Mayacamas Sanctuary

The Mayacamas Mountains Sanctuary

The MMAS Steering Committee was formed in the 1990's to administer the Mayacamas sanctuary for the National Audubon Society. California Audubon and Madrone Audubon worked together to oversee the property through 2012. It is now owned and managed by Audubon Canyon Ranch.

Walks and Access Orientations

For information on Walks led by Audubon Canyon Ranch's Naturalist Dave Self, please go to our Mayacamas Sanctuary Activities page.

The Mayacamas Mountains Sanctuary: A History and An Update

Mayacamas Mountain Sanctuary

Mayacamas Mountain Sanctuary. Photo by David Self.

From Madrone Leaves Volume 45, Number 7, Summer 2012

On a recent Sunday fellow photographer Craig Tooley and I led a nature photography walk on the Mayacamas Sanctuary. It was a clear spring day, just the right temperature, birds were staking out their territories by singing and the wildflowers were magnificent. As we admired the incredible view from Horse Trough Springs, I thought about the many changes that have occurred at the Mayacamas Sanctuary over the past 18 years… and those ahead.

In 1994 the owner of these 1350 acres, known as the McCord ranch, reached an agreement with the Sonoma County Open Space District to restrict development through a “Forever Wild” conservation easement. Shortly thereafter the land was donated to National Audubon Society (NAS). Unfortunately, monies associated with the “Forever Wild” easement did not transfer to Audubon and the Mayacamas Sanctuary had no active management resources. Madrone Audubon stepped up to the challenge and provided leadership, including outdoor programs for the public as well as a number of nesting bird surveys in various habitats.

Mayacamas Mountain Sanctuary

Lupines at the Mayacamas Mountain Sanctuary. Photo by David Self.

In the late 1990’s the city of Santa Rosa constructed a 40-mile pipeline from Santa Rosa to the Geysers to provide treated wastewater to revitalize the steam field generating electricity. That pipeline, as well as the older tall PG&E transmission towers, crosses the Sanctuary. Construction was limited to June through October to avoid the nesting season for birds and the winter rainy season. During construction phase a number of concerns were addressed, including safety issues (added pullouts on the road) and damage to the environment along Pine Flat Road by offroad vehicles (discouraged by placing rock barriers). Madrone members monitored the construction of the pipeline through the sanctuary especially to preserve rare plants in close proximity to the pipeline. The pipeline was completed in 2001 and is operated by the City of Santa Rosa.

In September 2004 a major wildfire burned significant portions of the Sanctuary and the adjacent Modini Ranch. Seven and a half years later we can see the new growth of madrone, manzanita and pines. In a recent court decision, some funds were provided to eliminate invasive plant species and restore habitat in the affected areas.

National Audubon’s strategic plans changed over those years and they decided to divest the Mayacamas Sanctuary. Negotiations with Audubon Canyon Ranch (ACR) began about three years ago. In the interim period, ACR has managed the Mayacamas Sanctuary under a Memorandum of Agreement. In May of this year the donation agreement between ACR and NAS was completed.

Currently ACR manages the Martin Griffin Preserve in Bolinas, the Cypress Grove research center on Tomales Bay and the Bouverie Preserve in Glen Ellen. A major activity at the Martin Griffin and Bouverie Preserves centers around environmental education for 3rd and 4th graders and continuing nature education for older students (Juniper Program at Bouverie). Docent opportunities and other adult programs are a great way to learn more about nature and help us and our children connect to the natural world.

In 2010 Jim and Shirley Modini decided to gift their ranch to ACR. It is one of the most pristine sites in Sonoma County. ACR is committed to carrying out the Modinis’ dream to protect their ranch in perpetuity. The Modini ranch and the Mayacamas Sanctuary share a long contiguous border and together they provide a unique wildlife corridor in northeastern Sonoma County.

Mayacamas Mountain Sanctuary

St. Helena view, Mayacamas Mountain Sanctuary. Photo by David Self.

ACR is reenergizing various volunteer land management and restoration projects on the Mayacamas Sanctuary. If you are interested in participating in these projects, call Sherri Adams of ACR at 415-868-9244.

So things are certainly changing at the Mayacamas Sanctuary. Come out and join us in one of Sonoma County’s special natural areas.

—Article by Bryant Hichwa

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