A Return to Lone Bobcat Woods

Learn about BYLT’s first conservation easement

p4lone bobcat woods

They will not cut you down

“…Grow old with me, my woods.
Long after we are gone,
They will not cut you down.
Words on paper,
Law-words and science-words,
Carry that promise…”

Janaia Donaldson
November 1997

Janaia Donaldson and Robin Mallgren walked beneath towering Ponderosa pine and incense cedar of Lone Bobcat Woods, a 162-acre Open Space Conservation Easement nestled between Round Mountain and the South Yuba River.

“We’d like this to become old growth forest someday,” said Janaia.

In the 1980s, Janaia and Robin were working for Xerox in the Bay Area’s tech industry when they started dreaming of living in the woods. They discovered 40 acres of land slated for development north of the quaint Gold Rush era town of Nevada City in the Rock Creek and Yuba River watershed.

They found home.

Bordering their new forest land were three additional 40 acre parcels for sale. As a whole, the landscape is an intact natural community with a mixed conifer forest and a variety of birds and animals. Beautifully wooded, the land was poised to become gorgeous home sites by a developer.

Or perhaps it could be left wild.

“I just couldn’t imagine letting it slip away. But I also couldn’t imagine buying it. That’s where an easement to the land trust made it possible,” said Robin. She grew up on seven acres in Olympia, Washington on land that is now a housing development.

At the time, Nevada County Land Trust (now Bear Yuba Land Trust) was in its formative years. Robin and Janaia attended lands meetings chaired by Bill Nickerl, where potential projects were being discussed.

Robin and Janaia learned that if they donated the right to develop their land through an easement to the Land Trust, they could cut the value of the parcel in half. This charitable donation considerably reduced their federal income tax. The money they saved accelerated their purchasing the three bordering parcels and securing more easements. It took five years to preserve the place they loved – a total of 162 protected acres.

“It was leveraging what we had. We couldn’t afford it otherwise,” said Janaia.

Completed in late 1994, Round Mountain East became the first Conservation Easement project for the Land Trust. Designed to protect scenic and wildlife values, the easement prohibits development such as house building, subdividing, ranching and waste dumping.

“We all learned together how to do it. We were charting new territory,” said Janaia, who together with Robin, contributed much of the language in the write-up of the easement.

Since that time, Bear Yuba Land Trust has saved 9,000 acres with 22 conservation easements and 10 preserves.

The easement has taken on a new name, Lone Bobcat Woods, in recognition of the wildlife populations found there. The land is situated completely within the critical migration range for the Nevada City deer herd. The long-range goal of the easement is to create and maintain a healthy, natural old-growth forest ecosystem with an emphasis on enhancing wildlife habitat including sugar pines found throughout the property.

As they walked, they shared stories of a resident bear they recently recorded on video, a mountain lion and cubs that ambled past their home and the other wildlife that come to drink from the pond.

“I feel these visitations are blessings. It’s been a joy to watch them accept us,” said Janaia.

They stopped under a large, black oak tree at the edge of a natural meadow and kicked the leaves to find a mortar grinding rock used by indigenous people.

Lone Bobcat Woods stretches from nearly the top of Round Mountain to the lip of the canyon where the South Yuba River meanders about a quarter mile below. It is almost entirely surrounded by state and federal public lands. Visitors frequently remark on how quiet this land is.

In 100 years, even when they are long gone, Robin and Janaia imagine Lone Bobcat Woods continuing to flourish.

“I expect it’s going to be a much older forest. I’m hoping we still have a good chunk of wildlife habitat here and some big trees,” said Janaia.