February E-News
World Wetlands Day is celebrated each year on the 2nd of February. This international commemoration raises awareness and increases people’s understanding of the critical importance of wetlands and the urgency we face with 90% of the world’s wetlands either degraded or lost.

Wetlands support essential ecosystems and biodiversity. Forty percent of all plant and animal species worldwide live or breed in wetlands. It is up to us to arrest and reverse their rapid loss and encourage actions to restore and conserve these vital ecosystems.
Wherever land meets water, life abounds.
Wetlands exist in every corner of this beautiful planet
and are the arteries and veins of the landscape.
Majestic and mighty, wetlands are a sight to behold.
~ Dr. Musonda Mumba, Secretary General of the Convention on Wetlands
Wetlands are rich in nature and vital to human life. In the heart of Sonoma County, the Laguna de Santa Rosa wetlands complex is a vast array of seasonal and perennial freshwater wetlands. Within this ecosystem, you’ll find creeks, ponds, marshes, vernal pools and swales, floodplains, riparian forests, oak woodlands, and grasslands.

The Laguna de Santa Rosa represents many things to many people. For California Native peoples whose ancestors have lived here for thousands of years, they see a lush garden full of materials for basket-weaving, an abundant pharmacy, and even an entire kitchen pantry where they can gather culturally important materials, a variety of food, and critical medicines. For other people, wetlands represent a wild oasis where they can observe and enjoy native wildflowers and wildlife for their aesthetic beauty. For our entire community, wetlands represent freshwater sources and buffers against flooding.

The Laguna de Santa Rosa is a globally significant ecosystem, one of only 41 sites in the nation (just seven in California!) to receive the United Nations Convention of Wetlands’ unique distinction as a Wetland of International Importance. World Wetlands Day is an excellent opportunity for all of us to rethink and change how humans impact the environment - and a chance to mobilize others to restore vital ecosystems like wetlands.
By today’s industrialized standards, our wetland complex may seem expansive, but it is a mere remnant of a once vast expanse that formed from the streams flowing from the Mayacamas and Sonoma Mountains in the east to the Gold Ridge in the west and encompassed the broad flat Santa Rosa Plain, making it imperative to protect and enhance what remains. The Laguna Foundation and its many partners are working to restore and conserve this delicate ecosystem.

We hope you enjoy this month’s newsletter and will consider a gift today to aid in the restoration of our vital wetland landscape.
The Gift of Rain
Have you wondered what the January rainstorms meant for the local environment, parched from years of drought? KRCB’s Noah Abrams recently interviewed Marcus Trotta of Sonoma Water (read/listen here) about drought conditions and groundwater supplies; in shortit’s complicated!

Precipitation can fill surface water bodies directly and is essential for the existence of the unique vernal pool ecosystem of the Santa Rosa Plain. Rain running off from surrounding lands fills the creeks and, in turn, the Laguna de Santa Rosa, ultimately flowing into the Russian River. Rainfall is also absorbed and used by plants and soaks into the soil, sometimes recharging the groundwater, depending on soil types and underlying geology. You can learn more about local agency efforts to manage groundwater resources from the Sonoma County Groundwater Sustainability Agencies website and about current water supply levels and water conservation efforts on the Sonoma Water website.

Continue reading below to learn the latest updates about our work to restore riparian forests and wetlands and conserved vernal pool habitats to sustain its rich diversity of wildlife and plants—work that is essential no matter the amount of rain. 
Camp Tule Registration Opens March 1st
We can’t wait to see your campers this summer! Our camp leadership team is already busy planning exciting games, special crafts, and lively activities that will teach children about the natural world of the Laguna and help them make friends with each other, plants, and animals alike. We always add meaningful art projects that celebrate the Laguna as we tap into the special creative and expressive space inside each child. Our beautiful location at the Laguna Environmental Center in Santa Rosa is the home base for exploring nature with our senses and delighting in all the surprises we find along the trails to the Laguna de Santa Rosa. Now is the time to make plans for the young explorer in your life to come enjoy summer along the Laguna.
There are four, five-day sessions to choose from. Each camp day runs from 9:00 am - 3:00 pm. Tuition is $325.00. Scholarships are available.

       Session 1: June 26-30 for ages 6-9
       Session 2: July 10-14 for ages 6-9
       Session 3: July 17-21 also for 6-9
       Session 4: July 24-28 for ages 10-12

Registration opens on March 1. We have adopted a new registration platform to make the process both effective and efficient. You will be required to fill in the health forms, authorizations, and liability waivers as part of the registration process. Make sure you have your child’s details at your fingertips and plan to spend about 15 minutes with registration. Details and registration links are located on the Camp Tule webpage.
Volunteer Spotlight
An Interview with Marna McKenzie
Volunteers provide invaluable support to staff and help maintain and manage the Laguna Environmental Center. We recently sat down with longtime volunteer, Marna McKenzie, and asked if she would share a little bit about herself with our readers. This is what Marna told us:

