compost workshop 2020On February 28, 2020 the Resource Conservation District concluded a four year grant funded by a US EPA Clean Water Grant through an agreement with the State Water Resource Control Board. The monies were used to implement the Livestock and Land program, which was started in Santa Cruz County by local conservation districts and NGO’s as a way to work affect positive changes to water quality concerns from livestock facilities. This round of funding targeted small ranches in the Pajaro River Watershed where we work with landowners on a voluntary basis to help reduce the potential of sediments and fecal coliform from entering local waterways.

Trees sillouetteThe Resource Conservation Districts (RCDs) of San Mateo and Santa Cruz Counties have been awarded two grants totaling nearly $5.3 million for a collaborative regional effort to improve the health of local forests, reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire, and mitigate climate change.

The funds will be used to reduce potential wildfire fuel loads over 968 acres of forest, and to reforest 80 acres of private and public lands across the Santa Cruz Mountains. Partners involved in the project include Amah Mutsun Land Trust, Big Creek Lumber, California State Parks, Girl Scouts of Northern California, Peninsula Open Space Trust, San Mateo County Parks, Sempervirens Fund, Save the Redwoods League, and private landowners.

“Forests cross property lines, so collaborative efforts such as these are essential for restoring forest health,” states Lisa Lurie, Executive Director of the RCD of Santa Cruz County. “Through partnership, diverse interests are coming together to work towards common goals of reducing the risks of catastrophic wildfire while helping our forests to thrive.”

Zayante Photo News ArticleStarting next week, the RCD, in partnership with the City of Santa Cruz, the San Lorenzo Valley Water District and the County of Santa Cruz will begin construction of an instream habitat improvement project along approximately one mile of upper Zayante Creek. Since 1994, Zayante Creek consistently has possessed some of the highest juvenile steelhead densities among tributaries of the San Lorenzo River and is currently a priority area for coho recovery. This project will improve conditions for steelhead and coho salmon by reintroducing large cut trees into the creek that will be anchored in place to mimic natural conditions that have been absent due to various activities over the last century. Large wood in the stream is critical for good stream function and creates pools, refuge areas for fish to hide and reduces channel downcutting. The project designs were funded by the California Coastal Conservancy and project construction monies are from a grant by the State Water Resources Control Board and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Please contact the RCD at 831-464-2950 is you have any questions about the project.

Davidson 2008 1The Resource Conservation District of Santa Cruz County (RCD) has been awarded $408,764 from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE). The funds will be used to implement projects that reduce the potential for catastrophic wildfire and fire-related GHG emissions across the County by considerably reducing fuel loads in neighborhoods and along important evacuation routes and fire prevention corridors. The RCD will work with Fire Safe Santa Cruz County and other local Fire Safe Councils to help landowners create and maintain defensible space around homes through community-level fire prevention programs such as neighborhood chipping projects and Home Ignition Zone education workshops. We will also work to reduce ladder fuels and create and maintain strategic shaded fuel breaks across the County to improve ingress/egress route safety in the event of wildfire. "The risk of wildfire is a real threat to both people and the environment in Santa Cruz County," said Lisa Lurie, Executive Director of the Resource Conservation District." "In addition to the tragic loss of life and property, extreme fire can devastate the natural infrastructure that we depend upon for drinking water, clean air and healthy soil."

The funds are part of over $43 million to support 66 local fire prevention projects across the State. As California continues to take measures to prevent damaging wildfires, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) announced that “As our crews are busy right now performing fuel reduction work and conducting defensible space inspections, funding these projects will add significant fire prevention efforts to combat California’s severe fire risk,” said Chief Thomas Porter, CAL FIRE director and California’s state forester.

The Fire Prevention Grants will enable local organizations like fire safe councils, to implement activities that address the risk of wildfire and reduce wildfire potential to communities. The funded projects all meet the goals and objectives of California’s Strategic Fire Plan adopted in 2018, as well as the recommendations of CAL FIRE’s “Community Wildfire Prevention & Mitigation Report” to Governor Gavin Newsom submitted in April 2019.

by Angie Gruys, Resource Conservation District of Santa Cruz County

The Livestock and Land program, managed locally by the Loma Prieta and San Benito, and Santa Cruz Resource Conservation Districts (RCD’s), is offering $175,000 in grants to local livestock owners in southern Santa Clara and Santa Cruz Counties and most of San Benito County in for properties located in the Pajaro River watershed. The monies will help pay for improvements to livestock and horse properties that need assistance with managing drainage, erosion, stormwater runoff and manure. Applications accepted through June 1, 2019.


The Livestock and Land program was started in Santa Cruz County by local conservation districts and NGO’s as a way to work affect positive changes to water quality concerns from livestock facilities. The program works with residents on a voluntary basis to reduce stormwater runoff by implementing good drainage practices. Past projects have included everything from gutter and downspouts to French drains to manure composting facilities to fencing and more. “The great thing about this program,” explains Dina Iden, Executive Director of the Loma Prieta RCD, “is that the benefits go far beyond water quality improvements to our local creeks and streams. Depending on what upgrades you make, cleaning stalls can get easier, animal health issues can be reduced; maintenance cost can be lowered, your property can be safer, and it may even increase in value. It’s basically a win-win.”  According to Iden, property owners can get up to 50% of the cost of improvements covered by the program. And there may be other federal grants programs that can be combined with this program to cover even more of the cost. The program also offers no-cost technical assistance and project designs. Funding for the program is made possible through an EPA Clean Water Grant and the Regional Water Quality Control Board.

we4withsign 1If you are interested in seeing examples of past projects, visit the program web site at To get an application or find out more about the program call 831-464-2950 x22.  The program also offers educational workshops and hands-on trainings. You can ask to be added to our mailing list if you would to get updates on these opportunities.

Resource Conservation Districts (RCDs) are independent, non-regulatory, special districts of California. Serving local communities through conservation projects funded mainly through grants and private contributions, RCDs are partners in local conservation and agriculture. RCDs help people to protect, conserve, and restore natural resources through education, technical assistance and collaboration with other organizations to achieve results within their districts on public and private land.

by John Warner, USDA Soil Conservationist

photo monitoring1Grassed filter strip between fencing and roadWith all the recent wet weather we’re enjoying, now might be the right time to set up some simple permanent photo monitoring locations at key locations where water runs off your property. You might have some filter strips or other permanent vegetation on the outside of horse paddocks where water can gently overland flow off your property (see picture to the right).

Or you might have some more challenging places where water leaves your property. But in any case, permanent photo monitoring can you give important information that can inform your stormwater runoff management.

photo monitoring 2 resizedPhoto monitoring station location identifiers in Big SurAfter the Soberanes Fire, Big Sur Land Trust set up photo monitoring stations throughout their redwood forest to document vegetation recovery (see picture left).

As you can see, this is really just a simple L bracket mounted on a post that allows you to place your smart phone in exactly the same position every time you take a picture. For horse facilities, these simple photo monitoring stations can be set up on fence posts, or another suitable flat surface, where the L bracket can be mounted. Another advantage of using smartphones to take your monitoring pictures is that these pictures are usually date stamped so it is very easy to document when your picture was taken.

Some suggestions of what to monitor with photographs: Manure management areas, pastures, paddocks, openarenas, riding rings, trails, roads, riparian areas, and more. Depending on the monitoring purpose, photos can be taken during winter rains to show runoff patterns, but also in the summer to show a contrasting view. It is especially valuable to have photos taken from exactly the same spot before and after any water drainage improvements you may undertake. Have fun taking pictures, and you may be surprised at how useful these photos will be in how you manage your property!

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