PLT Protects 896 acres of
Natural Habitat & Ranch Land
Family ranch and vernal pool grasslands near Lincoln protected through new program
By Bob Cooley-Gilliom
As part of our new “West Placer Habitat Protection Program”, Placer Land Trust recently preserved nearly 900 acres of land in rural Lincoln.
The West Placer Habitat Protection Program focuses on vernal pool grassland habitat in western Placer County, including working ranch lands. PLT is pleased to announce the protection of the first two properties under this Program: the Hofman Ranch and the Swainson’s Grassland Preserve.
Funding for the Program is provided by loans and conveyance fees from home sales in the West Roseville Specific Plan development area, made possible through an agreement among developers, environmental groups, local government, and federal agencies. PLT is currently working with willing landowners to preserve an additional 700 acres through the Program.
For more details on the Hofman Ranch and the Swainson’s Grassland Preserve, see the accompanying articles.
Hofman Ranch, 427 acres
On April 1, 2005, Placer Land Trust protected 427 acres of the 457-acre Hofman Ranch, a long-standing cattle ranching property off of Gladding and Manzanita Roads, northeast of Lincoln.
The Hofman family has owned and worked this property since 1977, and will continue to graze cattle on the property through a lease agreement with PLT.
PLT worked with Program partners and the Hofman family to protect the historic Hofman Ranch.
The property is 457 acres in total, and lies along Doty Ravine northeast of the City of Lincoln, near the historic Manzanita Cemetary. The Hofmans have operated a family-run cattle ranch on the property for generations. The balance of the property, 427 acres, was acquired by PLT to be protected as critical habitat and grazing land.
Not only will the Hofman family continue to graze their cattle on the ranch, but they also retained 30 acres for their continued personal use.
“The Hofman family is setting a great example of voluntary land conservation,” said PLT Executive Director Jeff Darlington. “With the rapid development of Placer County, the private partnership between willing landowners and Placer Land Trust is becoming increasingly important if we want to protect some of our working farms and ranches and ensure our rural way of life for future generations.”
The Hofman Ranch consists primarily of vernal pools amid rolling annual grasslands.
Vernal pool grasslands are a disappearing habitat type in California, providing critical habitat for native wildlife – such as the Vernal Pool Fairy shrimp and the Swainson’s hawk – as well as providing excellent grazing land for livestock. The vast majority of California’s vernal pools have been destroyed by inconsistent land uses.
The Hofman Ranch also includes a one mile stretch of Doty Ravine, the largest tributary of Coon Creek. Permanent preservation of the property will protect water quality in Placer County, as well as protect critical vernal pool and stream habitat.
Wildflowers of various colors decorate the property in spring, and several stands of oak trees over 150 years old also dot the property, which lies in the low Sierra foothills northeast of Lincoln.
“Our family grazes Hereford, Limousine Limousine, and Hereford-Angus cattle on the ranch,” said Frances Hofman, speaking for the Hofman family. “We have a deep respect for this land, and we’re happy to continue to graze cattle on the ranch through a lease with our new landowner partner, Placer Land Trust. It’s very comforting to know the property will be protected.”
Studies have proven that a moderate level of cattle grazing is beneficial for the health of vernal pool grassland ecosystems, helping to reduce the invasion of non-native plants and ensure the health of vernal pools. The continued grazing of the property by the Hofman family will help sustain the vernal pool grassland habitat.
“The acquisition of the the Hofman Ranch will ensure that as the City of Lincoln grows, there will still be some wide open spaces left to enjoy by future generations,” said Darlington. “PLT is pleased to do our small part in preserving the rural way of life we enjoy here in Placer County.”
“It’s wonderful that the Hofman family was able to preserve the heritage of their ranch and all the years of hard work the ranch represents,” said Placer County Agricultural Commissioner Christine Turner.
Funding for the West Placer Habitat Protection Program is provided by conveyance fees from home sales in the West Roseville Specific Plan area, made possible through a unique agreement among developers, the Sierra Foothill Audubon Society, Sierra Club, Butte Environmental Council, Defenders of Wildlife, the City of Roseville, and federal agencies. The geographic focus of the program is that portion of western Placer County designated as critical vernal pool habitat by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
“The Hofman family has been wonderful caretakers of this land for three decades,” said Darlington. “Placer Land Trust intends to carry on their legacy by keeping this land in agricultural production and protecting its natural values.”
