Placer Land Trust Preserves 800 acres at Big Hill
Two more oak woodland and rangeland properties saved in recent months
By Jessica Pierce
Placer Land Trust recently protected two properties northeast of Auburn on and around Big Hill, connecting the Bear River and Coon Creek watersheds.
In July, PLT purchased 160 acres from Florence Fang, publisher of the San Francisco Examiner. The property is called the Kotomyan Big Hill Preserve, named after a historic Nisenan village in the Big Hill area. The Nisenan were Maidu Indians that lived in the foothills south of the Bear River. The United Auburn Indian Community worked with Placer Land Trust to provide the name for the preserve.
“Good stewardship of land is one of the principles of our organization,” said PLT Executive Director Jeff Darlington. “Nobody took better care of the land than the Nisenan, and we’re happy to put Kotomyan back on the map.”
In October, PLT purchased a conservation easement from a willing landowner to permanently protect the 321-acre Liberty Ranch Big Hill Preserve next door to the Kotomyan property. The Liberty Ranch conservation easement allows for continued ranching operations, but protects the property from development and adverse land uses, permanently protecting the oak woodland habitat on the property.
“Working with the landowner, we named this property the Liberty Ranch Big Hill Preserve,” said Darlington. “Liberty is a word that not only honors the American ideal, but also represents the freedom of private property owners to take voluntary action to preserve their land.”
Both properties adjoin Taylor Ranch Preserve, acquired by PLT in April, totaling 802 acres of protected land.
Liberty Ranch Big Hill Preserve lies directly north of the Kotomyan Big Hill Preserve, and directly northwest of Taylor Ranch Preserve.
All three properties will continue to be used for cattle grazing. A moderate level of grazing is an important component in managing the health of the oak woodlands on the properties, as well as preventing dangerous accumulations of thatch and understory growth that contribute to wildfire risk.
Oak woodland habitat provides homes for around 330 species of flora and fauna in addition to thousands of insects – one of the highest diversities of species in the world. Additionally, oak woodlands are the iconic landscapes that people identify with Placer County. These properties are within the largest unfragmented stretch of oak woodlands remaining in Placer County, and also contribute to the California Dept. of Fish & Game’s wildlife priorities for this region.
Over the next five years, PLT will be working with Placer County and various landowners to construct trails across these properties so that the public can enjoy the fabulous views from Big Hill. Eventually, plans are to connect a trail from the County’s Hidden Falls Regional Park on Coon Creek, across PLT’s three preserves, and ultimately to the Bear River.
PLT Preserves 94 acres on
North Fork American River
By Jeff Darlington
Placer Land Trust partnered with the American River Conservancy (ARC) and a corporate landowner to preserve 94 acres of land along the North Fork American River southeast of Interstate 80 at Gold Run.
The land was purchased from Siller Brothers Inc., a timber firm, as part of the “Giant Gap Project” – a cooperative effort by PLT, ARC, and federal land management agencies. The property, called the “Siller Preserve”, is part of the North Fork American River Wild & Scenic Area and the Tahoe National Forest.
ARC took title to the Siller Preserve in October and will transfer title to the U.S. Forest Service for inclusion in the Wild & Scenic Area, thus ensuring consistent and efficient management and protection by the U.S. Forest Service for the public benefit.
The acquisition of Siller Preserve was made possible through grants from the Resources Legacy Fund Foundation’s Preserving Wild California initiative, and the United Auburn Indian Community’s Community Giving Program.
PLT has now protected 330 acres along the American River (229 acres of which is within the Giant Gap project area), plus another 60 acres on the canyon rim.
The primary purpose of the Giant Gap project is to work with willing sellers to protect the American River Canyon’s rugged and scenic beauty, water quality, and wildlife habitat, and to enhance public recreational access to the river canyon.
The area of the American River Canyon near Giant Gap rivals Yosemite and Lake Tahoe for dramatic Sierra Nevada landscapes. Although the area is threatened by habitat fragmentation and incompatible land use, much of it is still relatively wild and pristine, providing diverse habitat for a number of important species.
The goals of the Giant Gap project also include preservation of Native American and Gold Rush history and culture.
“This is a spectacularly rugged and steep section of the river canyon,” said Alan Ehrgott, ARC Executive Director.
“The Wild & Scenic corridor is relatively bereft of roads and other human incursions, and as a result it appears today much as it must have appeared 150 years ago to the first wave of immigrants coming to California for the Gold Rush,” said Ehrgott.
