May 012023

Helping at the Wildlife Fair

by Nancy Kirwan

There is deep concern for the piecemeal approach that is requiring enormous effort on the part of the residents of and communities surrounding Sonoma Mountain to protect local open space and to sustain the wildlife corridor. There are interconnected watersheds, fragile habitats, and enormous beauty. Whenever a piece of land is developed in these areas, they are put at risk of land, water, and air pollution, increased fire risk, disruption of natural ecosystems, and the degradation of the natural environment.

After working on the book, Where the World Begins, it occurred to Sonoma Mountain Preservation (SMP) that looking at Sonoma Mountain as a whole rather than as its constituent parts might help us to come up with an effective method for protecting it as a bulwark against climate change and urban sprawl. We have been discussing the idea of a wildlife zone that would encompass the entire Mountain and set permanent standards regarding development. The idea of a conference connecting all the constituent environmental organizations that work on educating about, advocating for, and protecting the corpus of Sonoma Mountain and environs is being considered so that we could figure out the needed terms of such a blanket protection.

As I was mulling how to start pursuing that effort, I was contacted by Deborah Large, the Community Events Coordinator at Jack London State Historic Park (JLSHP), and asked about assisting her with a wildlife fair at JLSHP. I literally jumped at the chance. It is not a conference, but I saw it as an opportunity to have SMP work with JLSHP on bringing those same organizations together in an informal gathering that will be educating the public about Sonoma Mountain and the wildlife thereon while it connects the organizations in a common effort. Preliminary steps to a long-term goal.

Through contacts made during SMP’s advocacy work on protecting Sonoma Mountain and educating the public on its attributes over the last six years, I was able to reach out to a couple of dozen organizations, asking them if they’d be interested in participating.  The thrust of the solicitation was to thank each organization for all the work they had done in their particular area of expertise and to ask if they would like to share that expertise at a Wildlife Fair. LandPaths responded by saying, “This sounds like a fantastic event for sharing with the community the opportunities we have for them to get outside and about our mission to foster the love of the land in Sonoma County.”

We are thrilled to be bringing together over a dozen leading Bay Area nature, environmental, and rescue organizations who will be providing information and hands-on activities about local wildlife, challenges to survival, and ways that we can all successfully coexist. John McCaull of Sonoma Land Trust said that he is “really psyched about this event,” generously pledged SLT’s support for it and agreed to be Master of Ceremonies for the oral presentations!

The Fair includes educational booths, kids’ activities, a photo gallery of photos taken by local photographers, and participating organizations and speakers. There will be birds from the Bird Rescue Center, Activities about Our Wild Neighbors, and some booths will have video from trail cameras or slide shows of local wildlife captured on camera. John McCaull will give an introduction to Wildlife Corridors. Arthur Dawson will address what he has learned from indigenous elders. Eric Metz will be speaking about the wildlife he has encountered in the JLSHP. Quinton Martins will share his experiences with local mountain lions. Wendy Hayes will discuss living with black bears as they move back into the environs of Sonoma Valley, and John Roney will share what Sugarloaf has learned about fire and wildlife.

The Fair is free to all, though a parking fee of $10 or a state parks pass is required. As part of JLSHP’s free pass program, La Luz, Mentoring, Boys’ and Girls’ Club, and St. Leo’s are all being encouraged to distribute free parking passes for the day of the Fair to their families.

I can’t wait to see how all these organizations are working to support and protect the wildlife and wildlands on and around Sonoma Mountain. See you there!!!

Nancy Kirwan
Sonoma Mountain Preservation

Sep 022022

The Life and Times of Nancy Evers Kirwan

This is the second of a series of monthly interviews we are conducting with the Sonoma Mountain Preservation board members. 

Nancy Evers Kirwan is a native of the Bay Area. She currently lives at the base of Sonoma Mountain on property owned by her family since 1956. After studying attending UC Santa Cruz and then law at Hastings, Nancy practiced law in San Francisco for ten years. She then moved to Los Angeles for 35 years, where she attended UCLA and worked as a landscape architect for 35 years while volunteering her time in programs that support hospitalized and at-risk kids. Finally, she returned to her childhood property at the foot of Sonoma Mountain, determined to be active in the environmental arena. She joined the SMP board at the request of Pat Eliot toward the end of her life. Nancy currently serves as board secretary and does outreach. 

What is your relationship with Sonoma Mountain?

My family has had property at the base of Sonoma Mountain since 1956, which they bought from the Van Hoosears of the Van Hoosear Wildflower Preserve. My parents built a house there, which was finished in 1960. That’s where I live now. 

I was nine when the house was finished. We spent summers and most weekends away from the city in our Sonoma refuge. Sonoma Mountain was always my escape valve. My contact with the natural world. My place to dream and imagine. Climb trees, run in the field, ride up over the mountain. It made me who I am. It gave me independence. 

What drew you to join the SMP board? 

I became a member of Sonoma Mountain Preservation because Pat Eliot asked me to. Pat Eliot was a good friend of my mother’s, and later to me. She had been extraordinarily nice to my mother as she was dying, a favor that can never be repaid. So, I attended a meeting or two, and then I was voted in. 

What do you do for Sonoma Mountain Preservation?

I am the board secretary and part of the Outreach Committee. I’m interested in expanding our base of operation to be more inclusive of younger people, people from various backgrounds and with different points of view.  

I am also in charge of our booth at the annual Glen Ellen Village Fair, and I have been active in the SDC battle: making reports, writing letters, attending meetings, and making comments. 

What other Community Organizations and projects do you work on? 

I am on the Board of Sonoma Plein Air and the volunteer coordinator for the Plein Air Art Festival. I am on the Advisory Boards of the Garden Park and Jack London Historic Park, and I am Secretary of the board of the Grove Street Fire Safe Council. And I am also a Steward of the Sonoma Overlook Trail and on the Leadership Council/Circle for the Sonoma Ecology Center. I get around and I love what I do. 

What do you do when you aren’t working with the organizations? 

I work in my garden, cook delicious meals, hike, play pickleball, read, and walk with friends. We used to fish a lot, but that has been fewer and farther apart recently due to a number of factors. 

What would you like to see in the future for Sonoma Mountain? 

I would like to see the majority of the Mountain as protected open space with numerous access points and a fair number of trails without formal public control. Like the walking trails in England and Europe. It would be good if it were a link in the Bay Area Ridge Trail. 

What are your best memories of Sonoma Mountain? 

My favorite recent memories of Sonoma Mountain are the New Year’s Day hikes that we do at SMP, to greet the new year.

As a girl, I used to ride up through the George Ranch and the Anderson Ranch to the top of the ridge and look down on Petaluma. Unfortunately, that is no longer possible. As an adult, we bushwhacked into the falls. They are wonderfully impressive. 

Truly, growing up with trees to climb, the mountain to explore, and fields to play in was a significant factor in my decision to follow my heart and leave law and go into landscape architecture. 

Interview conducted by Soneile Hymn. This interview has been edited for clarity and readability.