320 Acres of Oak Woodlands Protected
PLT acquires Taylor Ranch Preserve on Coon Creek
By Jeff Darlington
As the ink dries on this newsletter, the ink is also drying on another important piece of paper … the new deed of title to the Taylor Ranch Preserve at Coon Creek.
Working in partnership with the Trust for Public Land and the Taylor family, Placer Land Trust recently purchased the 320-acre Taylor Ranch Preserve northwest of Auburn. The property contains beautiful oak woodland/savannah and a vibrant stream corridor among rolling hills and a half mile stretch of Coon Creek.
“Once again a successful collaboration and true partnership effort has resulted in the permanent protection of a large Placer County ranch property,” said PLT President Fred Yeager. “The spectacular natural setting will be of value to the residents of the County forever. Our most sincere thanks to all of our partners in this effort.”
The property was acquired with funds from California Wildlife Foundation, Placer County, and the State of California.
“The California Wildlife Foundation is pleased to support the outstanding oak woodland conservation taking place in Placer County,” said Ellen Maldonado, CWF Chairperson. “I thank the landowners and each of the partners who are making this important acquisition possible.”
CWF also provided PLT with planning, transaction, and long-term land and habitat stewardship funding for this project.
Taylor Ranch Preserve is a safe haven for hundreds of wildlife species, including animals such as blacktail deer that migrate north-south across watersheds in the western Sierra Nevada foothills.
The property contains the Nevada Irrigation District’s diversion pond on Coon Creek, beginning the Camp Far West Canal that serves downstream water users in western Placer County. The permanent preservation of the property surrounding the creek, the pond, and the canal significantly protects water quality in the Coon Creek watershed.
In keeping with the habitat management objectives of the Taylor Ranch Preserve – and in keeping with PLT’s mission to preserve agricultural land – PLT will continue the historic and current use of the property as grazing ranchland. Moderate grazing is healthy for oak woodlands.
“I am thrilled that this has come to fruition,” said landowner Susan Taylor. “My parents purchased the land in 1957 because they loved its wonderful oaks, rugged rock formations, beautiful stream, and meadows filled with wildflowers in the spring. I know that they’d be pleased to see the property preserved and remain open land to be enjoyed by generations to come.”
PLT hopes to work with Placer County and neighboring landowners to extend a public trail from the nearby Hidden Falls Regional Park to and through Taylor Ranch Preserve as part of a planned 8-mile public trail from Coon Creek to the Bear River.
PLT also obtained funding for the Taylor Ranch Preserve project from Roseville/Fiddyment Land Venture, from fines imposed by the Regional Water Quality Control Board (Central Valley Region).
PLT members and project supporters will be invited to the Taylor Ranch Preserve dedication ceremony, to be held later this spring (look for an invitation in the mail soon). I hope you’ll be able to come out and see what PLT has accomplished with your support!
PLT Secures Over $4 Million for Oaks and Watersheds
Over the past year, PLT has been hard at work leveraging your membership support and our capacity to solicit grant funds to protect land in Placer County.
Last fall, PLT was awarded $1.4 million by the Sierra Nevada Cascade Conservation Grant Program, administered by the California Resources Agency. These funds were used for the acquisition of the 320-acre Taylor Ranch Preserve, and will also be used to preserve an adjoining 321-acre property, to protect the Coon Creek and Bear River watersheds.
For these same projects, the Wildlife Conservation Board approved grants to PLT totalling nearly $1 million in February, and Placer County awarded PLT $600,000 in March. PLT also received $250,000 from the Caltrans Environmental Enhancement & Mitigation Program in March.
In addition to these significant public grants, PLT has been awarded nearly $1 million from the private California Wildlife Foundation for our oak woodland projects, including funds for long-term stewardship.
Our sincere thanks go out to these agencies and organizations for their support!
From the Board Room
What’s Ahead for Placer Land Trust
At the last meeting of the Placer Land Trust Board of Directors in 2006, I was honored to be elected as the Board President for 2007. The Trust has steadily grown and matured over the last 15 years and our recent successes in protecting over 2,820 acres of land in Placer County are only the beginning of what we can do.
