Friends of the
Mark West Watershed

A watershed community dedicated to preserving, protecting, and restoring the Mark West Creek and its watershed as a natural and community resource.

 *** Next FMWW General Meeting is a placeholder scheduled for June 20th, 2024. 6:30 PM if needed, Otherwise, next meeting is August 29th 6:30PM - Location TBA - Come meet watershed neighbors!

We got the grant! Great news for our watershed community! Members of our Upper Mark West Fire Safe Council and the Sonoma RCD worked tirelessly to get the paperwork submitted and gather landowner permissions. It paid off - to the tune of over $515,000! We will be able to help provide 100 feet of defensible space to over 55 homes, maintain an important fire break, and provide community workshops on defensible space and fire-resilient landscaping. We are so happy that this work can begin. Hold onto your hats, because we will be implementing these projects soon! County press release here:

The proposed Ordinance Updates and General Plan Amendment, along with recommended changes from the Planning Commission, are going to the Board of Supervisors for a final decision Tuesday, May 18th, 8:30AM. Meeting documents and information on how to join are found here. Many of us will be watching closely to see what the board decides.

FMWW submitted the following letter to be included in the public comments. FMWW comment letter (4 MB)

In addition, Shute, Mihaly, & Weinberger, a law firm specializing in environmental law, submitted the  following on behalf of FMWW:

UPDATE - 5/18/21 - The Board voted unanimously to approve moving forward on a full EIR. A few Board members even apologized for not having started this sooner, and for taking up a great deal of staff time and energy, along with that of the public, on something that did not have a solid enough legal basis to move forward. 


They voted further to not approve any of the recommendations moving forward (chapter 38, updates to chapter 26, or the general plan amendment). So, the ordinance will stay as it is until the EIR determines what changes should be made.


They are planning to work expeditiously on identifying the full scope of the project and then beginning the long-awaited public process of evaluating fully all the impacts and discussing each item in depth throughout at fully public and transparent process. FMWW absolutely plans to be involved in the EIR development and we hope to see many of our neighbors there as well. 


More details to come. But for now, kudos to everyone that helped to advocate for a closer look at the impacts of new uses in the proposed updates. And special thanks to our generous donors who helped to support payments to the law firm that so clearly laid out the failure of County staff to follow what is required by law. We could still use some more donations to help offset the costs, so please consider donating if you are happy with the results of our efforts! Details below on how to contribute.

Help support our efforts by contributing to FMWW to help offset payments for legal and scientific experts working on behalf of FMWW. As you can see from our lawyers’ previous analysis of the 2018 Part 1 Update, this is an in-depth legal and scientific undertaking, costing tens of thousands of dollars. A single FMWW member has generously underwritten these costs to date. We strongly encourage you to donate to this effort to protect water sustainability in our watershed. You can make PayPal donations directly to FMWW; or to have 100% of your donation go to this effort (avoiding PayPal’s 3% fee), you can mail a check payable to “FMWW” ℅ Bill Blake, FMWW Treasurer, 6985 Saint Helena Rd, Santa Rosa, CA 95404-9696. Earmark your donation as “Part 2 Cannabis Ord. Analysis.”

Property Owner Approval Form SoCo Veg Mgmt Grant 5-5-21 .pdf
property owner letter SoCo Veg Mgmt Grant 5-5-21 .pdf

Landowner Letter

Approval Form (download, fill out, and email to


Upper Mark West Fire Safe Council

Sonoma County  has proposed updates to the Cannabis Ordinance and a General Plan Amendment that FMWW  believes will have significant new impacts on water quality and water quantity in the Mark West  Watershed. FMWW submitted the following statement at the Planning Commission Hearing on March 18,  2021. The hearing was continued to March 25, 2021, and continued again to April 15, 2021.

Shute, Mihaly, & Weinberger, a law firm specializing in environmental law, submitted the following on behalf of FMWW:

Priorities for Sonoma County's Wildfire Settlement Vegetation Management Funds

This report, done by the Center for Law, Energy   and the Environment (UC Berkeley) at the request of the County, specifically mentions the Mark West Watershed and the Tubbs/Glass Fire corridor as high-risk areas (included in their priority recommendations for funding).

Results are in! Our Mark West Water Availability Study

Prepared by O'Connor Environmental, Inc, in partnership with  Sonoma Resource Conservation District, Coast Range Watershed Institute, and FMWW.

Read the study highlights here.

Or, download the full report (12MB PDF) here.

From the highlights:

This study was conducted to help us better understand streamflow dynamics in the Mark West Watershed, and to identify how we can improve streamflow for the benefit of fish, people, and overall ecosystem function. The study is focused on the upper 40 square miles of the watershed in the hills above the Santa Rosa Plain. We chose this area because of its importance for endangered coho salmon; it has been identified as a core area for protection and restoration by multiple national fisheries agencies.

