NORTH BAY – The nonprofits responsible for the North Bay’s largest open space easements purchased $54 million in land totaling more than 8,200 acres in recent months to preserve the properties for public parks, agriculture and scenic open space.
The Land Trust of Napa County, one of the first land conservation nonprofits in the nation, closed one of the most recent deals earlier this month, spending $4.2 million on a 1,000-acre plot on the eastern side of the county. More than 250 donors contributed to the purchase that is considered the “missing link” between two larger plots it hopes to transfer to a public entity in the future.
“We are so fortunate to acquire the Duff Ranch, the link between Wildlake Ranch clear to the summit of mount St. Helena,” said land trust Executive Director John Hoffnagle.
“This now provides over 15 miles of trails and public access.”
The purchase brings the trust close to concluding a strategic plan originally scheduled to end 2010. The group hoped to reach a total 50,000 acres saved by that year, or 10 percent of the county, but the recent purchase puts it well above that target. The group is also just $2 million away from surpassing its $28 million capital campaign that will assist in management and stewardship of the land.
The Sonoma Land Trust also completed to recent purchases, including a $10 million, $283-acre parcel approved by the county last week. The group also finalized its largest-ever purchase in the county, a 5,630-acre parcel bought for about $36 million this fall. The property called the Jenner Headlands extends from where the Russian River meets the ocean then north of the town of Jenner and inland.
The Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District provided most of the funding along with the State Coastal Conservancy, the Wildlife Conservation Board and the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration, among others.
“The Jenner Headlands is one of the most photographed spots on the California coast. It is beautiful, large, intact landscape. The alternative to conservation would be more than 40 home sites along the coast, carving up the grasslands and forest,” said Sonoma Land Trust Executive Director Ralph Benson.
With the Jenner purchase, the land trust and open space district has preserved a total of about 92,500 acres in Sonoma County.
The Marin Agricultural Land Trust, which is among the top 20 revenue-grossing nonprofits in the North Bay, plans to add another 6,000 acres to its total 41,000 acres of agricultural preserves in 2009. Most recently, the group purchased the development rights to a 585-acre property off Hicks Valley Road called the Dolcini Ranch and another 810-acre plot north of Point Reyes Station near Highway 1.
The two agreements totaling close to $4 million prevent the land from ever being used for purposes other than agriculture.