Coastal Conservancy News

Preserving Humboldt County Ranch and Forest Lands

Price Creek Ranch, a 1,280-acre timber and cattle ranch west of Rio Dell in Humboldt County, will be preserved as a working ranch through a conservation easement to be acquired by the California Department of Forestry with the help of a $1 million grant from the Conservancy, approved in December 2005. The Forest Legacy Program and the Wildlife Conservation Board will contribute the balance of funds, approximately $630,000.

Four other properties are being considered for easements as part of a proj­ect to protect nearly 10,000 acres between Six Rivers National Forest and the ocean. Ranch owners in the area have been under heavy pressure to sell their lands for development, while struggling to survive on diminishing incomes.

The owner of Price Creek Ranch is developing a plan that will allow sustainable timber harvests and grazing in addition to habitat restoration and protection. The easement will prohibit residential development and commercial timber harvest within riparian corridors.

A grant of $357,500 approved by the Conservancy in March will help the City of Arcata buy the Sunny Brae Forest, 175 acres of commercial timberland upslope from Arcata, to be added to the Arcata Community Forest. The land, owned by Sierra Pacific Industries, was to be logged this year. The City will use a mix of public and private funds, including $1.3 million from the Department of Forestry, to meet the $2.7 million purchase price. It intends to harvest timber selectively, remove invasive plants, decommission roads, address erosion problems, keep up to 40 percent of the property in reserves, and permit recreational and educational uses where appropriate.

Help for Salmon and Steelhead

Struggling fish populations will get a boost along the coast from Del Norte to San Mateo County, with the help of $890,000 approved by the Conservancy for the removal of stream barriers and the creation of offstream water storage to protect flows.

Trinity County will receive $700,000 for barrier-removal projects throughout Del Norte, Humboldt, Mendocino, Siskiyou, and Trinity Counties. At thousands of sites in these five counties, badly built road crossings, culverts, and other structures keep fish from migrating upstream to spawn. Some barriers in the Mad River watershed and elsewhere have already been removed with the Conservancy's help, resulting in the return of steelhead and coho and Chinook salmon.

Organic farmers along Pine Gulch Creek in Marin County have agreed not to divert creek water for irrigation during the low-flow months of April through December. In return, the County, Coastal Conservancy, and Point Reyes National Seashore (through which Pine Gulch Creek flows before reaching the ocean) are helping to build offstream ponds for storing irrigation water for the dry months. The Conservancy will provide $50,000 to help plan and design the ponds, negotiate transfer of water rights, and conduct an environmental analysis of the project. The farmers will be protected from further restrictions if endangered California red-legged frogs colonize the ponds. The project, developed in 1998, will help maintain habitat for state-listed endangered coho salmon, which returned to the creek in 2001 after an absence of 30 years.

The Conservancy will also provide $120,000 to help build a well in San Mateo County's Memorial Park to provide water for park facilities, including a popular campground. Water now comes from a dam in Pescadero Creek that blocks salmon from swimming upstream. Removing the dam and other barriers will help restore riffles, pools, and other stream features that provide spawning habitat for salmon and steelhead. Another grant of $20,000 will be used to identify other San Mateo County fish barriers for removal.

The Conservancy approved five grants, totaling $1,135,000, for restoration, access improvement, and interpretive programs along rivers and creeks in the Russian River region of Sonoma County. The funds, approved by the Conservancy in December 2005 and February 2006, will help an effort to transform a stretch of Santa Rosa Creek from a concrete channel into the healthy stream it once was; expand stewardship programs at a park near Jenner; build trails, picnic areas, and other visitor facilities at two parks along the Russian River; and restore habitat along that river's largest tributary, Laguna de Santa Rosa.

Ranch Land near Mount Diablo to Be Protected

The Conservancy will help the nonprofit Save Mount Diablo to buy 208 acres of the 233-acre Mangini Ranch, in the foothills of Mount Diablo. The ranch has a variety of woodlands, open grasslands, canyons, and an 1,100-foot ridge with views across San Pablo and Suisun Bays. Home to such rare plants and animals as desert olive scrub and the Alameda whipsnake, the property adjoins the Lime Ridge Open Space and is about half a mile from Mount Diablo State Park.

New trails will extend the Lime Ridge Ridgeline Trail and the California State Riding and Hiking Trail farther south, and Save Mount Diablo will offer guided hikes until a long-term management plan is developed. The group plans eventually to transfer the land to either California State Parks or the City of Concord.

The Mangini family, which has owned the ranch since the 1880s, agreed last year to sell the land to Save Mount Diablo, which has already raised most of its $555,000 share of the $1,455,000 purchase price; the Conservancy will provide $900,000. The family will retain 25 acres, and a neighbor will continue grazing cattle on the property, except in sensitive areas.

Santa Cruz Right-of-Way for Rail and Trail

More Than 30 miles of railroad right-of-way along the Santa Cruz coast is being set aside for possible development as a passenger rail and trail corridor. The county's Regional Transportation Commission intends to buy the Santa Cruz County Branch Rail Line with the help of a $10 million loan approved by the Conservancy in December 2005, to be reimbursed when promised state funds become available.

From Nike to Nature

The 102-acre White Point Nature Preserve, opened to the public in 2003, sits along seabluffs in the Los Angeles community of San Pedro. Before World War II, a mineral springs resort serving Japanese Americans was on the shore below. After California residents of Japanese descent were imprisoned in relocation camps, the military took control of the land. It was later released to the City and opened to the public as a park and reserve. In February the Conservancy approved $100,000 to be used with $205,000 in City funding for creating an interpretive center and environmental classroom in a building that had been used for Nike missile assembly and testing. The Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy, which manages the preserve for the City, will renovate and convert the building. Exhibits will depict the land's use by the Gabrielino Indians, immigrant Japanese abalone fishermen and farmers, and the military. Native plants will be brought back and trail improvements will include a wheelchair-accessible pathway.

The City of Laguna Beach will use $171,300 approved by the Conservancy in March to add nearly 11.5 acres to Laguna Coast Wilderness Park. The Decker/Bossard property, in the Laguna Canyon Creek watershed, is almost pristine coastal sage scrub and chaparral, and contains numerous sandstone outcrops and caves. It lies on a steep slope adjacent to the Alta Laguna Regional Ridgeline Trail, a major accessway that links the coast to the 19,000-acre South Coast Wilderness system of parks and preserves. The Conservancy has helped to buy other nearby properties that were added to the Laguna Coast Wilderness Park, which is managed by the County of Orange.

Mapping the Central Coast Seafloor

While small sections of offshore California have been mapped, most of the state's seafloor has yet to be charted. This year, researchers will begin the first phase of a project that is expected to eventually map California's entire seafloor in unprecedented detail. New technologies in acoustical and optical data gathering (see Coast & Ocean, Autumn 2005) make the project possible, and a $1.2-million grant from the Ocean Protection Council to the Monterey Bay Sanctuary Foundation is part of what makes it feasible.

The first phase of the project will focus on the Central Coast between Monterey and Bodega Bays, an area that includes three national marine sanctuaries: Gulf of the Farallones, Cordell Bank, and Monterey Bay. Among the project's goals are helping to identify fish habitats, navigational hazards, and geologic formations capable of producing tsunamis. Biologists and fishery managers are particularly interested in identifying rocky areas of the seafloor, which often support large populations of fish and other marine animals. In some areas, maps will be sufficiently detailed to reveal the precise composition of the seafloor.

More information is available at (Also, see see Coast & Ocean, Autumn 2005.)