In a historic deal with Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) and the University of California, Bear Yuba Land Trust (BYLT) will hold a conservation easement on 41 acres on the Yuba River known as the “Narrows,” permanently protecting the natural resources of this land from development.
The Narrows is located adjacent to the UC Sierra Foothill Research and Extension Center in Browns Valley, where 5,700 acres of rangeland fosters and supports research, education and outreach programs focused on key agricultural and natural resource themes relevant to the Sierra foothills. The Narrows land is too steep for grazing, however it will be used as a control plot for UC pasture research.
Each year, BYLT’s stewardship team will monitor the conservation easement at the Narrows, managed by the Research Center, for conservation values like documenting the presence of native plants and animals. BYLT will hold the development rights forever, meaning the land will be permanently protected as a natural place and won’t be developed on.
“This is the first of several land transfers from PG&E to a public agency in the Yuba River watershed and the only in Yuba County. It’s the culmination of over a decade of planning and work with local conservation groups, Native American tribes, public agencies and the Stewardship Council. The permanent protection of this land below Englebright Dam will support multiple public benefits beyond the SFREC mission, including supporting the health of the important Yuba River salmon fishery and the potential for expanded public recreation for the lower Yuba River,” said BYLT’s Executive Director Marty Coleman-Hunt.
The donation of the Narrows Unit to benefit UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources was made in coordination with the Pacific Forest and Watershed Lands Stewardship Council (Stewardship Council), created as part of PG&E’s 2003 bankruptcy settlement.
“In partnership with the many organizations that make up the Stewardship Council, PG&E is pleased to permanently protect the natural resources and beauty of the Narrows parcel and watershed lands associated with our hydroelectric system for the benefit of current and future generations,” said Mike Schonherr, manager of PG&E’s Land Conservation Commitment Department.
The UC research center encompasses river, grassland, oak woodland and riparian habitat types for studying beef cattle production, nutrition and health, rangeland water quality management, oak woodland restoration, native plant conservation and invasive plant management as well as monitoring and management of sensitive fish and wildlife species.
Cattle grazing is a major tool to manage vegetation on rangelands and to enhance rangeland ecosystems. Although the Narrows land is too steep for grazing, it can be used as a control plot for pasture research ongoing at the UC research center.
“We are excited to be able to manage this parcel because this new property will increase the size and connectivity between key research pastures at Sierra Foothill Research and Extension Center,” said Jeremy James, Sierra Foothill Research and Extension Center director.
The center also has a series of nature trails and an education center on the Yuba River, which can be used by schools and community groups for outdoor education and outreach events.
Just the Beginning
The Narrows land transfer marks the first in a series of conservation agreements Bear Yuba Land Trust will enter in coordination with the Pacific Forest and Watershed Lands Stewardship Council. Under the 2003 bankruptcy settlement, the Stewardship Council was established to facilitate the permanent conservation of 140,000 acres of PG&E’s watershed lands in primarily the Sierra Nevada.
About 14,000 acres of these PG&E watershed lands are located within the Bear and Yuba River watersheds. Bear Yuba Land Trust was approved to hold the conservation easements on these lands. Some land that is needed for ongoing hydroelectric power generation will be retained in ownership by PG&E with a conservation easement held by BYLT. Some will be transferred to public ownership with a conservation easement held by BYLT. In coming years, BYLT will secure conservation easements on PG&E lands in the upper Bear River watershed near the Highway 20 corridor and Grouse Ridge area surrounded by the Tahoe National Forest. All will be conserved in perpetuity for: Outdoor recreation, sustainable forestry, agriculture, natural resource protection, open space preservation and protection of historic and cultural resources.
BYLT is a non-profit, membership-supported group that promotes voluntary conservation of natural, historical and agricultural resources in the Bear and Yuba watersheds of the Sierra Nevada foothills. This is done through permanent protection and enhancement of natural areas, farms and ranches, trails and park to provide a lasting community heritage.
To date, BYLT has conserved nearly 9,000 acres, including the recent acquisition of Rice’s Crossing- 2,707 acres on the Yuba River between Bullard’s Bar and South Yuba River State Park at Bridgeport.
For more information about PG&E’s transfer of the Narrows property, visit http://www.stewardshipcouncil.org/land_conservation/planning_units/narrows.htm.
For more information about the UC Sierra Foothill Research and Extension Center, please visit http://sfrec.ucanr.edu.