American River Grazing Land Protected
PLT and Oest Family protect family ranch near Lake Clementine
By Jeff Darlington
In November 2009, PLT worked with Daryl & Sue Oest and their family to put an agricultural conservation easement on the 350-acre Oest Ranch – Lake Clementine Preserve.
This family ranch is a literal stone’s throw from Lake Clementine, and contains beautiful oak woodlands, grasslands used for seasonal livestock grazing, and a riparian corridor along a mile of Clipper Creek.
The Oests are a pioneering Placer family with over 150 years of farming and ranching in the Auburn area. The Lake Clementine Preserve is an important part of Oest Ranch’s beef production, and also provides a home for bees producing PlacerGROWN honey. In the easement, the Oests reserved three acres for a homesite to help manage the ranch and deter trespassing, but protected the remaining 350 acres forever. PLT’s easement prohibits development and other harmful uses and allows for sustainable agricultural production. The property remains privately held and managed by the Oest family.
“It’s always been my father’s and grandfather’s hope to be able to hold on to the land as a working ranch,” said Daryl Oest. “That’s why we partnered with PLT on this easement, and I’m real pleased to see it permanently protected.”
“The Oest family has been excellent caretakers of this land for generations,” said PLT President Fred Yeager, “and this easement will help them continue that legacy for generations to come.”
Even though the State’s conservation programs have shut down and public funding has disappeared, PLT put our community partnerships to work to find private funding for this important project. Funding was provided by the Emigrant Trails Greenway Trust with support from several PLT programs, including our Small Farm Program, Oak Woodlands Program, Wetlands Mitigation Program, and American River Watershed Protection Program. Investments from the Placer County Water Agency and the California Wildlife Foundation completed the project.
Thank you to our funders and to Oest family!
PLT and the Oest family are working on protecting additional parcels of the Oest Ranch along Clipper Creek and along State Highway 49 north of Auburn.
Planned Giving: Thank You Virgil Harrigan
At the end of 2009, PLT was the grateful recipient of a $574,000 bequest from the estate of the late Virgil Harrigan of Roseville.
Like many other organizations that benefited from Mr. Harrigan’s incredible generosity, this good fortune came as a surprise to PLT. We did not know Mr. Harrigan while he was alive, but we understand he was a hard working, frugal man who believed in his community, and we thank him for his generosity!
Planned giving is a wonderful mechanism to support nonprofits like PLT; gifts can be made during or after your lifetime, and can provide substantial tax benefits to the donor.
If you would like to consider a planned gift to PLT, please contact Karrie Thomas at 530-887-9222 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
From the Board Room
New Studies Document Losses of Vernal Pool Habitat in the Central Valley
By Bob Gilliom
Placer Land Trust is pleased to announce the completion of three scientific studies of vernal pool habitat in the Central Valley.
In 2006, PLT was commissioned to oversee these vernal pool studies that document how much vernal pool habitat has been lost in recent years, how this loss has occurred under the current regulations, and how vernal pool loss has been mitigated.
Vernal pools are a unique ecological resource of California’s Central Valley. They form within shallow depressions in grasslands that are underlain by a virtually impervious soil layer. In the winter, the pools fill with rain water and then slowly dry out through evaporation in the spring. Vernal pools support many native plant and animal species, including several that are rare, threatened, or endangered, which are specially adapted to this unique environment. Many of these species are found only in California.
The studies were conducted by AECOM and scientific experts in the field, and funded through the settlement of a lawsuit brought by a consortium of environmental organizations. The lawsuit challenged a development project in western Placer County that was going to result in the loss of extensive vernal pool habitat. As part of a settlement agreement, parties on both sides of the lawsuit agreed to ask PLT, as a neutral nonprofi t organization, to administer the studies and facilitate their public access.
The three studies each received detailed and independent scientific peer review and are major new contributions to the factual understanding of vernal pools in the Central Valley.
One major finding of the studies is that approximately 135,000 of 1,030,000 acres of vernal pool habitat— about 13%—has been lost from the Central Valley due to agricultural and urban land use conversions since the first vernal pool mapping during 1976-1995. This finding emphasizes the critical role of vernal pool protection projects, such as PLT’s Doty Ravine Preserve and Swainsons Grassland Preserve.
The studies, as well as a brief summary report, are available to read or download on PLT’s website at www.placerlandtrust.org/vernalpoolreport.aspx.
Family Farming & Ranching
Natural Trading Company
In October 2009 PLT supporters gathered for the Placer Harvest Celebration to enjoy the last of the season’s bounty at the Natural Trading Company farm in Newcastle.
