Another High Country Conservation Easement for Bear Yuba Land Trust

PG&E Land Donated to University of California

Dec. 14, 2016 – As part of its land conservation commitment, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) recently donated 1,459 acres to the University of California (UC). The transfer was immediately followed by the conveyance of a conservation easement to Bear Yuba Land Trust (BYLT), permanently protecting high-country forest land and important wildlife habitat.

Located on three parcels at mountain elevations ranging from 5,000 to 6,200 feet surrounding Bowman Lake Road, the newly conserved property is about a half hour drive east of downtown Nevada City. This is PG&E’s second donation to UC and the fifth time it has worked with BYLT on a conservation easement.

The land subject to this “Grouse Ridge Forest Conservation Easement” will be the focus of forest research.

“This is a spectacular landscape, not only to protect forever, but also to study how it changes with time. The Land Trust is excited for the opportunity to be a partner with the University of California in this endeavor. The old growth forest has been a habitat for wildlife like mountain lion, deer and coyote and will remain so for as long as the forest can support them.  As the forest changes over time, the University of California will study how nature adapts, and how the impact of humans can harm or benefit the natural processes,” said BYLT’s Executive Director Marty Coleman Hunt.

“At PG&E, we strongly believe in being good stewards of the environment and supporting educational institutions that are conducting important research. That’s why we are pleased to have partnered with the Land Trust on this easement and the UC to take ownership of our donated land that will be available for the enjoyment of future generations,” said Mike Schonherr, a PG&E director who oversees the company’s Land Conservation Commitment department.

Forests, Watersheds and Wildlife

Statewide, the University of California, Berkeley owns and maintains numerous natural habitats located on ecologically unique lands. In addition to an extensive network of reserves where vegetation management is not allowed, the University of California, Berkeley now has four research forests, managed by the Center for Forestry (CFF).

“We conduct a mix of preserve and management strategies to learn how the forests that provide the wood to build our homes and protect our watersheds can also continue to provide a mix of other forest benefits such as wildlife habitats, watershed protection and carbon,” said Forestry Specialist and CFF Co-Director Bill Stewart.

Through research, education and public service, CFF continues to improve scientific understanding of the interconnected role of California’s forests and state watersheds, renewable wood products, fish and wildlife habitat, scenic and recreational opportunities and climate benefits.

The purpose of the Grouse Ridge Forest is practicing sustainable forestry, protect habitats for native plants and wildlife, conduct research and teaching, and public environmental education. “The very large wildfires that we have seen in watersheds north and south of the Bear and Yuba watersheds are constant reminders that big changes may be coming and that we need to know how forest systems can be resilient,” said Stewart.

Historic logging, recent wildfires, and forest regeneration give the property unique structures that can be studied to better understand where California forests may be headed in an uncertain future. Made up of three parcels, each has interesting water features including: multiple ephemeral drainages; large rock walls, canyons and healthy water flows of Clear Creek; and steep canyons of Rucker Creek.

Around 1912, PG&E purchased the parcels from The Central Mill Company. The property is locally known as “Camp 19” for the old construction camp that housed workers who built the nearby Bowman-Spaulding Canal. This camp was removed by PG&E prior to the transfer to the University of California. For decades, logging operations and natural and planted regeneration of forests has occurred in the region. A big fire swept through the western portion in 2008.

Natural, scenic, agricultural, historical, forested and open space characteristics are found on the newly conserved land. The preservation of this property falls in line with BYLT’s mission to “retain the rural character” of Nevada County and fills in a key piece of protected lands within the “checkerboard” of public and private ownership within the boundaries of the Tahoe National Forest.

With the conservation easement in place on nearly 1,500 acres, plants, trees and wildlife habitat that support the health of the Yuba River watershed will be protected forever. The property also has historical and Native American cultural significance.

Sierran mixed conifer forests paint the landscape with true firs (Abies concolor and Abies magnifica), ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa), sugar pine (Pinus lambertiana), incense cedar (Calocedrus decurrens) and black oak (Quercus kelloggii) as the dominant species. Clear Creek and its tributary creeks drain the parcels and provide habitat for resident trout, amphibians and other riparian species. The land is important habitat for wildlife such as: mountain lion (Puma concolor), mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus), coyote (Canis latrans), gray fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus), small animals and rodents, insects, birds of prey, such as the Northern goshawk (Accipiter gentilis) and many other migratory and resident bird species.

The Grouse Ridge project is the fourth PG&E land transfer in the Bear and Yuba River watersheds for the Land Trust. BYLT secured two easements earlier in 2015, permanently protecting about 64 acres of critical salmon spawning habitat along the Yuba River below Englebright Dam: PG&E Narrows in Nevada County and UC Narrows in Yuba County. In August 2016, BYLT secured conservation easements on nearby Fordyce, Meadow and Sterling lakes and 2,000 acres in the upper Yuba River watershed.

Additionally, BYLT has protected conservation easements nearby on other private lands in the Sierra Nevada – 107 forested acres of McDermott Grouse Ridge Preserve and 10 acres of sensitive botanical habitat known as the Hart Preserve.

Bear Yuba Land Trust is a community-supported non-profit organization with a 26 year history of protecting forests, meadows, oak woodlands, and ranches in the watersheds of the Bear and Yuba Rivers. To date, BYLT has conserved nearly 12,000 acres with elevations ranging from 200 feet to 8,000 feet in the counties of Nevada, Yuba and Sierra.