Living in a Fire Adapted Landscape

In the immediate aftermath of the North Bay fires, Greenbelt Alliance collaborated with 60 organizations and 150 people to create a set of priority actions that Sonoma County can take to help natural and agricultural lands recover and prevent such disasters in the future.

Together with the leadership of the Sonoma County Agricultural Protection and Open Space District, Greenbelt Alliance and our allies added key recommendations for actions and measures to create a strong path forward for landscape resiliency in the report, Living in a Fire Adapted Landscape. The final version was reviewed by the Board of Supervisors on January 23, 2018. Read and download the full report here.

The Watershed Collaborative that developed the watershed recovery plan was called together soon after the fires and included representatives from local, state, and federal agencies, resource conservation districts, watershed groups, nonprofits, agricultural groups, academic entities, and community groups. Teri Shore, Regional Director, North Bay, and board member Dee Swanhuyser represented Greenbelt Alliance.

The proposed actions cover a wide range of land management and policy issues with the following six priorities:

  1. Support landowners and land managers in assessing and mitigating watershed impacts of the 2017 fires.
  2. Build on increased community awareness to enhance strategies for living in a fire-prone landscape.
  3. Evaluate the response of natural and agricultural lands to the fire to inform recovery efforts and prepare the community and the land for the inevitable impacts and benefits of future wildfire.
  4. Implement, refine, or develop policy to ensure community and ecosystem resiliency in a fire-adapted landscape.
  5. Develop long-term funding strategies for wildfire resilience, preparation, and recovery for working and natural lands.
  6. Maintain the collaboration focused on fire resiliency on natural and working lands.

In line with our organizational mission, Greenbelt Alliance forwarded important land use and policy actions contained primarily in the Legislation, Policy and Funding section of the report, including:

  • Seek funding and support for long-term land management policy changes, including incorporating wildfire policy into the General Plan (learn more about what a general plan is here), ensuring that land-use planning and building standards are informed by most recent science, and increased consideration of hazard risk in local development decisions.
  • Develop and adopt land-use policy and legislation that considers recurrence of fires and other disasters to ensure that this level of damage does not devastate the county again.
  • Ensure that rebuilt structures and new development associated with recovery occurs within the existing community footprint, and high intensity uses continue to be contained within existing urban growth boundaries and urban service areas.
  • Analyze and include climate change and increased risk and vulnerability from future fires in hazard planning.

Greenbelt Alliance will work with the Watershed Collaborative to include these and other priority actions incorporated into the Fire Recovery Plan that Sonoma County is developing in the coming weeks and months.

Photo: Glen Oaks Ranch in Sonoma Valley via Teri Shore

One Comment on “Living in a Fire Adapted Landscape

  1. I am so glad there is this collaborative effort towards responding to the catastrophic fires.
    Skimming thorough the report, and as a landscape designer, I do see that you have left out the plannning, design, architects, landscape architects, developer professionals in the report and courses of action. I am expecting to see a tightening of code and best practices for land use , building, landscaping and management and would do well to also target and collaborate with this sector…As a designer I am now more sensitive to WUI (Wildland Urban Interface properties) and those designations seems to be city driven when the unincorporated parcels are more likely to be that kind of property and so no governance or guidelines. I find them lacking in robustness as far as mapping and what they mean to the designing professional and the land owner….
    I also would encourage as you say you intend to look at other places in the world that are coping with similar issues .. that to take a look at Australia’s practice of installing a separate sprinkler system under the eves of buildings, especially residential…

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