The support of our membership and partners has allowed us to become the effective conservation organization that we are today. I’m thrilled to be able to represent the Trust and play a role in helping to guide its efforts over the next year.
We are looking forward to doing more good deeds and strengthening the organization in many different ways this year. Some of our efforts will help to position us to continue to be successful and solvent over the long term. Other efforts will directly protect additional ranches, farms, and important habitat and open spaces. Still other work will assist our partners in their efforts to also conserve Placer County’s rich geographic and biologic diversity.
We will work to increase the public’s awareness of Placer Land Trust through outreach, events, membership drives and the media. We’ve met with newly elected local officials to introduce ourselves, describe what Placer Land Trust does, make sure they know what we are capable of doing. The Trust can be a resource available to assist public agencies with their conservation efforts where it is appropriate to do so. I especially look forward to maintaining our relationships with our conservation partners and forging new relationships with like-minded groups.
The Trust now has three very capable full-time staff members: Executive Director Jeff Darlington, Operations Manager Jessica Pierce, and Stewardship Coordinator Joselin Matkins. Starting last month we also have the temporary assistance of Stewardship Assistant Katy Sater funded through a successful AmeriCorps grant to help us with our stewardship activities.
While fundraising will remain a focus of our staff and Board of Directors, we are also at a point where we must consider and adopt an investment strategy. Placer Land Trust is responsible for many programs, projects and preserves that have ongoing costs, and we must ensure that we have the necessary resources to cover those costs for the long-term. Therefore we must invest wisely, conservatively, and with an eye to guaranteeing that we will have the funds in the future necessary for our stewardship work.
The Trust is also at a point in time and maturity that we must update our strategic plan for what we want to do in the future — the next year, and the next 15 years. We must be aware of what the other conservation groups out there are doing and where we can fit in and further the overall effort.
Most importantly, we also need to maintain our relationships with landowners in the county and be available with information or assistance when called upon.
The next year and the next 15 years are going to be exciting for the Trust and the citizens of Placer County as the rapid changes we have seen over the last ten years continue. The western part of the County especially will change and evolve as more and more people call Placer County home.
My hope is that Placer Land Trust — and you — will be a major player in maintaining and improving the quality of life for existing and future residents of the County, because that quality of life is so closely tied to the preservation of important open spaces, ranches, farms, and wildlife habitat.
We are in a good position to be effective and you can be sure our continued efforts will be well worth the hard work.
Thank you for your past and ongoing support and we look forward to your continued assistance in the exciting years to come!
PLT Supports Placer County Conservation Plan
50-year plan would benefit both development and environmental interests in Placer County
By Fred Yeager
Earlier this year, Placer Land Trust informed the Placer County Board of Supervisors that PLT supports the efforts of County staff to implement the Placer County Conservation Plan (PCCP).
The PCCP provides for 50 years of additional urban development in western Placer County and will similarly provide for commensurate farmland, open space, and habitat protection.
The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to move forward with the PCCP and directed County planning and legal staff to bring a final proposal and map back for Board approval.
The County’s General Plan and zoning already designate many areas in western Placer County for both urban and agricultural uses, but the PCCP recognizes that additional lands that will be needed to accommodate growth in the long term. The PCCP also calls for up to 60,000 acres of preserved land within the 50-year plan, mostly west, north, and east of the City of Lincoln sphere of influence.
Part of the PCCP process is identifying areas safe for future investment by developers, farmers, residents, and other landowners, and creating a map as a blueprint for development and conservation.
The County is working with federal and state regulatory agencies and local stakeholders on this map. Whatever specific map is selected, it must provide for large contiguous areas where farmland and habitat can coexist, where urban development is most efficiently accommodated, and where such development has the least impact on adjacent farmland and open spaces.
PLT owns or has an interest in 2,820 acres in Placer County – the vast majority of it within the PCCP focus area.
