Solano Land Trust V29 #1

Spring 2022. Vol. 29 #1 Continued on page 6 Land connects us all – protecting it today, saving it for tomorrow A world away in the city of Fairfield You can be part of a legacy! Just west of the city of Fairfield lies a new natural park, waiting to be discovered.This 1,500-acre open space features oak woodlands, seasonal creeks, diverse wildlife, and spectacular views. And with your help, this amazing natural area can open to the community this fall! Patwino Worrtla Kodoi Dihi Open Space Park will soon be a destination where schoolkids learn about blue oak woodlands, geology, and the land’s significance for the native Patwin people for whom it is named. On its paths, people on bikes, on foot, in chairs, and on horses can explore and experience the outdoor beauty of Solano County. Your support has made all the difference! From building trails to raising funds to providing design input into the planning process, our community has been the driving force behind this major effort to make more trails, picnic areas, and open land accessible to all. Luke George Photography

Charlie Russell Twenty-five years of wonder Jepson Prairie Preserve improves and endures by Samuel James Adams J epson Prairie Preserve is renowned—and beloved—for its miniature marvels.The opening weekend of the annual Wildflower and Critter Walks did not disappoint. Plants like pygmy weed, dwarf downingia, and miniature lupine (the smallest in the state) lived up to their names. From Olcott Lake the dipper docents collected tadpole shrimp and aquatic snails, which the visitors passed hand to hand in water-filled cubes, admiring the strange creatures of a floating world that lasts only slightly longer than a carnival. But not every creature Jepson attracts is small and delicate.The visitors who arrived prepared to kneel, squint, and magnify their discoveries had their attention drawn upward as a wild ruckus broke over Olcott Lake. Thousands of snow geese began to take off from the water. A brilliant display of white shattered the sky, and the docents paused their demonstrations as the birds thundered above. It was a remarkable sight—and it wasn’t even what people came to see.That’s the magic that can happen when people like you see land worth protecting and take action. The grassy mounds at Jepson Prairie Preserve don’t turn heads every season, but on Saturdays and Sundays this spring, groups of forty visitors at a time have flocked here for experiences they cannot find anywhere else. Now, in its twenty-fifth year in the Solano Land Trust as a protected place, Jepson’s facilities have improved to meet admirers present and future by drawing on the knowledge Jepson’s docents gained from their many years of devotion and study. The season got off to a hopeful start, when an atmospheric river drenched the land in late October.The Pescadero clay held the water; the buried cysts of brine shrimp began to hatch; the male salamanders migrated 2

from their burrows to await their mates. The avocets and great blue herons seen stalking around indicate a lively year for Olcott Lake and the other vernal pools on the property. A glass of colloidal water from the pools stays opaque, never settling. But the murk teems with life. A few careful steps from shore, our statewide drought is evident, the colorful expanse of early wildflowers like Yellow carpet and Butter and Eggs dulled by the memory of more brilliant blooms. The vernal pools and bunch grass ecosystems of California have lost over ninety percent of their former range, and invasive grasses have altered Jepson’s landscape. Without grazing from the sheep, many of the preserve’s plants would be outcompeted. Charlie Russell, a longtime docent, notes that the nation of Chile counts between ten and twenty species endemic to vernal pools. “In California there are over three hundred.” One pool dweller, the conservancy fairy shrimp (named after the area’s earlier managers, the Nature Conservancy), is found only on the property. After breeding, they die but their cysts can survive years of drought.The outer limits of survival are unknown; docent C.J. Addington says other brine shrimp cysts found in thousand-year-old core samples still hatch living shrimp under the right aquatic conditions. The signs, benches, paths, and ADA parking spaces added to Jepson cannot handle quite so vast a duration of time, but they are built to last and to welcome the next generation of docents, admirers, and scientists. Continued on next page 3 The very rare Alkali milkvetch (Astragalus tener) is found only in California Charlie Russel Doug Wirtz