PLT’s friends and family spent the afternoon surrounded by orchards, pumpkin fields, and the fantastic view from the hilltop. Folks enjoyed a tour of the farm, pumpkin carving, and PlacerGROWN hors d’ouvres and refreshments.
The Natural Trading Company grows and delivers organic produce to local communities through a membership program called Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). They also sell produce at farmers’ markets and select natural foods stores in Sacramento, Auburn, and North Lake Tahoe.
More Farmland Preserved!
In January 2010, farm owner Bryan Kaminsky completed and recorded an agricultural conservation easement on the 40-acre Natural Trading Company farm. This easement will permanently protect the land’s agricultural values and promote economic sustainability.
PLT contributed funding for this easement project from our Small Farm Program, which is designed to help family farmers protect their land. The majority of the easement funding was provided by Placer County and the State Dept. of Conservation. The easement will be held and monitored by Placer County.
“PLT is very happy and proud to have played a role in helping preserve this wonderful family farm,” said PLT President Fred Yeager.
In November 2009 PLT hosted an open house at Otow Orchard, a Granite Bay institution.
Helen Otow and her daughter and son-in-law Christine & Tosh Kuratomi grow delicious persimmons in their orchard off of Eureka Road, but what they do with the fruit after the harvest makes them truly outstanding.
At the open house, Tosh and his son Toshio demonstrated the ancient art of curing hoshigaki – Japanese dried persimmons. Tosh also lead tours of the orchard showing guests the many heirloom persimmon, pear, and peach trees they cultivate.
Helen Otow’s family has farmed this land since 1911. With the next two generations actively participating in the farming operation, we hope to see this land in cultivation for many decades to come. PLT is pleased to celebrate the contributions that farmers like these make to our local economy and rural quality of life.
To learn how you can support PLT’s Small Farm Program, contact PLT at (530) 887-9222.
PLT Volunteers Honored
By Jessica Pierce
PLT’s success depends on our community, and we recently honored some of our superstar volunteers.
Karl Mertz Jr. of Newcastle was named our 2009 Land Steward of the Year (for the second consecutive year). His projects included, among others, annual monitoring of PLT preserves, restoration work, and biological inventory and observation.
“I encourage people interested in working in land management and conservation to contact PLT and get involved,” says Mertz. “They have volunteer opportunities to fi t diverse interests and abilities.”
Patty Ruud of Auburn was named our 2009 Volunteer of the Year … also for the second time! Her projects included, researching, writing, formatting and organizing material for the Board of Directors to review prior to approving organizational policies.
“It’s been very exciting to watch PLT grow over the last 10 years,” said Ruud. “When I first joined, PLT was a start-up land trust with a handful of committed volunteers, no paid staff, and 30 acres of protected land. In the last decade PLT has grown not only in size, but in sophistication and stature as well.”
Grasslands of the Central Valley
By Mehrey Vaghti
Part 2 of 4
[Part 1 focused on past processes and composition of valley grasslands. Parts 3 & 4 will feature two of PLT’s grazing partners.]
The extant Central Valley grasslands are highly complex and variable across seasons, climate cycles, geography, and level of human disturbance.
Species richness over the state is high and the 6-10 dominant species are introduced annuals. Introduced annuals often contribute dominant cover in areas of high native species richness.
It is estimated that as much as 75% of central California grasslands were converted to dryland agriculture during the 1880’s.
Additionally, many hectares of foothill grasslands once supported a variety of dryland crops, which completely removed perennial grasses. Annual species quickly recolonize after the abandonment of cultivation. Native annual forbs are also negatively associated with historically cultivated areas. In the absence of urbanization, livestock grazing typically followed agricultural abandonment.
Conservation management began in the 1970s with the passage of the Endangered Species Act. Many Central Valley grasslands also support areas of vernal pools which sustain many of the rarest plants in the state.
An initial restoration strategy was to remove all grazing; however, observation and studies soon showed that without management non-native annual
grasses nearly excluded native plants in both grasslands and vernal pools. Additionally, starthistle (Centaurea solstitialis) and medusahead grass (Taeniatherum caput-medusae) have become serious invaders of California grasslands.
Livestock grazing and prescribed fire are the two most common and effective management tools.
While prescribed fire can be very effective at reducing invasive species, residual dry matter (which tends to suppress native seed germination) and non-native annual grasses, the logistics of putting fire on the ground can be prohibitive. Because timing is so important to the outcome of a burn or a series of burns, factors beyond a manager’s control – such as a series of days when burning is prohibited – can greatly reduce or eliminate the positive benefits of the planned management action.