The scenic and rural atmosphere of Placer County is what drives our great economy, together with the economic contributions of our landowners – many of whom make a living working the land.
Land conservation benefits our local economy as well as our environment. In the past two years PLT has enabled the infusion of over 30 million dollars of public and private grants and other revenue to local landowners, generating tax and other County revenue. So far this year we have over $5 million in the works.
Furthermore, PLT believes that the PCCP will increase long-term property values in Placer County.
We also believe that the PCCP will support the sustainability of land conservation and in particular the properties preserved for public benefit and enjoyment by PLT, Placer County, and other entities.
As a significant and growing landowner in Placer County, PLT supports the PCCP, the goals and forward-looking approach to future growth that it can represent, and the effort to plan for a balanced and sustainable environment.
PLT will continue to monitor the PCCP process, and offer our support and expertise.
Because the PCCP plan affects all of us — whether as affected landowners or simply as people who enjoy Placer County’s rural environment — PLT also urges our members to follow the PCCP project and voice their own opinions to their County Supervisors.
Regardless of the outcome of the PCCP process we look forward to continuing our successful public-private partnership with Placer County, working with developers and any other willing landowners, being a resource for all landowners … and working locally to improve our quality of life for future generations.
For more information about the PCCP, see the County website at www.placer. ca.gov/communitydevelopment/planning. aspx or call (530) 745-3000.
Placer Land Trust receives AmeriCorps Intern
By Joselin Matkins
Placer Land Trust is pleased to announce the addition of a new member of our team: Stewardship Assistant Katy Sater.
PLT has been awarded an AmeriCorps intern for three years, through the Sierra Nevada AmeriCorps Parnership, sponsored by the Sierra Nevada Alliance. There are 27 AmeriCorps interns throughout the Sierras who started their internships in February.
For 2007, 2008, and 2009, PLT will have a different intern each year to assist with land stewardship, ecological monitoring, and volunteer coordination. Other than a minimal annual stipend, the AmeriCorps internships are free for PLT.
For 2007, Katy Sater will be our AmeriCorps intern, serving as our Stewardship Assistant. Katy, a recent graduate of UC Santa Barbara, is already hard at work updating our conservation easement and preserve records system and working in the field.
She will participate in annual conservation easement monitoring, preserve management, and countless other tasks that come up daily in regard to PLT land stewardship efforts. Though Katy hasn’t had a lot of prior experience in the field of land conservation, she’s very excited to learn the ins and outs of PLT, and this internship is the perfect opportunity.
PLT’s 5th Annual Placer Harvest Celebration rocks Loomis
Dinner and charity auction the most successful event in PLT’s history
Sincere thanks to all who attended the 2006 Placer Harvest Celebration at the Blue Goose Packing Shed in Loomis on November 4, 2006.
Your continuing support of Placer Land
Trust’s fundraising events is critical. The money raised goes to help offset operating expenses and as the Trust grows, so does the expense.
Thank you sponsors, thanks to all those who donated the wonderful variety of auction items, thanks to the volunteers who made the event happen “the day of”, and thank you Event Committee members who made a year-long commitment.
It was a pleasure to work with the members of the Event Committee: Mara Bresnick of Meadow Vista; Rich Ferreira of Lincoln; Mark Foley of Newcastle; Sandy Harris of Granite Bay; Jessica Pierce or our staff; Irene Smith of Loomis, and Fred Yeager of Auburn. Their planning and hard work produced a great event.
I look forward to the next Harvest Celebration this fall … mark your calendars! Good food, good music, good people, and a good time.
See you then!
— Patricia Callan-McKinney, Chair
2006 Event Committee
Family Farming & Ranching
Blossom Hill Farm
By Nancyjo Riekse
Blossom Hill Farm began with a small watermelon plot in 1992 on J.R. Smith’s 10.3 acres on Bean Road in Auburn. In 1996, J.R. married Claudia, and they began working the farm together while continuing to work their “day jobs” with Pacific Bell.
