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Petaluma Success Story: Residents and city staff work together to bring regenerative stewardship to the land

Updated: Apr 26

March 18 2024. The Petaluma City Council unanimously approved an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Policy that requires regenerative land management practices on all city-owned property. Concerned citizens (of all ages!) and local environmental organizations including Sonoma SASS, Families Advocating for Chemical and Toxic Safety (FACTS), Madrone Audubon Society, and Sonoma County Conservation Action (SCCA) began working with city staff over 6 years ago to create this plan, that is based on "gold standard" ecosystem-based practices.

Petaluma residents of all ages showed up to speak at city council meetings to advocate for pesticide free land care.

Soil and Sheep

Petaluma was the first city in Sonoma County to issue an official city proclamation granting rights to soil. This new IPM policy works out from this framework with the goal of building healthy ecosystems literally from the ground up. Petaluma is also the first city in Sonoma County to manage all of its open space lands using regenerative grazing practices. Using goats (or sheep) instead of glyphosate to keep wild lands fire safe has had the added benefit of increasing soil fertility and naturally supporting native plant and animal ecosystems.

Sarah Keiser from Wild Oat Hollow and the sheep that help keep Petaluma wild lands tended. Argus Courier, July 6, 2023.

Organic Pesticides Only

Petaluma's IPM specifies that "only organic pesticides may be used". The Petaluma City Council agreed to extend this prohibition to the Rooster Run Golf Course. This is the first time in Sonoma County history that an "organic only" city IPM was extended to include the city-owned golf course. Santa Rosa, Windsor, and Rohnert Park also have policies that exclude synthetic herbicides, but these policies do NOT extend to the golf courses. In Sonoma County, city-owned golf courses are the only places where more dangerous pesticides, such as the honeybee-killing neonicotinoid insecticides are still used for cosmetic purposes. The plan does allow for an exemption process if an emergency arrises that impacts public health or infrastructure. The city will hire a IPM Coordinator to manage the plan so that exemptions are fully vetted before being approved. Examples of cases that may require an exemption are termites in structural components of a building or a large tree that needs help fighting a beetle infestation.

Collaboration and Communication

Local citizens who have been working with the city for the past 6 years on this plan cite collaboration and communication with city staff as the main key for success. Petaluma city staff have seen huge cuts in budget and personnel since the 2007 economic downturn. Despite shortages in funding and manpower, city staff have been doing their best to manage public lands without synthetic pesticides even though they were not required to do so. At the March 18th City Council meeting, it was important to residents that city staff received the credit they deserved and a promise for more funding for staff in the future.


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