Managed livestock grazing can be very effective at achieving grassland conservation and restoration goals while also supporting local land-based economies.
The seasonal timing, duration, and stocking rate can be manipulated to impact certain plant species or create conditions favorable to target wildlife, such as Swainson’s hawks. Because of site variability and annual climate, grazing management is a constantly evolving practice.
Placer Land Trust is very fortunate to work with some committed conservation grazing contractors – learn more about Greg Lawley and Dan Macon in future issues of Land Lines!
[Reference: Bartolome, J.W., W.J. Barry, T. Griggs & P. Hopkinson. 2007. Valley Grassland. In M.G. Barbour, T.K. Wolf & A.A. Schoenherr Terrestrial Vegetation of California 3rd Edition. University of California Press.]
AmeriCorps Aids Placer Land Trust
By Jeff Ward
PLT is pleased to announce the addition of two new AmeriCorps members to our team: Stewardship Assistant Ryan Gilpin, and Outreach Assistant Jessica Aviña.
For the fourth year in a row, PLT is participating in the Sierra Nevada Alliance AmeriCorps Partnership (SNAP) program. SNAP places 27 AmeriCorps members at different conservation agencies and organizations throughout the Sierra to conduct restoration and monitoring, watershed education, and volunteer recruitment and support. Ryan and Jessica were selected from 360 qualified applicants and will be serving at PLT until December 2010.
Ryan was born and raised in Pleasanton, CA. In 2008, he graduated from UC Davis with a B.S. in Environmental Biology and Management. After hiking and exploring several other countries, Ryan is ready to use his education to help care for open spaces throughout the county. Ryan plans to thoroughly explore Placer County’s trails, rivers, and rolling hills.
He says, “I find it difficult to understand when people enjoy outdoor activities and do not try to protect those areas. But even more difficult to understand is when people work to protect our beautiful landscapes but spend little time outside.” Ryan will be assisting PLT with all stewardship activities including the Canyon View Watershed and Habitat Restoration Project and annual monitoring on PLT preserves.
Jessica Aviña grew up in Camarillo, CA. She received her B.A. in Anthropology from U.C. San Diego. Before making her way to Northern California, she lived for some time in South East Asia and Hawaii. Most recently she finished her Master’s of Public Administration, focusing on Environmental Policy and Management, at the University of Washington. Her interests include hiking and surfing, which have continually fostered her passion for nature and environmental causes. She moved to the area with her boyfriend who is currently serving as a Family Practice Resident at Travis Air Force Base.
“I’m very excited to be PLT’s Outreach Assistant this year,” she said. “I strongly believe in the mission of PLT and I’m excited to meet people already involved with the organization, and to further invigorate the volunteer program.”
Jessica will help bring people out to PLT’s existing and potential preserves to help protect, monitor, restore and enjoy the beautiful resources of Placer County.
PLT welcomes both Ryan and Jessica to our team and we are excited to have them on board to help out with our many projects this year!
SNAP Alumni Update
By Jessica Pierce
In 2007, PLT had the good fortune to participate in the Sierra Nevada AmeriCorps Partnership (SNAP), and since that time PLT has hosted six interns for 11.5-month terms.
As we welcome our newest interns, we thought it would be fun to check in with our SNAP “Alumni”.
Our very first SNAP intern, Katy Sater, came to PLT as a U.C. Santa Barbara grad in Political Science. After spending one year with us developing the framework for our Stewardship Assistant program, she left us to attend graduate school at Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University. In May she will receive her Masters of Environmental Management. Last year she spent her summer working as an intern for Earthmind.net, in Switzerland. She plans to return upon her graduation in May. Congratulations Katy and good luck in Europe!
Our 2008 SNAP intern is putting down roots with PLT. Jeff Ward, rock bass musician and former AmeriCorps intern, is now in his second year as PLT’s Stewardship Coordinator. We are very thankful to have Jeff on our team!
In 2009 we were fortunate to host two interns. Kelsey Stavseth came to us from St. George University in Vermont. Kelsey served as our first Outreach Assistant and had a lot of fun along the way by becoming a raft guide on the South Fork American River and Ski Patrol at Kirkwood. Since then he has returned to his native Vermont.
We also welcomed Stewardship Assistant Kristin Haider in 2009. She came to us from University of Wisconsin at Eue Claire. During Kristin’s term she helped to design and launch our stream monitoring volunteer program which we hope to continue for years to come. She is now living in Oxford Mississippi working as a teaching assistant in biology at Ole Miss. She is currently applying for graduate schools in Conservation Biology.
Good luck to all of our SNAP Alumni and we hope you keep in touch with PLT throughout your journeys!
