APRIL 6, 2023 | Charles Krug Winery, Carriage House

Living Room Salon:
The Inextricable Links Between Forest Health, Water, Fire & Climate Change

living room Salon

Regional megafires have prompted intensive work to reduce forest fire risk, and recovery is ongoing. But what role do healthy forests play in groundwater recharge and heated debates about groundwater sustainability? How can fire fuel thinning and removing invasives help forests better survive fires, keeping trees alive and storing carbon? How can we make proactive forest management on private lands financially feasible, to reduce risk, protect carbon stores, and create a healthier watershed?

During this Salon conversation Dr. Tosha Comendant, Conservation Science Director with the Pepperwood Preserve, will share their work and research on forest stewardship, restoration, and fire recovery and the results they’ve seen for the water cycle. Chris Ott, Environmental Director for the Dry Creek Rancheria Band of Pomo Indians, will share their innovative forest fire recovery project, which has dramatically reduced treatment time and costs, and initial results for soil moisture, stream recharge, and unexpected benefits like suppressing invasives.


Sarah Keiser

Chief executive officer at wild oat hollow

Sarah Keiser is an innovative community builder. Through her vision and leadership, she develops and implements community grazing cooperatives, collaborative land stewardship for more resilient communities.

Under the banner Wild Oat Hollow, LLC, Sarah’s community-based, sustainable land stewarding concepts empower private landowners and public entities with the skills and support to use grazing ruminants, planned burns and community education to steward their land and commons to a healthy fire ecosystem.

As we continue to see large, annual wildfires in California and throughout the west, Sarah has expanded her collaboration to policy makers, fire marshals, Cafire and Indigenous Fire Ecologists to build out regional land stewardship projects.


Tosha Comendant, PhD


Dr. Comendant is a conservation scientist with over 15 years experience developing innovative methods, visualization tools, databases, and science-based solutions that increase knowledge-transfer, enhance stakeholder engagement, and inform natural resource management decisions. She is a Napa Valley native and completed her doctorate in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at UC Santa Cruz.  She joined Pepperwood as the Conservation Science Manager in 2017 where she conducts and manages complex research projects, supports monitoring and restoration initiatives, and cultivates impactful cross-sector partnerships.  Additionally, she serves on the boards of the Napa Valley Watershed Information and Conservation Council, the Society for Conservation GIS, and the Steering Committee of  the Conserved Lands Network Science Expansion.


Christopher Ott, PE, QSD, QISP

Chief Executive Officer, Eaton Drilling

Mr. Ott is currently the CEO of Eaton Drilling Co LLC overseeing the transformation of the company from solely extraction based to a total water management company respecting the full water cycle. Previously, Mr. Ott managed Public Works and Environmental planning activities for the Dry Creek Rancheria. He developed and managed projects to restore both aquatic and terrestrial habitats for endangered species in the Russian River watershed. These activities have included projects to facilitate fish passage for migratory salmonids, restoration of riparian habitats and eradication of invasive flora, reduction of forest fuel loads using innovative natural processes in line with Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Methods. He implemented a wildfire mitigation plan that was instrumental in minimizing effects from the Kinkaid Fire and has successfully managed several large-scale grants for planning and implementation including complex permitting of restoration activities. Mr. Ott currently serves on the Technical Advisory Committee for the Northern California Resource Partnership, is involved with the Steering Committee for the Russian River Confluence and manages special projects for the Tribe such as an On-farm Groundwater Recharge project funded through the DWR FloodMAR program.

Patrick Spencer

Founder and Executive Director of the Cork Forest Conservation Alliance

Patrick Spencer received his BS in Environmental Sciences from Central Connecticut State University. He has spent his professional career promoting the “triple bottom line”, a business concept that posits firms should commit to measuring their social and environmental impact—in addition to their financial performance—rather than solely focusing on generating profit. He is the founder and Executive Director of the non-profit organization the, Cork Forest Conservation Alliance, whose primary mission is to preserve and protect the Mediterranean cork forests and their inhabitants. Patrick is currently serving a four-year term on the Forest Stewardship Councils, International Board of Directors, representing the Environmental North Chamber.