Preservation of privately held lands such as the Siller Preserve and the 135-acre Nichols Preserve (protected by PLT and ARC in 2004) will eliminate the haphazard pattern of private inholdings within the Wild & Scenic Area, permanently restrict harmful activities, and result in more cohesive and effective ecosystem management by federal agencies such as the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. In addition, the Giant Gap project will protect public recreation opportunities that exist on scenic trails on the canyon rim and along the river’s course.
Welcome PLT’s newest members!
From the Board Room
PLT provides public benefit through outdoor recreation
Since the beginning of my tenure as a Board member with Placer Land Trust I have witnessed the tremendous growth of PLT, both in scope of acreage preserved and sophistication of our Board. I have truly appreciated the spirited debates, always infused with good humor and diplomacy and I’m honored to be a part of this organization. As PLT looks to the next decade and beyond, it is critical that the Board and staff continue to build allegiances with other stakeholder groups, county and statewide, to better promote our efforts through increased public access opportunities.
PLT’s long-standing core mission to advance policies and activities that seek to protect and preserve lands is noble and worthy of determined and focused effort. However, this mission needs expansion. A preoccupation with such a focused mission leads to a niche constituency that, in turn, decreases PLT’s opportunity to broaden its support base. In other words, PLT needs to maximize the use of its lands for public benefit.
A few weekends back PLT organized a Canyon Creek Clean-up day. This project, while modest in size, is groundbreaking in other ways as it represents the first, coordinated volunteer effort to develop a usable trail to, among other things, showcase the opportunities inherent on our properties. The success of this project appears to be breeding additional success as PLT is now on the precipice of developing trail segments spanning several miles, ultimately connecting to the 60-plus mile Auburn State Recreation trail system and other existing public trails. Moreover, PLT’s efforts to acquire lands and conservation easements in the Bear River and Coon Creek corridors have paved the way for the development of a comprehensive trail system that will encompass greater than 20 miles connecting to the wildly popular Hidden Falls Regional Park.
PLT wants to be a leader in not just protecting Placer County’s vanishing landscapes but in forging partnerships to assist where possible to put this region on the cutting edge of eco-tourism and I, as a Board member, very much look forward to the challenges ahead.
— Doug Houston
Janice Forbes named PLT’s 2007 Placer Conservator
By Jeff Darlington
Earlier this year our Board set out to nominate an extraordinary individual who has enhanced the quality of life in Placer County through resource conservation, and the unanimous choice was Janice Forbes.
PLT will be celebrating Janice’s contributions to enriching our lives through resource conservation on Saturday March 1, 2008, at The Ridge in Auburn.
Long-time Auburn resident and community organizer, Janice has contributed to Placer County conservation in more ways than we can take time to mention. Her many impacts on this community are significant and will be long lasting.
As the reconstruction of the stream channel and daylighting of the creek at Auburn School Park Preserve is wrapping up, it seems like an appropriate time to recognize one of the most influential organizers of that community effort. Since the inception of the project, Janice has helped spearhead the development of the 4.3 acre community park, on which PLT holds a conservation easement.
“Janice’s personal leadership, as well as her funding support through the Placer Community Foundation, was critical to the acquisition of School Park Preserve for the City of Auburn and the granting of a conservation easement to PLT to permanently protect the heritage oak woodlands within the park,” said PLT Board member Bob Gilliom. “Janice has also been a regional leader and proponent of conservation through publication of Sierra Heritage Magazine and her founding role on the Board of Directors of the Sierra Business Council.”
But her contributions don’t end there; in fact, they began when she helped to found the Sierra Business Council (SBC) back in 1994. One of the most defining moments that arose from Janice’s work with SBC occurred when the Placer County Board of Supervisors established the Placer Legacy Open Space and Agricultural Conservation Program, known as “Placer Legacy”.
As a lifelong resident of Placer County with family roots from Auburn to Lake Tahoe, Janice is also a successful publisher and businesswoman.
Janice also serves as the Board Chair for the Placer Community Foundation (formerly the Auburn Community Foundation) which provides grants to community organizations across Placer County, many of whom work to protect the resources of Placer County. PLT was pleased to be a recipient of one of those grants in 2005.
The contributions that Janice has made to resource conservation in Placer County are tremendous, but they are only a small representation of the many benefits our community has enjoyed due to her work.
We thank Janice Forbes for her incredible contributions and we look forward to celebrating her accomplishments at the awards dinner in March.
For more information on how to participate in the event please contact Jessica Pierce at (530) 887-9222, or stay tuned for more details.