Swainson’s Grassland Preserve, 469 acres
On April 21, 2005, Placer Land Trust protected the 469-acre Swainson’s Grassland Preserve, located on Highway 65 at Wise Road, just north of Lincoln.
The property is named in honor of the Swainson’s hawk, which uses the property for foraging.
“The Swainson’s hawk is one of the many birds that rely on this type of landscape,” said PLT Executive Director Jeff Darlington. “Year after year, Swainson’s hawks travel from as far away as Argentina to make use of open grasslands in Placer County, including the now-protected Swainson’s Grassland Preserve. We’re happy to protect some of their threatened breeding and hunting grounds, especially since it fits our mission to protect natural and agricultural lands in Placer County.”
The property is located on both sides of Hwy 65 at Wise Road, south of Coon Creek and north of the Lincoln city limits.
Working with voluntary landowner cooperation, PLT acquired the property to assure its lasting protection. As part of the land conservation agreement, the property can never be developed and will remain in its natural state for the enjoyment of future generations.
“We’re pleased to complete this project as part of our new West Placer Habitat Protection Program,” said Darlington. “The acquisition of the Swainson’s Grassland Preserve will have multiple public benefits, including the protection of roadside vistas, ranching, water quality, and critical habitat for native plants and animals.”
The Preserve consists primarily of vernal pools amid rolling annual grasslands.
Vernal pools, sometimes called “potholes” by local ranchers, are depressions in surface soils over a hard sublayer of rock or clay. The pools flood each spring, providing a unique ecosystem for specialized native plants and animals.
It is estimated that over 90 percent of vernal pools in California have been lost to inconsistent land uses such as development, rice farming, and vineyards.
Native animals that make use of vernal pool grasslands include invertebrates like the Vernal Pool Fairy shrimp, amphibians such as the Western spadefoot, and a variety of insects and mammals. Vernal pool grasslands are particularly important for birds. Waterfowl and other birds feed on the protein-rich invertebrates in vernal pools as they travel the Pacific Flyway each spring.
Among the annual grasslands, wildflowers of various colors decorate the Preserve each spring.
From Highway 65 and Wise Road, flowers of purple, white and yellow can be seen throughout the Preserve.The densest concentrations of wildflowers form along the edges of the vernal pools, creating “vernal pool rings” of goldfields and other flowers.
Lincoln cattleman Greg Lawley is particularly pleased with PLT’s protection of the property.
Lawley, a Chief Brand Inspector for the California Dept. of Food & Agriculture, and his wife Karen have run Angus cattle on the property since 1977 when the property was owned by the Gates family of Lincoln.
“As lifetime cattle ranchers, and as residents of the Lincoln area for the past 28 years, we’ve become increasingly concerned with the impact that encroaching development can have on working ranches and natural habitat like this property,” said Lawley. “We’re very pleased to see this property protected.”
Lawley will continue to graze cattle on the Preserve through a lease with PLT.
“Cows and habitat can coexist,” added Darlington. “The cows keep the non-native and invasive grasses from encroaching on the vernal pools and outcompeting native plants.”
“PLT is dedicated to the protection of working landscapes in Placer County,” he said, “so we’re doubly pleased to protect thsi property and continue the tradition of local ranching.”
4th Annual Placer Harvest Celebration
Set for Oct. 15 in Rocklin
By Jeff Darlington
For the second year in a row, PLT’s Placer Harvest Celebration will move to a new location in Placer County.
The 4th annual Placer Harvest Celebration dinner and silent auction will be held on Saturday, October 15, 2005, at the Sunset Center in Rocklin.
“The reason we’re rotating locations for this event is to reach as many people as we can in Placer County to let them know of our efforts to preserve family farms and ranches throughout the county,” said event coordinator Kit Veerkamp.
Last year’s event was held at Beermann’s Restaurant in Lincoln, following two years in Auburn.
To inquire about event sponsorships or silent auction donations, please contact PLT at (530) 887-9222.
