Correction: The LandPaths development manager's last name is McMurtry. 

The land preservation nonprofit LandPaths has launched a recovery fund to help support restoration efforts for the large swath of land at the Riddell Preserve in Healdsburg that burned during the Walbridge Fire. 

According to the organization approximately 75% of the 400-acre preserve burned. The preserve, which is located deep in the hills off of Brack Road, is home to Douglas fir, Madrone, oak, redwoods, bay, maple canopies and French Broom, an extremely invasive species. 

As stated in a LandPaths newsletter, through initial observations, flames from the fire crept their way slowly through ground brush, taking the French Broom and Douglas Fir saplings, and stayed out of the crowns of the trees. 

“We are not strangers to fire by any means, but in terms of the real specifics of what it will look like and what will be needed at Riddell, some of that we are (still) figuring out,” said Claire McMurtry, development manager for LandPaths. 

While it appears that the area faced more of a slow moving ground fire — the type of burn that is actually healthy for forests — restoration work will still be required to address sediment runoff concerns, hazard trees and dozer lines. 

“We are going to require restoration efforts that aren’t within our normal scheme of work. The biggest one is the dozer scars. While we are super happy that they were able to use our preserve road infrastructure to build off of to create a containment line, they do scrape it down to bare soil,” said Erin Mulligan, the community care and stewardship manager with LandPaths. 

She noted that there’s about a mile or so of dozer lines in the area from work done by fire crews. 

“The most important thing with these is to make sure that the sediment doesn’t go into the creeks adjacent to the creek systems that drain into West Dry Creek, which drains into the Russian River. Sedimentation is a big problem for our creek systems for a number of reasons but one of the ones people talk about a lot is that it’s not very good for the fish species,” Mulligan said. 

With that said, their first goal is to stabilize the soil so it doesn’t run into the creeks during the first rain of the season. 

“We’ll need restoration materials and things like waddles, mats, netting and potentially straw,” Mulligan said. She added that they are still in the early process of drawing up a restoration plan for the singed and damaged areas. 

They’ll also need to keep an eye out for an emergence of invasive species, like French Broom, a hardy and stubborn little plant that often grows in tall clusters, which creates ideal ladder fuel for wildfires. 

“It’s an invasive species that we have an issue with and it tends to like disturbance so we are going to need to monitor it closely,” Mulligan said.

Since COVID-19 has limited the amount of volunteers that can come out to help with restoration and land management projects, the Riddell recovery fundraising campaign will be key in helping LandPaths complete these vital projects. 

“We have some resources that are always set aside for stewardship and management ongoing for all of our preserves. We have budget funds and community foundation funds for come what may, but this is a slightly larger scale,” McMurtry said. “We are looking to the community, who has always provided copious and generous volunteer support and sweat labor, for those who can contribute.”  

To make a donation to the recovery fund, visit: https://www.landpaths.org/riddell-preserve/

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