Katherine Mawdsley, a docent since 1986, dates the “saga of the visitor area enhancements” to 2008. She celebrates fellow docent Carol Witham’s contributions on plans for the signage, important early support from the Native Plant Society, and the late Ken Poerner’s work building the seating area, which is now accessible from the parking space via a permeable TRUEGRID path. It’s a far cry from the days when groups met standing in the road. Fields Operations Manager Jordan Knippenberg says the new changes allow him to retire some old traditions. “Before the signage we had plastic signs we zip-tied to a fence,” says Jordan. “We put them up and took them down seasonally.” At the right time of day, the sleek metal signs are not just accurate, but predictive. One group looking at the loggerhead shrike illustration had the real one fly by for comparison.The signs describe the interconnected ecosystems and species of the park, not all of whom vanish in the summer.The critters and flowers here may trend small, but no dense forests hide them. If you know what to look for, you may well see it. This held true on the first day of the season for the docent C.J. Addington.The physics teacher from Roseville was able to identify the Delta green ground beetle as it moved among the grass blades in the muddy shallows in the prairie. This beetle is only found here, and years pass without its appearance. But it survives because of the dedication and support of people who know these spectacular seasons could disappear forever. Here’s to the next seventy-five seasons of wonder at Jepson Prairie Preserve. Samuel J. Adams Nicole Braddock Doug Wirtz 4 New metal interpretive signs installed for the 2022 season

Yumi Wilson New strategy allows us to better serve our community across Solano County We’ve moved! Multiple locations bring conservation closer to you We are bidding a fond farewell to our Suisun City office. We will now operate three different satellite offices: a business office at 198 Dobbins Street in Vacaville, a second office in a shared space in downtown Vallejo, and our field office at Rush Ranch. While this change will help us serve more people throughout Solano County, we will miss our old Suisun City space: breaktime walks on the waterfront, great neighbors like the Cast Iron Grill & Bar, and the wonderful downtown community. But we’re excited for the next chapter in the story of an organization that started with a single ranch in 1986 and spread out to serve people from Rio Vista to Suisun Valley, Benicia to Dixon, and from Vallejo to Vacaville. Over the past few years, we’ve gathered input from almost 1,000 community members and had in depth conversations with more than seventy-five individuals to plan for the future and learn how we can bring the benefits of conservation to more people in Solano County. One thing we heard loud and clear was that we need to meet people where they are. During the pandemic we learned to work remotely and leverage technology to build community across the county; it also reinforced the importance of personal connections. Our three-office strategy will make it easier to listen to and learn from community members across the county. It will also allow us to share conversations with people new to conservation, and chat with landowners in a way that is easier for them—and for you. We look forward to working with our community to ensure that more people experience the benefits of conservation close to home, expand our support for ranching and farming families, and ensure that wildlife have a place to call home for generations to come.Thanks to you, and so many people in Solano County, we are poised to increase the pace of local conservation. Give us a ring, pay us a visit—together, we can conserve the special places we all call home. See you on the land! 5 Nicole Braddock

A world away in the city of Fairfield Continued from P1 If you seek a strenuous hike, twelve miles of trails will take you through manzanita stands, oak woodlands, and peaks with stunning views of Mt. Diablo and the delta. If you or a loved one lives with a disability or if you just desire a gentler adventure, an inspiring halfmile All People’s Trail is surfaced for wheelchairs and ease of mobility, and includes stops at stately oaks and lovely overlooks. It’s amazing what happens when a community comes together to protect the lands they love. As we walk today, we can dream about the future generations who will wander through the hills, listening to the birds sing and watching the wind blow over the wildflowers. Grandchildren will picnic with their grandparents under oak trees that have stood for hundreds of years.The plants and animals that call this land home will be protected and the residents of the large and growing city of Fairfield will know nature’s wonders are a short drive away. It’s been a hidden gem for a long time. Now it is time for this sparkling land to enrich the whole community. You can be a part of this legacy! v Make a donation of cash, investments, or a gift through your donor-advised fund. v Volunteer for trail crew, community science, or as a docent. v Join us on a docent hike – and bring a friend! Follow us on social media or join our e-newsletter list at to learn more. People of all abilities and their loved ones can find peace and respite on the All People’s Trail Luke George Photography 6

Picnic areas under stands of oak trees await your visit! If you want to leave your mark on this extraordinary space, we have you covered! Celebrate a special occasion, honor a loved one, or simply show your passion for the land by funding a picnic table, bench, or other structure within the property. We also have memberships available for our Heritage Oak Society. Members enjoy private receptions, exclusive dinners with the executive director, participation in Solano Land Trust’s planning discussions, annual gifts, and recognition at the park entrance. To learn more, please contact Laura Livadas:, 707.709.9025 7 Jordan Knippenberg Luke George Photography