6th Annual Placer Harvest Celebration a Success
By Katy Sater
Imagine for a moment you walk into a historic fruit packing shed, restored to nearly perfect condition, with the tables packed with goodies to bid on, people gathering around catching up with old friends, delicious PlacerGROWN food being prepared for everyone, good music supplied by the Djunkyard Gypsies, and overall a good time being had by everyone.
For those of you who attended the 6th annual Placer Harvest Celebration on Nov. 3, these mental images are not hard to conjure up! For those of you who could not make it, our annual dinner and fundraiser was another success in a busy year at PLT.
Dinner was prepared by Chef Randy Kliewer of Lincoln Produce, featuring delicious dishes that drew upon Placer-GROWN produce, delivering a meal that was all-around applauded by guests.
Thank you to the Lincoln FFA for assisting with dinner; their presence at the buffet tables made the line run quickly.
Wine was supplied and poured by Mark Adams of Rancho Roble Vineyards. For the beer and cider drinking crowd, beer came freshly brewed from the Auburn Alehouse, and cider from Colfax’s Fox Barrel Cider Company. Both were big hits with the crowd, and we ran out of beer!
Rich Ferreira, committee chair for the event and PLT Board member said of the event, “A great time was had by everyone who came, and the event was a huge success thanks to the hard work of all our volunteers!”
Overall, the evening was an appropriate way to celebrate a year that has seen PLT successfully protect over 1,500 acres in Placer County.
Thank you to all the volunteers who made the event a success, our auction item donors, our sponsors, and everyone who came and helped make the event the resounding success that it was.
Along with our local farmers and ranchers, these folks are the real heroes who make it possible for Placer Land Trust to celebrate local agriculture through our annual Placer Harvest Celebration. THANKS!
Goodluck to Katy!
The Placer Land Trust Board and staff would like to extend a huge THANK YOU to Katy Sater for a great year at PLT.
Katy served as our Stewardship Assistant through the AmeriCorp Program in 2007, working on projects ranging from all aspects of land stewardship to event planning.
Katy is preparing to head to graduate school next fall to pursue a degree in environmental policy focusing on international issues. In the next year she plans to do extensive traveling throughout the world, and promises to send postcards back to PLT documenting her travels. Good luck Katy, you will be missed!
Family Farming & Ranching
Buying Local Doesn’t Just Mean “Eating Local”
By Nancyjo Riekse
There are several simple steps to living a sustainable life while reducing your carbon footprint and assisting local agriculture production. Take, for example, the family Christmas tree.
Originally, the Christmas tree came from the forest; nowadays most Christmas trees are plantation grown, and in the United States there are more than 21,000 Christmas tree growers and 12,000 cut-your-own farms. Christmas tree farming is an agricultural business and a large tax base for several counties in the United States including Placer County. There are approximately 30-35 million “Real Christmas Trees” sold every year in the United States at a retail value of over $1,374 million. An estimated 175,000 Real Christmas Trees are sold via e-commerce or catalogue and shipped mail-order. North American Real Christmas Trees are grown in all 50 states and Canada.
In contrast, 85% of artificial trees sold in the United States are manufactured in China and contain non-biodegradable plastics and possible metal toxins such as lead which may shed lead-laced dust that can cover branches or shower gifts and the floor below the tree. Even though they will last up to six years in your home, they will stay in landfill for centuries.
Real Christmas Trees are renewable, with 2-3 seedlings being planted for every tree harvested, with an average of over 2,000 trees planted per acre which provides for the daily oxygen requirements of 18 people. They are also a recyclable resource with an average of 93% being recycled through community recycling programs, garden compost or in the backyard for use as bird feeders (attach orange slices, bread or suet to attract birds.
Real Christmas Trees are involved in less than one-tenth of one percent of residential fires and only when ignited by some external ignition sources. The artificial tree, which is advertised as “flame retardant”, does resist flames for a short period of time, but will be overcome by flames and project significant heat and toxic smoke, containing hydrogen chloride gas and dioxin.
Christmas trees begin life in a nursery where superior seeds are planted and grown to two year old seedlings.
The seedlings are then taken from the nursery beds and replanted, often in soils that are marginal for producing other crops. It takes constant and skilled care over several years for a Christmas tree to get a healthy start.
While growing, Christmas trees provide environmental benefits by serving as wildlife habitat, increasing soil stability and providing an aesthetic improvement to the land. During the 5-16 years a Christmas tree is growing into a well shaped 6-8 foot marketable tree, it faces many hazards, including inclement weather, insects and disease. They may become overgrown with brush, vines and weeks, or they may be stolen out of the field by thieves.
