A new era of land conservation is dawning for Bear Yuba Land Trust as agreements with PG&E, the Stewardship Council and other agencies continue to move forward, permanently protecting iconic lakes and rivers of the Sierra Nevada.
In the Yuba and Bear River watersheds, 12,000 acres of PG&E lands are designated for protection, with BYLT in line to hold conservation easements on all of these lands.
Viewed as critically important to the state’s water supply, these lands, known as planning units, provide beneficial public values such as: outdoor recreation, sustainable forestry, agriculture, wildlife habitat, open space and cultural and historic resources.
Planning units of the Yuba-Bear Watershed include: Fordyce Lakes, Lake Spaulding, Bear River and The Narrows. Others involved include: USFS, UC Berkeley Forestry Department, Sierra Foothill Research and Extension Center – UC Davis, NID, local Native American tribes, organized recreation and environmental groups.
BYLT secured two easements in 2015, permanently protecting about 64 acres of critical salmon spawning habitat along the Yuba River below Engelbright Dam: PG&E Narrows in Nevada County and UC Narrows in Yuba County.
The other planning units, are found in the high country near Grouse Ridge Non-Motorized Area of the Tahoe National Forest off Highway 20. Historically these lands were open to the public for hiking, biking, equestrian riding, camping, fishing, boating and other recreation. Conservation Easements are being finalized and Baselines are awaiting approval.
“When all of the land transactions go through it will mean that these Sierra Nevada lakes and rivers will be forever protected from development. BYLT will monitor these lands annually to ensure habitat, trails and roads are being maintained and ecological and recreational values are being protected. This means that these areas will forever be open to the public for recreation opportunities that currently exist,” said Stewardship Manager Erin Tarr.
Even if the PG&E lands are sold to a different entity, with easements in place, the development and recreation values will be upheld and protected. Membership support ensures BYLT’s important work continues.
It’s a shift in the way BYLT saves land. For the past 25 years, BYLT focused primarily on the foothills where most people live, conserving agriculture, open space and natural habitat on private land, where public access was not allowed. Gradually, BYLT enlarged its charter to include recreation on public preserves and trails. Looking forward, BYLT is working closely with public agencies to conserve the rich biodiversity of headwater lands, where ownership is a checkerboard mosaic of private and public lands, and outdoor recreation is considered world class.
“These are among the most critical and complex watershed lands that PG&E owns in the Sierra Nevada and of enormous statewide significance. These lands, lakes and rivers are also critical for water supply for NID. Permanent protection of these lands are crucial to secure a sustainable future for our community, for the State of California and for wildlife habitat. If these spectacular lands were sold off to private development for things like trophy homes and Disney-style ski lodges, the beneficial public values would be seriously degraded,” said Executive Director Marty Coleman-Hunt.
Climate change brings new challenges. Conserving lands in the Sierra Nevada means opportunities for cleaner air with carbon sequestration; sustainable forestry for forest health and a cleaner water supply and open space for wildlife corridors as more and more species migrate to higher elevations.
For the general public, this new era for BYLT means that the public lands they have recreated in for decades will remain open to them, forever.