They registered with the state as an organic farm in 2000, and — when the National Organic Plan came into being in 2002 — California Certified Organic Farmers certified the farm under the direction of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Melons are their number one crop, but only a three-month crop, so they are continually experimenting and diversifying to expand their growing season. The gently rolling field at the back of their foothills property is planted with squash and pumpkins for harvest in the fall, and their organic eggs are available year round. In the spring they sell herbs and vegetable starts at the Farmers’ Markets that they grow in their cold frames.
Blossom Hill Farm is one of the few farms currently in Placer County that offer farm tours to local schools. Kids tour the farm, see the chickens and learn about organic gardening and how things are grown. Claudia believes in family gardens, and recommends that families buy a plant for each child to tend and nurture, through the summer growing season, so they can enjoy the fruit of their labor and gain an appreciation for farming.
Blossom Hill Farm, like many other small farms in Placer County, faces challenges. Just a few miles from bustling Highway 49, housing developments have sprung up and the NID water pipe that served eight households when it was installed now serves 27, resulting in a lack of water pressure sometimes requiring them to irrigate in the middle of the night.
They both give generously of their time by serving on many boards and planning committees. By being involved in the community and growing the best-tasting food possible, they have cultivated a large crop of dedicated customers.
Note: This is part of an ongoing series highlighting the value of local agricultural lands and the landowners who work those lands. Nancyjo Riekse is the Agricultural Marketing Director for Placer County and the owner of Food to Dine For. She can be reached at email@example.com
Botanical Biography: Coyotebrush
By Mehrey Vaghti
Though not the most flamboyant of California natives, coyotebrush (Baccharis pilularis; Asteraeae) is a constant and important presence along the entire coast and associated ranges, and also the Sierra Nevada foothills.
In Placer County it has an erect, branching habit with small, generally sticky evergreen leaves and can be found in canyons and woodlands up to 2500 ft. A perennial subshrub in the sunflower family, coyotebrush is dioecious (from Greek for “two houses”) meaning that individual plants bear either male or female flowers.
These inconspicuous flowers bloom from spring to summer; the fruiting bodies are showier and can give the impression of blooms into the winter months. For the native plant gardener, coyotebrush offers fire resistance, drought tolerance and low palatability to browsers. It requires full sun, attracts birds and is a forage source for the Dusky Metalmark butterfly. Coyotebrush can be propagated from seed and young plants pruned to encourage branching.
Native Americans used infusions of the plant as a general remedy and the light, pithy wood for arrow shafts.
Note: This is part of an ongoing series highlighting some of the many native plants found in Placer County.
Stewardship Journal: Shrimp & Cows
By Joselin Matkins
Recently, while visiting the vernal pools at PLT’s Hofman Ranch Preserve, I was reminded just how important good field help can be.
One minute, I was pounding a wood stake into the ground to mark a photo-point, the next minute a herd of curious cattle was closing in fast … with me and my canine companion as the mark! I snapped as many photos as I could, but suddenly realized that in seconds I could be charged by the seemingly docile creatures unless I could hop the fence to Manzanita Cemetary in time. With the peaceful morning in the bucolic setting shattered by adrenaline, I realized just how great it would have been to have some dedicated volunteers interested in spending time on the land.
Perhaps surprisingly, part of the long-term viability of vernal pools is a sustainable grazing regime, and part of our job is to work with ranchers for the benefit of the land.
Evidence from some recent scientific studies supports the observations of cattlemen and ecologists alike that a sound grazing regime is an integral part of maintaining the fragile vernal pool landscape. In fact, these studies have shown that over 90% of healthy vernal pools are grazed by livestock. In grasslands that are not grazed, native plant species declined in both abundance and diversity, most likely due to thatch build-up. As a result of the evidence from vernal pool studies by Jaymee Marty and others, cattle graze all of PLT’s grassland preserves as a part of responsible stewardship.
PLT recently hired Katy Sater as our Stewardship Assistant. We will work as a team to manage our preserves and monitor our conservation easements, but I would like to encourage PLT members to become involved in our Stewardship Program (especially if you can give some pointers on how to share the land with our animal friends). If you’re interested, please don’t hesitate to give me a call at the office.