Most Christmas tree farmers agree its a good life, provided you are willing to work year-round on a crop that needs tender, loving care… for at least five years before it becomes a marketable product.
So shop local this holiday season!
Stewardship Journal: Rally Time
By Joselin Matkins
Last year, after just 2 weeks on the job, PLT sent me to the annual Land Trust Alliance (LTA) Rally in Nashville, Tennessee, with Operations Manager Jessica Pierce.
From our 23rd floor room looking down on Music Row, Jessica and I had a chance to bond over our shared appreciation for land conservation, and more importantly (at least while in Nashville) our shared passion for classic country – Waylon, Willie, and the other Highwaymen.
This year’s Rally, held in Denver, Colorado, was the largest in the history of LTA. With over 2,000 people at the conference sharing and discussing land conservation, I couldn’t help but be inspired by the grassroots conservation taking place all across the county. I attended workshops about monitoring and managing working landscapes, the potential roles for Land Trusts in mitigation projects, and the latest in stewardship record-keeping technology.
For me, one highlight of the conference was a seminar that evaluated three software programs developed to help a diverse array of land conservation organizations (from small all-volunteer land trusts to the Nature Conservancy) maintain propterty records. Of the three options presented, Conservation Connections, which was developed by the Society to Protect New Hampshire’s Forests, is the best fit for our rapidly growing land trust. It will help PLT maintain complete and up-to-date records for the land we protect in perpetuity. The software is network-based and will store all of the documentation for PLT’s conservation easements and fee title preserves. From the actual conservation easement document itself, to updated annual monitoring reports, the software will help us keep track of a diverse array properties and projects. It can even generate annual reports and create a property monitoring schedule that prioritizes field visits by perceived risk or need.
Helping to figure it out will be one of the first tasks of the next AmeriCorps Intern. Katy Sater, this year’s AmeriCorps Stewardship Assistant, is off to travel the world. Her first task when she started a year ago was to organize all of PLT’s paper property records. She dug up and catalogued all of PLT’s files and put together a complete and organized file for each property. In compliance with LTA’s Standards & Practices, copies are now stored in three separate locations to assure at least one makes it safely into perpetuity. Way to prepare for the future Katy!
This September, PLT held a stewardship volunteer workshop at PLT’s Doty Ravine Preserve. The workshop intoduced eight new volunteers to several field monitroing techniques including establishing photopoints, examining past grazing practices, and evaluating the overall property condition.
Since then, this core group of volunteers has helped dismantle beaver dams on Doty Ravine, organized a student group to gather a variety of different species of oak acorns to plant at Auburn School Park, and helped monitor conservation easements at Toad Hill Ranch near Roseville.
This week, one of our volunteers will be clipping ivy that is strangling native trees at our Canyon View Preserve. Another volunteer is going to design an outreach display about Placer County’s oak woodlands and PLT’s efforts to protect them.
PLT’s growing volunteer program will enable us to better face today’s challenges, and give us the capacity to successfully implement our mission into the future. If you are interested in particpating in our volunteer program, contact Joselin Matkins, Stewardship Coordinator, at the office.
Stagecoach Work Day
Thanks to PLT Board members and volunteers for another great Canyon Creek Restoration Work Day at Stagecoach Preserve in October!
While continuing to keep the blackberry and cattails at bay, we also started clearing a path through the blackberry along Canyon Creek on PLT’s newly acquired Wilson expansion. Several neighbors have volunteered to help PLT continue our restoration up Canyon Creek.
Stay tuned for project updates and upcoming events.
— Joselin Matkins
Executive Director’s Report
California Wildlife Foundation supports PLT
At the Placer Harvest Celebration this year, PLT received its largest grant ever.
The California Wildlife Foundation (CWF) based in Oakland, granted PLT nearly $2 million for oak woodland habitat protection in Placer County. CWF collaborates with partner organizations to protect California’s rich diversity of wildlife species by acquiring, restoring, and managing sufficient habitat to sustain healthy wildlife populations over time.
At left, Janet Cobb, CWF’s Executive Officer, presents PLT President Fred Yeager with the grant check. Thanks Janet!
The grant to PLT is to protect a specific stretch of oak woodlands in the Bear River watershed. PLT is working with a willing landowner on this project and hopes to conclude the project by the end of the year.
Stay tuned to see the CWF grant funds put to good use!