Over 12 miles of trails will delight visitors of all ages Barth Campbell directing construction of the All People’s Trail Volunteer crews meet the final Saturday of each month to build bridges and upgrade trails Sky valley lupine and purple owl ’s clover These cows reduce the risk of wildfire and 8 Jordan Knippenberg Laura Livadas Nicole Braddock

PWKD is one of the few places where people can ride horses locally The bright colors of the California newt make it easy to spot Seasonal creeks support wildlife d support native plants 9 Tom Muehleisen Jennifer Leonard Sue Wickham

Drawing art and science together Journaling deepens our connection to the land we love by Samuel James Adams Imagine explaining a ladybug to someone who had never seen one. You could count legs, contextualize size, say that it is a beetle that eats aphids, and so on. But you could get the point across quicker with a dot…followed by a red circle, then six scribbly legs, a line for the wings, and some black dotting.The Swiss artist Paul Klee once claimed “a line is a dot who went for a walk.” A ladybug requires only a slightly longer walk than that. Illustration makes the basics vivid in a way words cannot. The lands of Solano County are picture perfect for artists of all levels who want to feel inspired. Keeping an illustrated nature journal brings science and art together. Scientific endeavor requires creativity, and creative work demands keen observation. To paint a flower is to see a flower anew, and to perceive it better the next time around. And when you protect scenic lands, those flowers will bloom for future generations of artists. In the nature journals she keeps, Solano Land Trust docent Kathleen Catton has found a practice that deepens her connection to the land and sharpens her perception of the life that calls it home. “Hiking through spaces is wonderful, but sitting there and enjoying it, you’ll get more out of it,” Kathleen says. “It helps you get closer to nature, just by observing. I see more plants, smaller plants, the way the water is shining, the way the trees are growing.” She mentions how sketching a gopher snake made her realize that this common animal had slinked by her full attention for years. “I never noticed the details of its head, or how it likes to stay in the shade. You start to understand its behavior, what it’s doing and where it’s going.” 10

Kathleen was recently journaling at Patwino Worrtla Kodoi Dihi Open Space Park during wildflower season. She had discovered some tidy tips and seep monkey flowers growing out of the park’s small wetland. Elsewhere, a volunteer group on Harmonia Hill were counting the rare harmonia nutans flower by comparing them to the goldfields nearby. Illustrating the flower to scale could show the rarer flower’s fuzzier stems, petal patterns, and the ways it dries when it goes to seed. Kathleen developed her skills completing sketchbooks of plant identification at California State Polytechnic University, Humboldt, before becoming one of the earliest rangers at Redwood National Park. She earned a degree in landscape architecture from U.C. Berkeley and took classes through Solano Community College and the California Watercolor Foundation. She recommends illustrator, naturalist, and author John Muir Laws’ website and his Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling as journaling resources. “The book wants us to Embrace the mystery,” says Kathleen. “I think that really says it.” For journaling, grab a light backpack, a pad, and some watercolors or colored pencils. Nature guidebooks are handy, and secondhand editions won’t be wildly outdated. Cameras on phones are good for catching moving things. Most importantly, you never have to go far to see something amazing. “Find a spot that interests you. Sit down and sketch a creek. You start to ask yourself questions,” Kathleen says. She jots notes on the margins, diary snippets of sounds heard, behaviors noted, the questions the senses suggest, because questioning is essential to observing. Different spaces serve different artistic styles. Kathleen looks forward to seeing the breathtaking landscapes of Patwino Worrtla Kodoi Dihi in future en plein air paintings. At Jepson Prairie Preserve, where she docents, smaller subjects like yellow carpet flowers and the specialist bees pollinating them offer challenges in precision. But for Kathleen, art and journaling are not arcane skills developed in seclusion. People have been illustrating the world a long time. It’s not a stuffy pursuit. We can revere open land with pencils or paints but also with written memories of sound and sensations; handheld recorders make audio journaling possible, paring observations with soundscapes, birdsong and the crunch of trails; videos can edit together memories of the land and your time upon it.These lands were saved for your benefit; its rocks and trees may be hard to draw on your first day, but they’ll be there tomorrow. Nature journaling can bring the benefits of land back home, while keeping the space an inspiring subject for others. A flower is sketched alone by one’s own hand, but sharing it draws others into the wonder. Samuel J. Adams 11