I can’t promise adrenaline-rushing adventure, but you can be part of a team working to preserve Placer County landscapes for future generations.
Getting back to the cows, Camas (my trusty canine companion) and I were able to hurdle the fence just in time to avoid a showdown.
Note: This is the first installment of a new series highlighting PLT’s ongoing land stewardship activities. Joselin Matkins is PLT’s Stewardship Coordinator; she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nancyjo Riekse honored as Volunteer of the Year
By Jeff Darlington Nancyjo Riekse was named the Trust’s Volunteer of the Year for 2006.
Originally from Los Gatos, Nancyjo moved to Auburn in 1999 after retiring from her former career because she longed for a family and agriculturally oriented community.
Since then she’s become very active in local community agriculture programs. She’s volunteered on the PlacerGROWN Board of Directors, served as the Secretary for the Slow Food Gold Convivium, helped organize the annual Farm & Barn Tour, and organized many other community-wide events and programs. Nancyjo is currently serving as the Agricultural Marketing Director for Placer County.
“Nancyjo has been an incredible asset to Placer Land Trust,” said PLT’s Operations Manager, Jessica Pierce. “Not only has she worked tirelessly to assist us with four back-to-back special events, but she has also helped us by volunteering some of her creative marketing genius.”
Nancyjo also contributes a regular column to Land Lines entitled “Family Farming & Ranching” and contributes articles to local newspapers on the culinary delights of local agricultural products.
Bill & Georgia Flake: Land Stewards of the Year
Placer Land Trust relies heavily on volunteers in the field to help manage and monitor our conservation easements and preserves. For their contributions to our Stewardship Program last year, the Trust recognized long-time members Bill & Georgia Flake of Auburn as PLT’s first Land Stewards of the Year.
This award recognizes those dedicated individuals who have contributed to PLT’s Stewardship Program by giving their time and resources to help PLT maintain and manage its preserved properties.
The Flakes, retired public employees and long-time PLT supporters, first became involved in 1999 to help PLT acquire the Stagecoach Preserve in Auburn. Since then, they have participated in the restoration of the riparian corridor along Canyon Creek at Stagecoach Preserve.
In 2006, as in years past, the Flakes volunteered both their time and equipment to help remove invasive species which choke creek channels, out competing native species for water and other resources.
As PLT Vice President Tom McMahan explains: “The Flakes have shown their deep commitment to conservation in Placer County through their dedicated support of Placer Land Trust.”
And as PLT’s Stewardship Coordinator, I am truly honored to award the Flakes as our first Stewards of the Year! — Joselin Matkins
Executive Director’s Report
As flowers blossom and oak trees bud, the landscape of Placer County prepares to show off for us all. For us here at PLT, excuses to get out of the office abound, and lunches are enjoyed out at the picnic table instead of at our desks.
To share the joys of spring with our members, we’re co-hosting a Spring Vernal Pool Tour at our preserves in rural Lincoln on Saturday, April 14, led by Joe Medeiros of Sierra College.
We’re also planning our annual Codfish Falls Wildlflower Walk soon. Contact Joselin in our office for details about these free tours, and be prepared for some colorful spring wildflowers!
On and around April 22, PLT will participate in Earth Day events at Sierra College in Rocklin, Lincoln Creek Week, and Hewlett Packard in Roseville.
Later this month or in early May, the Trust will host a Taylor Ranch Preserve Dedication Ceremony to celebrate the protection of this magnificent oak woodlands property on Coon Creek. PLT members will receive an invitation in the coming weeks.
Also, the Trust expects to conclude new land conservation projects in Roseville and Auburn next month, totaling 345 acres! Stay tuned for details.
The words of poet/farmer Wendell Berry remind us that we must appreciate the magnificence of the landscapes around us if we’re to have any hope of preserving them and passing them on to future generations.
Through the Trust’s events and successes this spring, we hope to renew your appreciation of Placer County’s precious landscapes and our collective hope for the future.