California’s Wildfires

September 22, 2020

The Usal Fire burned through MLT’s Peter Douglas Trail in 2019

Over the last several weeks, wildfires have again swept across California, leaving a trail of human and ecological devastation in their wake. As with so many Californians, the Mendocino Land Trust has been deeply troubled by the scope of the tragedy unfolding before us. Livelihoods destroyed, communities shattered, ecosystems set back centuries, and lives taken too soon. Wildfires were once a part of the natural rhythm of these lands, playing a critical role in cycles of regeneration and renewal across the landscape. However, generations of fire suppression and unchecked climate change have unleashed infernos of greater intensity and regularity than ever before. 


As brave women and men continue to fight blazes across the state, it is not too soon to start learning the lessons of this cataclysm. Indeed, the fires have a great deal to teach us – about the strength of the human spirit, the resilience of our communities, and our relationship to the natural world. This last point, in particular, should inspire introspection and reevaluation going forward. The natural world is not a beast that we can tame and bring to heel, but rather a partner that we must respect and work in concert with. A widespread philosophy of stewardship and conservation, of working with the land to improve ecosystem health and environmental resilience, is the only path to safety for our communities. 


The Mendocino Land Trust is committed to working with landowners to create conservation plans that align with best principles of managing land for ecological flourishing and community safety. We have invested in strategically placed, well-maintained shaded fuel breaks on our Noyo River Redwoods property. We are committed to the fight against climate change, and have taken concrete steps to create green infrastructure countywide with the installation of 13 EV charging stations. None of this is enough. Across the county, state, nation, and world, more must be done to address these issues in a manner that is thoughtful, coordinated, and well-resourced. Time is not on our side.


Many of our supporters have asked about MLT’s Noyo River Redwoods property. At this time, the property has not been affected by the wildfires. The tranquil forest, occasional old-growth behemoths, and sun-soaked meadows are still intact. However, like nearly all of California’s forests, the property remains at risk. The four shaded fuel breaks we have created on the property are defensible spaces, but may not be enough to stop a conflagration of the scale we are seeing in the northeastern part of the county. 


These dire events will not break our human or ecological community – life is nothing if not resilient. However, if we do not take this opportunity to reevaluate our relationship with the natural world, then the cycle of destruction is sure to continue. Our hearts go out to all those who have been affected by the fires. Our thoughts are with you and your families. Finally, we would like to express our deep gratitude and admiration for those heroes who are putting their lives on the line to respond to these wildfires and their victims. Thank you.


If you have questions about our conservation efforts or if you are interested in working with us to protect and conserve your land, please do not hesitate to reach out to