June 2, 2013

SONOMA COUNTY, Calif. — In a high-profile win for forestry, a public-private partnership led by The Conservation Fund has completed the largest conservation project in the history of Sonoma County. Together with its partners, the Fund has purchased and protected the 19,645-acre Preservation Ranch property, a vast forested parcel threatened by development and vineyard conversion. The Fund will sustainably manage the land for timber, carbon sequestration and restoration of coho salmon habitat.

With widespread public support for saving Preservation Ranch, a number of partners came together to provide critical funding and logistical support, including the California Coastal Conservancy, Sonoma County’s Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the Sonoma Land Trust.    

The Preservation Ranch acquisition is the latest installment in The Conservation Fund’s North Coast Forest Conservation Initiative. Since 2004, the Fund has protected more than 125,000 acres of Douglas fir and redwood forests with a sustainable management strategy that conserves critical habitat, restores native watersheds and supports local economies through light-touch timber management. This conservation purchase prohibits subdivision and all non-forest uses on the property, whose prior owners sought permits to subdivide and convert the forest to vineyards.

“This is an historic day for Sonoma County, and a win-win for our coastal community,” said Efren Carillo, Sonoma County Supervisor. “Not only have we preserved this land forever, but we have also set in motion a future whereby the local community benefits from an intact watershed that supports sensitive natural resources on the property and also provides an economic stimulus to the area through job creation associated with the working forest.”

Bill Keene, General Manager for Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District added: “This is a big win for the District. This acquisition embodies the District’s vision for the North Coast. We are preserving a property that over the long haul will result in a healthy forest capable of supporting a diversity of species while keeping our local watersheds intact.”

In addition to operating as one of the largest nonprofit owned working forests in the West, remaining on the tax rolls and providing jobs, the property will contribute to California’s economy in other ways. The project includes an innovative approach that allows the California Coastal Conservancy to share in revenues from the sale of carbon offsets generated across the property to be used to advance the Conservancy’s conservation programs.

“An incredible public-private partnership has come together to end a long running land use battle and ensure that Preservation Ranch provides benefits to the citizens of Sonoma County and California for a long time to come,” said California Coastal Conservancy Executive Officer Sam Schuchat. “The Coastal Conservancy is proud to have played a significant role in making it happen.”

Conserving Preservation Ranch, now known as Buckeye Forest, marks a significant moment in Northern California forest conservation. More than a decade ago, The Conservation Fund set out to reassemble what was once a single forested property stretching nearly 30 miles along the rugged North Coast range. Over time, this land was divided and sold into multiple parcels, including Preservation Ranch.  Much of the forest was slated for development or conversion to other uses. With the purchases of the Garcia River Forest in 2004 and the adjoining Gualala River Forest in 2011, the Fund began sustainably managing these historic forests before they were forever lost to non-forest uses. The Preservation Ranch acquisition completes the efforts to reunite the larger forest.

“By protecting Preservation Ranch, we are fulfilling a goal we set more than a decade ago,” remarks Chris Kelly, California Program Director with The Conservation Fund. “These iconic redwood and Douglas fir forests provide not only timber, but also jobs, cleaner water, cleaner air and critical habitat for dozens of species. They simply can’t be replaced, and we’re gratified that so many partners and public supporters have joined us in protecting these lands for their environmental and economic benefit.”

“The Conservation Fund initiated a very fruitful collaboration,” said Ralph Benson, Executive Director of the Sonoma Land Trust. “This is conservation on the scale at which it needs to happen to keep our beautiful northern California forests intact for our grandkids and beyond.”

Like the neighboring Gualala River and Garcia River Forests directly to the north, Preservation Ranch provides critical habitat for the recovery of northern spotted owl, salmon and steelhead trout. Its dense landscape of coastal redwoods, Douglas firs, oak woodland and native grasslands offers significant habitat diversity for many north coast species of rare plants and migratory song birds. 

Additional Information
Read more about our North Coast Forest Conservation Initiative 

About The Conservation Fund
At The Conservation Fund, we make conservation work for America. By creating solutions that make environmental and economic sense, we are redefining conservation to demonstrate its essential role in our future prosperity. Top-ranked for efficiency and effectiveness, we have worked in all 50 states to protect more than 7.5 million acres of land since 1985.

Press Release Contacts
Ann Simonelli | The Conservation Fund | 703-908-5809 | asimonelli@conservationfund.org
Chris Kelly, The Conservation Fund, 415-302-3462, ckelly@conservationfund.org