By: Dale Wannen
Oct. 17, 2014
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If you have been fortunate enough to visit Sonoma County, CA, perhaps you were able to get a glimpse of the magical Redwood Trees along the coast, some of the oldest living things in the world. Luckily, we have one of these spots in our backyard which is the Russian River Valley and Armstrong Woods in Guerneville. In order to keep these parks and trees in such great condition along with educating those that want to learn more about this precious resource, preservation organizations are working night and day.
One of these such organizations is the Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods (Stewards),a non-profit organization launched in 1985 whose mission is to promote preservation through environmental education (EE) and stewardship in support of California State Parks’ Russian River Sector, encompassing 29,331 acres of coast, redwood groves and park lands, including Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve, Austin Creek State Recreation Area, Sonoma Coast State Park and the Willow Creek watershed. With park closures imminent in 2012, Stewards and State Parks signed a 5-year operating agreement to keep Austin Creek open under Stewards’ management.
The organization is a leader in docent-led interpretive programs focused on conservation and wildlife/habitat preservation, and in training/support to over 300 volunteer docents/stewards who give 10,000 hours annually, significantly increasing the parks’ organizational capacity.
Over the past decade, Stewards has developed and enhanced curriculum-based education programs/materials on watersheds, tide pools, and redwood ecology, including docent and teacher resource guides, serving 6,000 school children annually. Their multi-touch, placed-based citizen science and stewardship programs link to the new core standards and are now bringing older students to State Park overnight experiences. New programs are underway with Latino Outdoors and Sonoma County’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program, managed in part by Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria.
Many partnerships have been developed with State Parks, Regional Parks, Sonoma Environmental Education Collaborative, schools, University of California’s Naturalist Program and UC Davis’ Bodega Marine Laboratory. The founding member’s role in the Sonoma Coast Marine Protection Area (MPA) Collaborative builds on coastal monitoring alliances with Sonoma County Water Agency (pinnipeds) and Bureau of Land Management (seabirds), along with Whale Watch and Seal Watch programs, and watershed and tidepool curricula.
Those interested in volunteering or hearing more about their work should sign up on their website to receive their e-newsletter and consider joining as a member of the organization at www.stewardcr.org. They can also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (707) 869-9177.