At Risk in Sonoma County
Lucas Murillo spends many days introducing kids to the natural world. An AmeriCorps member for Conservation Corps North Bay, Lucas builds trails and manages invasive plants at Pepperwood Preserve near Santa Rosa. He also teaches elementary school students. “It’s funny to hear what the kids say—‘will we see tigers?’” Lucas says. “It’s great to introduce them to the outdoors, and to tell them they can go to their local park and see the same thing.”
A graduate of the University of California at Santa Cruz, Lucas grew up in Concord, hiking Mount Diablo. Sonoma County is a new home for him. “It is so green com- pared to where I come from,” he says. “People here want to preserve the environment, like it’s part of preserving their backyard.”
The next decade will be important for Sonoma County. While it can proudly boast urban growth boundaries around each of its nine cities, the county lands remain open. Rural residential development of these properties continues to pose the single largest threat to preserving productive farm and ranch land, and disrupts contiguous wildlife habitat. Over 250,000 acres of Sonoma County’s green- belt remains minimally protected; another nearly 500,000 acres have only medium protection. Innovative growth management measures may be necessary to protect these vital lands.
Protecting the landscape is important to Sonoma County residents; in 2006, 76% of voters supported reauthorizing the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District for another 20 years with a 0.25-cent sales tax. Smart land management practices combined with the permanent protection work of the Sonoma Land Trust and others will benefit wildlife and residents.