Treaured Landscapes Tour Series Afoot
On March 6, PLT hosted the first of four Treasured Landscape Tours at the beautiful 2,300-acre Bruin Ranch along the Bear River. PLT will host three more tours at Bruin Ranch (details below). The tours will showcase different aspects of Bruin Ranch including flora, fauna and its unique cultural history.
Sat. April 3rd: Wildflower Tour with Joe Medeiros & Shawna Martinez, Sierra College (~this tour is sold out!~)
Sat. May 1st: Birdwatching Tour with Naturalist Deren Ross, Sierra Foothills Audubon Society
Sat. June 5th: Cultural Tour with Cultural Director Grayson Coney, Tsi-Akim Maidu Tribe
PlacerGROWN lunch provided. Cost is $10 for adults, free for kids. Space is limited so please email email@example.com or call (530) 887-9222 to reserve your spot. RSVP required.
Upcoming Events with Placer Land Trust
Thursday, April 1, 5:30pm, Auburn School Park Preserve
Fundraising reception announcing PLT’s “Bear River Capital Campaign” ~ bring your checkbook and your willingness to think big!
Wednesday, April 14, 10am, State Capitol, Sacramento
Sierra Day at the Capitol ~ Help PLT educate our State legislators about the importance of the Sierra Nevada to the State of California.
Saturday, April 17, 10am, Celebrate the Earth Festival, Roseville
Join PLT at our booth and celebrate the earth!
Thursday, April 22, various times and locations
PLT staff and volunteers will be out and about for Earth Day
Saturday, April 24, 10am, Canyon View Preserve, Auburn
Volunteer with PLT to remove invasive plants and set up grazing plots.
Saturday, May 15, 5:30pm, Auburn Valley Golf Club
Join PLT for the 6th annual Placer Conservator Dinner & Ceremony! Sponsorship opportunities available. Tickets are $50.
Wednesday, May 26, 1pm, Miners Foundry, Nevada City
Be the fi rst to see new research on the importance of the Sierra foothills.
Thursday, June 10, TBD, Auburn School Park Preserve
See new original artwork depicting Bruin Ranch and the Bear River at PLT’s new stop on the Auburn Art Walk.
For details about these events, or to inquire about attending, please give us a call at (530) 887-9222.
PLT Teams Up with Local Artists
For four days in April, local artists will be doing plein air artwork of the ranch and the Bear River, in preparation for display at the Auburn Art Walk in June. You can get a sneak preview of the original art at the May 15 Placer Conservator event!
PLT Hosts Professional Training
On March 17, PLT co-sponsored training for estate planning professionals, attorneys and accountants and landowners in Nevada City. Attendees learned about conservation easements and about how easements can be a tool in estate and tax planning. Conservation easement expert William T. Hutton headlined the training, which was co-sponsored by PLT, Nevada County Land Trust, and the Nevada County Bar Association.
Executive Director’s Report
Bear-Yuba Partnership Moves Forward
Those of us in Placer County know that the foothills are important for many reasons. PLT has recently taken steps to let others outside the foothill region know how important our area is to all of California.
In late 2009, PLT teamed up with two other conservation organizations in forming the Bear-Yuba Partnership. This partnership includes Nevada County Land Trust and the national Trust for Public Land (TPL), with a goal to increase funding for strategic landscape conservation in the Sierra Nevada foothills of Placer, Nevada and Yuba Counties.
The partnership was announced in November 2009 at the Ten22 reception in Old Town Sacramento, hosted by the Harvego Family. The Bear-Yuba Partnership is speaking with policy-makers and grant-makers about the importance of the foothills in the Bear and Yuba watersheds to the State of California.
“This partnership solidifi es what has been a working relationship for nearly a decade,” said TPL’s Sierra Nevada Program Director Dave Sutton. “Strategically, it makes sense for us to formalize this partnership now to take advantage of an incredible opportunity to achieve landscapelevel conservation.”
The first two major efforts of the partnership are to protect the 2,300-acre Bruin Ranch in Placer County and the 652-acre Garden Bar Preserve in Nevada County (this is directly across the Bear River from PLT’s Garden Bar Preserve protected in 2007). These two properties connect to existing preserved lands, and will create 6,500 acres of contiguous open space, including permanent protection for habitat, water quality, agriculture, and public recreation. Additional projects are in the works.
The Bear-Yuba Partnership is also hosting a May 26 symposium to present recent biological and geographical studies regarding the importance of the Sierra foothills for wildlife, water, and other public resources and benefits.
Give me a call to learn more about the Bear-Yuba Partnership!