lives lost, homes burned, a toxic watershed and air quality. Our plan gives residents tools and support to build their own fire prevention and evacuation plan.

Our Plan

We are developing a pilot project on 3-6 sites where we have received pre-approval for Intersectional Land Stewardship. The pilot projects will include an ecological and cultural assessment of existing native flora, fauna, and culturally significant sites led by tribal leadership of the Wappo and Southern Pomo. Mechanical brush removal, arborist pruning and chipping, goat herd management, prescriptive and cultural burning are tools we may use. Youth work groups will be engaged to help with land stewardship. 

By providing a healthy alternative to using dangerous pesticides to reduce fuel load, this project delivers a win-win solution for landowners, farmers, our communities, our watershed.

Our Goals

  • Fire prevention: Utilize goats with prescribed grazing to remove the ladder fuel load in our West County forests. Arborists will do the large work that goats can’t, to create healthier forests.
  • Cultural and Ecological Assessment: Collaborating with and supporting our indigenous leaders in performing cultural and/or prescribed burns on private properties. 
  • Youth Engagement: Work with youth work crews to build relationships, mentors and job skills training in regenerative land stewardship
  • Climate Justice and Social Equity: Establish goat herding and coordinating paid positions to support community grazing cooperatives. Hire underserved community members with the necessary skill sets to step into these roles and assist neighborhoods in their fire abatement efforts.
  • Community Resiliency: Help communities build their own goat herds, or lease Sonoma SASS goat herd to provide the tools they need to create their individualized fire abatement plan. 
  • Combat Global Warming: Using prescribed grazing, each community grazing cooperative will be actively sequestering atmospheric carbon into the soil where it is a healthy and essential nutrient. 
  • Eliminate invasive plant species and the use of synthetic pesticides: By proper grazing management, we can effectively eliminate invasive, non-native plant species without the use of toxic synthetic pesticides; encouraging the growth of our native, fire safe flora to return. 
  • Healthy Watershed: Large forest fires that move into the trees and burn homes create massive toxicity run off into our watershed. By changing the flora and eliminating the ladder fuel load, we reduce the risk of a large fire in our West County.
  • Education: Communication and education are critical pieces in the success of any large project. We will hire several Senior Program Coordinators to oversee our community grazing cooperatives to help with education, problem resolution, and community engagement/coordinator. 

Our Unique Approach

Community grazing programs naturally address the issues of fire, safety, community resiliency and climate equity in a collaborative way, building morale and harmony in rural residential neighborhoods with creative grazing and agriculture methods. We have found with our current grazing cooperatives the natural development, within all participants, of a larger ecological experience through the improved soil, increased plant diversity and enhanced aesthetics of their neighborhood. It is quite profound to witness the increase in awareness simply from the greater connection with the grazing animals and their positive impact. This connection to place creates greater responsibility to the environment and feeling like there is something we can actually do about climate change and our fire ecology. These changes may seem inadvertent or unplanned, but they are the natural and a powerful result of participating in a community grazing cooperative.