This blog is part of our Choose Nature series, where we offer behind-the-scenes content that explores a central question in conservation: why did “choosing nature” feel like the fulfilling and right thing to do? All footage and interviews were conducted by Kate Remsen.

Thank you, Thea, for your dedication to the land and community.

 

Meet Thea Maria Carlson: Earth steward and intentional community member

Farmer. Facilitator. Leader. Earth Steward. Thea is also part of an intergenerational intentional community called Monan’s Rill, which is located on Wappo land in eastern Sonoma County. In the summer of 2019, the Fire Forward team partnered with people who live at Monan's Rill to lead a six-acre prescribed burn of understory vegetation in mixed Douglas fir and tan oak woodland. The burn followed eight years of understory clearing and tree thinning done by hand on a weekly basis by Rick Kavinoky, another member of the “Rill.” Early on, Rick recognized early on the need to reintroduce frequent low intensity fires to the land.

Seeing how the prescribed burn unit fared so well in the wildfire was a defining moment for Thea.

“I just knew I needed to pursue putting good fire on the land. So, I signed up—a week after the wildfire—for the Wildland Firefighter and Firelighter Training through Fire Forward.”

Since completing the training in March 2021, Thea has participated in several prescribed burns at Audubon Canyon Ranch and on other lands throughout Sonoma County with the Good Fire alliance, building skills and relationships and contributing to ecosystem restoration and community safety.

  • Heart-shaped core of tree
  • Monan's Rill hillside during prescribed burn
  • Monan's Rill hillside hours after a prescribed burn in 2019
  • Person with a chainsaw cutting a fallen fir tree
  • Person with chainsaw cutting down a tree

Stewarding with fire: how prescribed burns help protect the land from larger, hotter fires

As a member of Monan’s Rill, Thea co-stewards 414 acres. Prior to 2020, much of that land was dense with manzanitas. With the lens of fire stewardship, Thea’s approach to land stewardship has shifted, especially as it relates to controlled burns.

“In a lot of our oak woodlands, we had overgrowth in manzanita,” Thea explains. “Manzanita burned very hot in the fire and it killed a lot of oaks,” referring to the damage from the 2020 Glass Fire.

Carlson is quite busy these days

“Now we are cutting, piling, and burning the dead manzanita and other dead trees so that they are not fuel for the next wildfire.” This transition to remove burned trees with a chainsaw was not an easy one for Thea. With additional during our Wildland Fire Chainsaws course, she became confident enough to begin felling trees and cutting brush back at Monan’s Rill.

“One of the first trees I cut down when I came back to the land here, actually the first tree I cut during the training, also, had a heart shape when I cut it down,” Thea says with a soft smile.

“It felt like a message from the land that this was something that is important to do, and it is an act of love.”

With guidance and support from Fire Forward, Thea and other members of Monan’s Rill also plan to conduct periodic broadcast prescribed burns on most of the 414 acres they co-steward moving forward, to support ecological health and protect the community from future wildfires.

For the complete interview, please watch Why Thea Maria Carlson Chose Nature Thank you for your time to read this blog, and celebrate nature and community with us.