SALC spells success Program supports farms and cities by Samuel James Adams S omewhere in Solano County, a farmer wakes up in a ranch several generations in the family. Relatives she’s known only from stories and portraits regard her on the way out the door. Outside the grasses have changed, but the ridgeline and the birds flying over it recall an earlier time and a wilder place. Elsewhere in the county, a tech worker leaves their apartment, walks to their favorite café, then takes a ferry to San Francisco. They live different lifestyles but want similar things: clean air and water, access to fresh local and healthy food, and the respite that comes to mind and body when a place doesn’t take its best qualities for granted: the ferry rider might well dine at a restaurant serving food grown in Suisun Valley. The farms and ranches and green open spaces that separate one Solano County city from the next is one of the county’s charms. But the connections matter too; the farms of the county are a brief commute from multiple interstates, urban farmers markets, and stores that sell implements and supplies for their industry. The Land Conservation Team, Tracy Ellison and Shay Brown, have been studying that connection closely. What they’ve learned has yielded major successes to conserve local agricultural land in a way that benefits cities nearby. The funding comes through the Sustainable Agriculture Land Conservation program [SALC], a state-offered program that aims to “protect productive farmlands and encourage compact, transit-oriented communities.” The transit angle is key; an estimated 50% of California’s greenhouse gas emissions come from the transportation sector. Conservation Program Manager Tracy Ellison makes sure Solano Land Trust tracks what is happening at the nearby Capitol. She began attending workshops and studying the SALC program years ago. She regularly contacts landowners and growers to let them know about land conversation opportunities like SALC and to provide clarity on how such land conservation tools can work for their landownership management. 12 Sarah Nolan

Sarah Nolan “When I came on in 2011 there was a dry period in funding land conservation projects,”Tracy says. “Now we’re on the uptick. From 2016 until now, there have been FIVE conservation agreements supported with SALC funding.” SALC grant applications are submitted to the California Department of Conservation and the Strategic Growth Council.The SGC governs the SALC program and approves funds for use, while the Department of Conservation manages and executes the grants for the conservation agreements. Last year, over sixty million dollars of SALC funding were disbursed among nineteen projects statewide. Special efforts are made to conserve suitable lands in underfunded or project-poor regions like Fresno or Kern County. But not one project gets off the ground without willing landowners entering an agreement that works for them and the lands they hold dear. “Solano and neighboring counties in the Bay Area hold so much of the state’s population and prime soils that many projects are funded here under the guidelines of the SALC program,”Tracy says. “Over a five-year period we are on track to conserve 3,597 acres of productive, at-risk farmland in Solano County through the program.” The Cap-and-Trade proceeds SALC employs protect agricultural lands on the outskirts of cities and near residential neighborhoods. “The funding guidelines require us to identify fundable projects by using different risk options,” Conservation Project Coordinator Shay Brown says. “We were able to show we were within a certain distance of urban, rural, or residential areas or major transportation infrastructure.” Continued on next page 13 Sarah Nolan

Locals may be familiar with Vacaville’s Brazelton Ranch.The family partnered with Solano Land Trust in February of 2020 to conserve their 2,200-acre ranch and orchard west of Vacaville. It has been a flagship project for the Land Trust and for the state. Recent conservation agreements at the Schroeder Farms and Martin Ranch 3 properties, also used SALC funds to keep the land in agriculture.The program aims to support the productive agricultural activities that have been working already, keeping land intact and farmable for generations to come, so that locally grown food, healthy water systems, and scenic open space benefit the people who live in Solano County. Some of the farmlands have been worked since the 19th century.The Solano Land Trust was founded in 1986, hardly an era of covered wagons and dry-farmed sugar beets. But because of the generous support given by people like you, the Land Trust established a credible history of empowering ranchers and farmers to protect their land. Over twenty-five properties are now protected in perpetuity by conservation agreements. The team’s portfolio of completed land conservation projects gave the organization standing with the state and, most importantly, with the farmers and ranchers wishing to make their dreams of conservation a reality. Almond and peach orchards weren’t planted to curb sprawl, promote infill, and reduce intraurban traffic, but thanks to an innovative program they can play a positive role. For Tracy, the SALC program offers another tool in the process of helping farmers keep land in agriculture. “We build relationships and partnerships with state and federal funders of land conservation,” says Tracy, “so that if farmers and ranchers come to us, or we reach out to them, the Solano Land Trust can support their landownership and management goals and guide them down a proven path that works to conserve the lands they love.” Tracy Ellison View of the rangeland at Brazelton Ranch 14