We learned about the watershed and its streamflow conditions by developing a complex hydrologic model. The model was developed by incorporating existing data on topography, geology, vegetative cover, and climate, and then calibrated using real-time data collected from stream gauges and groundwater wells in the watershed. 

This model covered a 10-year study period (2009-2019) and provides us information on the availability of streamflow throughout the watershed and the year, how that might be impacted by climate change, and how streamflow conditions intersect with habitat conditions for fish. 

The model also allows us to test out different conservation project scenarios, helping us to understand what types of projects will  provide the greatest benefits for streamflow and fish.

Fire Recovery Guide from
CA Native Plant Society

The California Native Plant Society (CNPS) offers a Fire Recovery Guide for private landowners affected by the October fires.

In the wake of previous fires, CNPS realized that no one guide brought together the best science in a practical way for landowners desperate for information to help their land recover.

In response, CNPS developed this beautiful, informative guide in collaboration with a number of partners, including many members of the Collaborative.

The resulting book includes topics such as Frequently Asked Questions, Dos and Don’ts, Care and Recovery, Erosion Control, Fire Preparedness, Seeding, Helpful decision trees, and more.

The Guide is available online at and a limited number of free paper copies are available by request through the CNPS website.

Please share with others in your network who will benefit from this resource.

Preparing for the next wildfire

The Glass Fire was a nightmare for all of us

We want to do whatever we can to better prepare our homes, land and roads before the next firestorm occurs.

The Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP) will help us to achieve these goals.

Our final CWPP (linked here, minus final signatures):

• Compiles an assessment and prioritization for fuel reduction projects in the watershed.

• Educates landowners about best materials and practices to harden structures and improve defensible space.

• Develops our relationships with neighbors, Rincon Valley Fire Station, CalFIRE officials, and others.

• Makes us eligible to apply for grants from state and federal programs to get the fuel reduction work done.

Expert presentations from Living with Fire

These expert presentations, and a selection of live videos produced by KRCB Northern California Public Media, are now available online. A proceedings document with presentation highlights and photos from the symposium and field trips are also now available. Here are some examples:

- Intro to fire ecology by Dr. Scott Stephens of UC Berkeley's Stephens Lab for fire science

- Creating defensible space by Ben Nicholls, CAL FIRE's pre-fire division chief for Sonoma, Lake and Napa counties

- Home design and retrofitting techniques for wildfire defense by Yana Valachovic, of UC Cooperative Extension

- Meteorology and weather associated with extreme wildfire, by Dr. Craig Clements of San Jose State University

Access these presentations and more at

Additional information specific to Living with Fire in the Mark West Watershed.

Legal & Scientific Support for Major Revisions to Cannabis Ordinance

The law firm of Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger provided legal and scientific support for major changes to the existing Sonoma County Cannabis Ordinance.

Download the letter (22MB) with appendices.

FMWW Proposes an Cannabis Exclusionary Zone for Mark West Watershed

Please see FMWW’s attached letter regarding the amendments to the cannabis ordinance, which is on the agenda for the August 7th Sonoma County Board of Supervisors meeting.

The Supervisors will be considering amendments that would allow for exclusion zoning districts to be created where cannabis cultivation would not be allowed.

The criteria for such districts include such factors as inadequate road access, potential detriment to residential character, significant fire hazard areas, and/or areas with sensitive biotic resources or significant environmental sensitivity.

FMWW is advocating for the Supervisors to add language to the ordinance that would allow for the creation of exclusion districts, and then immediately move to create an exclusion district for the Mark West Watershed.

Phone Alert System from the
Emergency Preparedness Committee

A joint program of the Alpine Club and the FMWW, the Phone Alert System calls your phone(s) when there is a local emergency that could impact you or your property. For more information, go to our Emergency Preparedness page.

Map of the Upper Mark West Watershed

Here’s a link to an excellent map of the Upper Mark West from the Sonoma Resource Conservation District (RCD), November 20, 2014. (It's a 6.2MB PDF file, suitable for printing at up to 36" x 24".)

As you can see, the map is an aerial photo with:

Source: Sonoma County Ag Preservation & Open Space District. 2014 Aerial Imagery provided by National Ag Imagery Program.

Find your parcel. See how close you are to Protected Lands!

A Concise Introduction to Friends of the Mark West Watershed

Download our FMWW Brochure.

Maacama and Upper Mark West Creek Integrated Watershed Management Plan

Authored by our partners at Sonoma Resource Conservation District (March 2015)

Download here (6.2 MB)

See upcoming events, enjoy photos of the watershed, and join in the conversation.