Family Farming & Ranching
1923 USDA Soil Survey of the Auburn Area
By Joanne Neft
Ever wonder where the fruits you buy come from? If you shop at one of the local farmers’ markets, it probably comes from this area …
“The area is 611 square miles in extent and includes practically all of the arable land in Placer County. The valley region is made up of smooth or gently rolling plains, dissected by numerous small streams draining toward the west.”
That’s the introduction to the 1923 U.S. Department of Agriculture Soil Survey for the Auburn Area, coinciding with roughly the western third of Placer County.
Following a discussion of climate conditions, the report goes on to say:
“The wide variation in the soils of the county has given rise to a diversity of agricultural enterprises, of which fruit growing is the most important. The shipment of fresh fruit to eastern markets is the most important industry in this area.”
In 1923 the following production of fruit was reported by the U.S. Dept of Agriculture.
Peaches: 64,497,197 lbs.
Plums: 50,000,000 lbs.
Pears: 26,211,050 lbs.
Cherries: 1,442,650 lbs
Nuts: 182,275 lbs.
Table Grapes: 5,453,300 lbs.
Juice Grapes: 18,150,000 lbs.
Today, in 2005, the soils are the same, the climate hasn’t changed, and the land is still rich and viable.
Ask a local farmer, and you might find that many of them had parents or grandparents farming the same land when the 1923 soil survey was conducted.
Despite a dwindling land base and encroaching development, our local farmers continue to produce high quality, nutritious, and tasty fruits that are recognized as being PlacerGROWN … and some of the finest in the country.
For more details about local agricultural products, see www.placergrown.org or visit your local farmers’ market.
Note: This is the first of an ongoing series entitled Family Farming & Ranching, highlighting the value of local agricultural land and the landowners who work that land.
By Mehrey Vaghti
Its been said that the California buckeye is the “most savvy” of native perennials.
The California buckeye is a broadleaved summer deciduous shrub or small tree, producing large heads of white flowers in spring. It drops its leaves naturally at the end of the growing season, cleverly avoiding the drought stress of summer. The buckeye then adorns its bare branches with 1-2 inch “horse chestnut” seeds in the fall.
The sole member of the Hippocastanaceae family to reside in the state, buckeye is endemic to California and can live at least 200 years. As part of its natural defense, all parts of the buckeye plant contain glycosidal compounds and are toxic to animals, and its pollen is poisonous to honeybees.
Native Americans used the ground seeds to stun fish; they also leached the seeds to eat, either roasted or mashed.
Buckeye is best propagated directly from seed and its flowers are pollinated by many species of butterfly and hummingbirds.
Buckeye can be found in riparian zones or on dry, hot slopes below 5,500 feet in foothill and valley woodlands of the Coast Ranges, Sierra Nevada, and Tehachapi Mountains. Here in Placer County, the California buckeye can be seen in river canyons such as the Bear and American.
You can also find the buckeye on lands preserved by Placer Land Trust, including the Canyon View Preserve north of Auburn.
Note: This is the first of an ongoing series entitled Botanical Biography, highlighting native plants found in Placer County.
Annual Report Available
Placer Land Trust is pleased to announce the publication of its 2004 Annual Report.
The 12-page report details the Trust’s revenue and expenses for fiscal year 2003-2004, and highlights the Trust’s land conservation accomplishments and community support.
The 2004 Annual Report is free to PLT members, available upon request. In the coming weeks, the report will also be posted as a PDF document for download at www.placerlandtrust.org/pubs.htm.
Program Success Requires Organizational Growth
PLT to hire support staff and move into larger office
By Jeff Darlington
As reported in past issues of Land Lines, Placer Land Trust was recently named the recipient of significant land conservation funding for western Placer County.
This land conservation funding could amount to tens of millions of dollars over more than 20 years. PLT tapped this funding to create our “West Placer Habitat Protection Program” (WPHPP), leading to the protection of the Swainson’s Grassland Preserve and the Hofman Ranch.
PLT hopes to complete two or three additional WPHPP projects totalling over 1,000 acres in the next year, and that would just about exhaust our WPHPP funding until we can build up the program funding through conveyance fees.