Tell us a little bit about yourself.
In late 2014, I moved to Sebastopol from Santa Fe, NM, to be within hugging distance of my family. While in Santa Fe, I loved roaming the Bosque Del Apache on the Rio Grande River. So when I drove on Occidental Road, I noticed signs of Laguna de Santa Rosa. Could this also be a bird flyway? I attended a couple of forums and lectures and YES! It was a bird flyway and much more!
How long have you been volunteering for the Laguna de Santa Rosa Foundation?
In spring 2015, I signed up for the Docent training, and the world of the Laguna opened up before me! We studied botany, biology, and hydrology, led by the excellent staff, and I made new friends! In the next season, I went on to take the Laguna Guides training. By spring 2016, I was a Laguna Guide on bird walks, trips to vernal pools, sloshing through the headwaters in Cotati, and hosting events in Heron Hall.
What’s your favorite thing about volunteering with us?
I love my work with the Laguna! It’s learning, and it’s helping. The Laguna is connected with people, organizations, and groups that care about our life as a community and in the world. The amazing young adults that provide leadership, work, and vision give me great hope. And this old codger has friends of all ages!
Spring Naturalist Series Part I of IV
Under the Surface: Birds Bones & Skeletons with David Lukas
Friday, February 24, 2023. 5:00pm – 6:30pm
Location: Webinar
$10-$25 Donation. Pre-registration required.

Did you ever wonder how many bones are in a bird’s wing? How do their feet assist in take-off and landing? Or how their skeletal structure helps them fly?

In part one of a four-part series of talks on bird biology, we will learn about skulls, beaks, eyes, wings, legs, and feet, and the unique features of a bird skeleton, while discussing how each feature helps birds adapt to and move in their environments. Most of these features are hidden under feathers, yet bird bones and skeletons shape every aspect of what we see when we watch birds. If you’ve ever considered questions like these or are intrigued to find these and other answers to bird anatomy, this webinar is for you!
Coiled Straw Basket with Charlie Kennard
Sunday, February 26, 2023. 9:30am–3:30pm
Location: Laguna Environmental Center

For this workshop, we will use native deer grass (Muhlenbergia rigens), or rush (Juncus), as the foundation for the beginning of a bowl-shaped basket suitable for holding fruit or for dough-rising. Participants with strong hands will have the option to start a skep (grass beehive) using a roadside grass and binding cane!
Creative Landscape Photography
2-Day Workshop with Jerry Dodrill
Friday, March 3, 2023. 9:00am – 5:30pm.
Saturday, March 4, 2023. 7:00am – 3:30pm
Location: Laguna Environmental Center

Take your landscape photography to the next level using the Laguna landscape as inspiration with professional local photographer Jerry Dodrill! During this in-depth photography workshop, you will learn the tools, strategies, and techniques that Jerry uses for creating evocative images which tell the story of our natural world.
Merlin Arborist Group to the Rescue!
We are extending a heartfelt thank you to Merlin Schlumberger and his Merlin Arborist Group for a pro bono emergency procedure on one of the heritage black oaks at Cunningham Marsh. We are deeply grateful to Merlin for donating his time, expertise, and crew.

Black oaks in Cunningham Marsh are a key component of the Pitkin Marsh lily habitat and the canopy of this particular oak shades the most abundant population of the endangered lily within the marsh. In early August this past year, Laguna Foundation Preserve Manager, Asa Voight, noticed a slight crack beginning to open on this heritage tree. On a subsequent visit in early October, it was obvious that the crack was rapidly worsening.
In the wild, oaks commonly lose branches and are able to heal their injuries. These breaks, over time, can create cavities that serve as wildlife habitats and do not threaten the health of the tree. However, in this instance, the location of the crackdiving vertically from the limb, deep into the main trunk of the treecombined with the size of the fracture, would ultimately greatly reduce the life expectancy of this tree. We have seen other lily habitats negatively impacted by the sudden loss of oak canopy, as the non-native invasive velvet grass can rapidly colonize without the cooling shade provided by oak trees. Asa realized immediate action needed to take place to minimize injury and prolong the life of the tree.
Merlin Schlumberger quickly responded to the SOS message, and after viewing the tree and learning of the importance of the black oaks within the Pitkin lily habitat, Merlin took the step of rescheduling his other work, even though this was a volunteer project. Merlin’s team arrived en masse to trim branches in order to reduce the amount of weight on certain limbs and cabled the unstable limb to a healthier one. Thanks to Asa’s discerning eye, and the quick, life-saving work performed by Merlin Arborist Group, this majestic oak has the best possible opportunity to continue sheltering the Pitkin lily population for many years.
Kira Appreciation
Kira Rowan was a restoration technician extraordinaire with the Laguna Foundation for a year and a half. During her time with us, she planted trees, helped our team construct a hoop house for our native plant nursery, contributed greatly to our work to conserve endangered species, and was invaluable to the propagation of plants in our nursery. Driven by her commitment to land stewardship and a positive and upbeat demeanor, Kira proved to be an excellent team member and was always wonderful to work with. While we are all sad to see Kira go, we look forward to seeing her continue to build her skills as an apprentice with Fire Forward. You will always have our best wishes, Kira!
Visit Us
The Laguna Environmental Center remains open by appointment to see the gallery and grounds during the weekdays, by contacting Maggie Hart.
Our office will be closed on Monday, February 20th to observe President's Day.