Di Holokahi A thank you to our business partners A message from President Susan Frost As an organization supported by donors, we are constantly amazed and inspired by the generosity we receive from individuals and families. But when a business chooses to give, that means something special. It means a team of people conscious of their brand and careful of their messaging see an organization providing value to their community. From March 13th through 19th, we held our Business Partner Appreciation Week to honor the generosity of these organizations. A virtual breakfast featured project updates and a rich presentation by Matt Gause, of Westervelt Ecological Services (WES). WES undertakes conservation and restoration projects on preserved wetland and endangered species habitat nationwide. Matt explained with great storytelling verve how the cultural and geographical history of Suisun Marsh guided restoration work on the largest brackish water marsh on the West Coast. Business leaders and Heritage Oak Society members joined us on the land for a hike of Patwino Worrtla Kodoi Dihi Open Space Park.The docent Steven Chun explained the volcanic origins of the place’s topography, then guided the group through it on foot over the park’s improved trail systems. All our business partnerships start with a conversation, but a place like PWKD speaks for itself, and its birdsong and gentle breezes and lowing cattle can be quite persuasive on a beautiful spring day. That is one thing about wide open spaces—they put things in public view. Becoming a business partner offers a terrific opportunity to highlight your company name on social media, in our newsletters, and in commemorative plaques and signage on the land. It displays a sustaining commitment to preserving land for food, farms, wildlife, and the health of the environment. Thank You Business Partners $2,500 – Steward Level Cherie and Ken Schroeder Family, LSA, Potrero Hills, Huffman-Broadway Group Inc., E.A. Anderson & Sons, Republic Services, Green Valley Tractor, Vezér Family Vineyard, East Meets West Veterinary Services, Wooden Valley Winery $5,000 – Trailblazer Level Paradise Valley Estate $10,000 – Ridge Circle Level SMUD, Valero Benicia Refinery, NorthBay Healthcare 15

Our Mission Statement Solano Land Trust protects land to ensure a healthy environment, keep ranching and farming families on their properties, and inspire a love of the land. Board Members Sue Frost, President Paul Lum, Vice President Steve Pressley, Treasurer Deborah Durr Ferras, President-Elect Terry Huffman, Secretary Ian Anderson Monica Brown Kristina Chamberlin Lorraine Fernandez Aldo Jordan Jennifer Leonard Roger Merrill Curtis Stocking Carolyn West Staff Nicole Braddock, Executive Director Samuel James Adams, Communications Specialist Anne Alver, Business Services Manager Shay Brown, Conservation Project Coordinator Michelle Dickey, Donor Relations Officer Hilary Dustin, Senior Project Manager Tracy Ellison, Conservation Program Manager Di Holokahi, Engagement Specialist Jordan Knippenberg, Field Operations Manager Laura Livadas, Development Manager Hadley McDonell, Office Manager Monatte McGee, Administrative Assistant Miranda Sanborn, Development Assistant Kelly Santos, Senior Project Manager Stream Tuss, Field Technician Jasmine Westbrook-Barsukov, Project Manager Wanda Williams, Project ManagerPublic Access Tom Work, Manager of Land and People Connections Samuel James Adams, Editor, Vistas WG Design Group, Graphics, Vistas Logo design based on original art by Don Birrell 16 Solano Land Trust 198 Dobbins Street, Suite A Vacaville CA 95688 (707) 432-0150 Non–Profit Organization US Postage Paid Fairfield, CA 94533 Permit # 00234 Saying thank you with art Sculpture honors land saved for good As construction moves into its final phases at Patwino Worrtla Kodoi Dihi Open Space Park, two volunteers (Ken Hunter and Dave George) are hard at work on their own creation: a stainlesssteel sculpture of a live oak tree that honors a space where all may feel inspired and welcome.The metal pipes are scored to evoke bark and the branches taper into smaller sections with leaves that will move with the wind. Ken and his wife Jill, an excellent artist herself, are inaugural members of Solano Land Trust’s Heritage Oak Society.They will be recognized on this art installation, along with other significant supporters of the protection and development of this natural park. There are just three inaugural Heritage Oak Society memberships available! This is an opportunity to take your giving to a higher level and show your dedication to open space right before the park goes public. Contact us to learn how you can support the opening of Patwino Worrtla Kodoi Dihi Open Space Park today! (Laura Livadas:, 707-718-4444 or Michelle Dickey:, 707-330-4047) Nicole Braddock Samuel Adams