It’s important to note that the WPHPP funding is for land conservation expenses, not operational expenses such as rent, insurance, or salary. So PLT is now faced with the challenge of funding a major increase in workload and significant enhancements to our operations and infrastructure.
The WPHPP will more than double our workload, so to ensure that PLT can continue to preserve land across the county (not just in West Placer) we need to expand our staff.
PLT is currently in the process of advertising for and selecting a Program Associate who will assist the Executive Director in implementing our mission.
We should complete this process in the next month or so, and hope to introduce you to our new staff person in the next issue of Land Lines.
To accommodate our staff growth and to establish a permanent headquarters in Placer County, PLT is also working with the Community Foundation of the Auburn Region (CFAR) and the Old Town Auburn Preservation Society (OTAPS) to relocate to a new office in Auburn.
If PLT is successful in relocating to Old Town Auburn, we would share office space with CFAR in a historic Victorian building near the Placer County Courthouse. This building, owned by OTAPS, is currently being renovated, and PLT will contribute to the renovation in exchange for long-term rental cost offsets. The target date for the completion of the new office is August, so we hope to have more details to share with you in the next issue of Land Lines.
In addition, PLT is leveraging our WPHPP funds by pursuing private grants to support our staff and infrastructure costs, and to help us with strategic planning. As we grow, PLT remains committed to being an efficient, effective, professional, and above all successful organization for generations to come.
With your past support, we’ve come a long way since our inception in 1991. Even as Placer County continues to grow, your ongoing support will ensure that PLT grows as well.
Committee Members Sought
PLT is looking to add an additional member to our Fundraising (FR) Committee to help us with fundraising and outreach efforts in western Placer County.
The ideal person would be an existing PLT supporter who is well-connected with business and community leaders in Roseville and Lincoln. Event coordination, media relations, and communications skills are also desired.
The FR Committee meets monthly and works with the Executive Director to increase and diversify the Trust’s revenue. Aside from attending meetings, time commitment is at the Committee member’s discretion.
For more information about the FR Committee and other PLT committees, please contact PLT at (530) 887-9222 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Executive Director’s Report
Protected Lands Benefit Our Community
Some people consider land conservation an extravagance or a “luxury”. But I believe that passively appreciating our local environment is the true luxury, because if we don’t act now we won’t be able to appreciate it when it’s gone.
Land conservation is an investment in the health of our environment that pays off every day.
We all know that as Placer County continues to develop, land becomes more and more valuable. That’s true in dollars and cents (“Wahoo, my home value just went up 20%!”), but it’s also true for other reasons. More than a commodity, the land upon which we live, work and play is vital to the ongoing health of our community.
That’s why I believe Placer Land Trust’s mission is so important. I want to share with you some examples of the ways that PLT-protected lands benefit our community.
Ensuring clean drinking water. The water we drink comes from local wells, rivers, and lakes in Placer County – in short, our local watershed. By protecting critical natural areas throughout the county, we contribute to aquifer recharge and improved water quality. PLT-protected lands also protect our streams from erosion.
Providing diverse wildlife habitat. The pressure on habitat in Placer County is intense, and mounting daily. From valley wetlands to Sierra forests, PLT protects essential shelter, forage, nesting, and breeding areas for an array of resident and migratory wildlife.
Maintaining working farms and ranches. Placer County residents and visitors enjoy local agricultural products. PLT-protected lands produce beef, tomatoes, kale, lettuce, cabbage, spinach, carrots, and watermelon. I don’t know about the kale, but I certainly value the rest!
Preserving public recreation. PLT-protected lands include public parks, trails, rivers, and public land, protecting access to outdoor recreation for future generations.
Protecting a rural way of life. Defining a “rural way of life” can be tricky, so let me give you my personal definition. To me it means green spaces, big and small, from wide open grasslands, to fruit orchards, to dense forests. It means rivers and streams off the beaten path, instead of cement-lined canals running alongside polluted thoroughfares. It means seeing more tractors than police helicopters.
Much more than pretty places, the lands under PLT’s care are contributing in very specific ways to the health of our community, and they will continue to do so for generations to come.
Thank you for the choice you’ve made to support PLT.